The credibility of the negotiating table
You don't have to be particularly astute to realize that the PSOE is uncomfortable with the Catalan question in general and with the dialogue table in particular and with the dialogue table in particular. One only has to listen to Pedro Sánchez's declarations, who in the summer said this was a historic opportunity for reconciliation between Catalans and Spaniards but now only sees it as a nuisance, a hindrance to the narrative he wants to impose of a government focused on the recovery of the economy and health.
The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, went to Madrid and was tactful enough to avoid the debate over the dates, but he has sent a clear message: the negotiation process cannot go on forever. And even more: the threat of a possible PP-Vox government cannot be the excuse to let the let the issue rot away.
Now it seems that with elections called in Castilla y León for February 13, it is not convenient for the PSOE to convene the table and, therefore, everyone assumes that it will be later. This would not be a tragedy –it is not a question of few weeks– were it not for the increasingly stronger suspicion that, for one reason or another, the time will never be right to deal with the Catalan question.
To survive, the dialogue table needs both sides to believe in it and to work seriously, beyond the spotlights and, when appropriate, publicly. Sometimes it seems that Sánchez forgets that he needs ERC's votes to push through his legislative projects, for example the labour reform. And on the contrary, too often he projects the image that he only acts forced by this arithmetical necessity, and that he does not quite believe the importance of the table.
The next meeting, whenever that may be, will have to be the one that proves that there is a sincere will to take firm steps towards the resolution of the conflict. Everyone understands that amnesty or a referendum will not be achieved overnight, but if the roundtable is to persist and consolidate itself as a useful instrument it must begin to bear fruit. In this second meeting and in those to come.
Catalan and Spanish government sources affirm that there have been contacts and that there is a will to make an announcement, for example in the field of the de-judicialization. As former Spanish minister José Luis Ábalos once said, the path of repression has to be "freed of rocks" in order to normalise relations between Catalonia and Spain. Aragonès has also asked for "imagination and creativity" when looking for solutions. The important thing is to put an end to the anomaly of being governed by a Statute of Autonomy that is not the one citizens voted for and that these same citizens are the ones who decide, through their vote, their future. From this point on, it is up to Catalan politicians and the Spanish left (which governs thanks to the fact that the right is residual in Catalonia and the Basque Country) to have enough foresight to find a democratic solution to a conflict that also has democratic roots.