Appearance in Congress

Sánchez: "There will be no referendum on self-determination. The PSOE will never accept it".

The PP, Vox and Cs question the statement, as well as ERC, which reminds him of its change of mind on pardons: "Give us time".

3 min
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, coming down from the court of Congress.

MadridThe day after the Spanish president met with the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, in Madrid, Pedro Sánchez has closed the door to an agreed referendum in Catalonia. During the plenary session in Congress to give details of the granting of pardons - an explanation that has lasted more than half an hour - the socialist leader has been blunt: "There will be no referendum on self-determination unless those who support it manage to convince three-fifths of MPs to amend Article 2 of the Constitution and then Spaniards back the changes in a referendum. And I can already say that the PSOE will never accept it".

Minister of Justice Juan Carlos Campo agrees, who invited sovereigntists to find their own legal ways for an agreed referendum. The socialists' are clear: they need to find support because right now pro-independence parties could at most receive backing from Unidas Podemos, which is not enough. But the PP, Vox, Ciudadanos and ERC also call Sánchez's words into question. All of them have reminded him of when he said he would not grant the pardons he ended up granting last week. "Give us time," said the Republican spokesman in the Spanish parliament, Gabriel Rufian.

Picking up Sánchez's gauntlet, Aragonès has suggested in an interview with La Sexta that the State should transfer competences to carry out referendums to Catalonia. It is the same formula that was already requested seven years ago and which the main Spanish parties rejected. That was in April 2014 when Jordi Turull (CiU), Marta Rovira (ERC) and Joan Herrera (ICV) requested it before the 9-N consultation.

This was Sánchez's last appearance in the Spanish parliament before the summer break. Under the pretext of giving details of the last two European councils, marked by the pandemic and recovery funds - he announced that on July 15 a new act of homage to the victims of the coronavirus will be held with King Felipe VI in attendance -, but the background political issue has been the step the Spanish government has taken to try to resolve the conflict with Catalonia, which is vehemently opposed by the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos, all of which are taking the pardons to the Supreme Court.

In this sense, Sanchez has challenged the PP to make it clear that it has burnt all bridges with the government by presenting a motion of censure, as Vox already did last September, or sit down and agree to unblock the renewal of constitutional institutions, including the Court of Auditors - although the Spanish president has not mentioned it, since Tuesday the Moncloa has pressed the PP leader to renew this organ. In fact, Sánchez even acknowledged the Court of Auditor's politicisation, highlighting that a former minister under the PP will be ruling on the case against the independence movement.

Stopping the judicialisation

The extraordinary plenary session also comes after the Court of Auditors imposed bonds totalling €5.4m over the Catalan Government's foreign action between 2011 and 2017. The Spanish government has already made it clear that it will not reform the Court of Auditors and the only thing it has stressed is that the State Attorney's Office will not file a lawsuit to go to trial. Rightwing media has understood it as a concession, but the Spanish government could not do anything else because it would lose its legitimacy in the cause and the only one that could reclaim the money allegedly wasted is the Generalitat.

On judicialisation, the Spanish president has promised to "act on all fronts" to rebuild bridges with Catalonia after the pardons. "The rule of law will always apply, this will not change. But the judicial route does not serve by itself to ensure coexistence. We do not have to transfer our political responsibility to the courts," he said. Who has spoken of the Court of Auditors has been the president of the confederal group of Unidas Podemos in the Spanish Parliament, Jaume Asens, who announced that his party will lead the request for a commission of inquiry into this court.

On the subject, Rufián has said that the court is an "antidemocratic and illegal quango established by the forty reactionary families that have governed Spain for 80 years to condemn supporters of independence to civil death". In this sense, he has warned Sanchez that if he does nothing "they will be next". The spokeswoman for JxCat, Míriam Nogueras, has returned to claim that the State Attorney's Office withdraws from the cause and has asked for a solution for exiles.

To extend supports to reform the sedition

It is at this point that Sánchez has given a broad response to Nogueras: he has again defended a reform of the Penal Code, but to be able to get it through parliament he has asked for the support of a majority of the chamber, implying that pro-independence parties would have to agree to reform this crime. He believes that Spain already learned in 2017 a "lesson on the mismatch in the Penal Code in relation to the crimes of sedition in other European codes" and that is why they are "working" and maintaining the "political will to learn" and see if it is possible to "update the crime" in the Penal Code because "it will be good for Spanish democracy".