The Catalan conflict cannot be shunned
BarcelonaThe President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, has gone out of his way this Wednesday to stress that the Catalan conflict is not now among his "urgent priorities" and has refused to confirm whether the negotiating table would meet again during the first weeks of the year. The most worrying thing, however, is not so much what he says as his tone, visibly annoyed, without even concealing the fact that the Catalan issue is more of a hindrance than a service to him right now, and that if it were up to him he would park it definitively without taking any further steps. Everyone understands that right now the priority of all administrations is the management of the pandemic, but sending this kind of message is a mistake, because the Catalan political conflict will not disappear in the short or medium term and, moreover, the parliamentary stability of Sánchez's government depends on Republican Left of Catalonia's (ERC) 13 MPs.
Possibly, Sánchez is making political calculations and it is in his interest that the Catalan conflict does not appear in the media, because now his goal is to focus exclusively on the success of vaccination, the exit of the pandemic and the economic recovery that European funds should underpin. In addition, the fact that there are regional elections in Castilla y León on 13 February may tempt the Socialists to postpone the next meeting until after the elections so that the opposition does not use it for its own benefit. The date the meeting is finally held is not important; instead, it is the content of the resulting agreements that matter. However, it is also true that the Socialists will always have an excuse for avoiding a meeting that makes them uncomfortable. The danger is the feeling that is transmitted, which is that Sánchez is always dragging his feet and that each concession is as painful as pulling teeth. Some in the Socialist Party seem to believe that pardons for political prisoners should have been enough and that there is no need to go any further. But the truth is that the pardons were the starting point for dialogue, not the end of any journey.
In addition, Sánchez continues to need ERC's votes to push through projects as important as the labour reform, the housing law, the law of historical memory or the reform of the so-called gag law. But looking at the Spanish president this Wednesday it may seem that he enjoys an absolute majority. The Socialists must realise that the path of dialogue and negotiation must be filled with content, and that although no one is asking them to renounce their positions, they must explore the margins of legality to try to find a satisfactory solution for everyone, starting by de-judicialising the conflict.
Therefore, 2022 must be the year in which a real will to move towards a resolution of the conflict is proven, since 2023 will once again be an election year. In some ways, this year must be used to find out if there will be any content to the negotiations. And reluctant as he may be, if Sánchez does not play ball, it will be his own government's stability that will be in danger.