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Burning King’s Picture Is Free Speech, European Court Warns Spain

The European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday that Spain had wrongfully condemned two Catalans for publicly burning a photograph of the king and queen, saying that the act was justifiable political criticism.

In their unanimous ruling, the judges said they were “not convinced” that the burning “could reasonably be construed as incitement to hatred or violence.”

The decision from the European court, which is based in Strasbourg, France, comes as Spain has mounted a series of challenges to freedom of expression by social media users as well as rappers and other artists. Many of them have been prosecuted on charges of violating antiterrorism laws introduced in 2015 by the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The protest case, however, dates from 2007, when Catalan secessionism was still a fringe political movement. More recently, the northeastern region of Catalonia has become the epicenter of a territorial and constitutional crisis that culminated in a botched declaration of independence last October.

In September 2007, Enric Stern and Jaume Roura set fire to a life-size, upside-down photograph of the royal couple during a visit by King Juan Carlos I to the northeastern city of Girona.

The two men were initially sentenced to 15 months in prison for insulting the monarchy — a felony in Spain. The sentence was later reduced to a fine of 2,700 euros, or about $3,300, each. The defendants took their case to the European court after Spain’s Constitutional Court refused to hear their appeal. The European court ordered Spain to reimburse the fines imposed and pay for legal costs.

In its ruling, the court said that the photo burning “had not been a personal attack on the king of Spain geared to insulting and vilifying his person, but a denunciation of what the king represented as the head and the symbol of the state apparatus and the forces which, according to the applicants, had occupied Catalonia.”

The Spanish government did not have any immediate reaction to the ruling.

Picture-burning protests have become more common as the drive toward the creation of an independent Catalan republic has gathered steam. In late 2016, politicians from the Popular Unity Candidacy, a far-left Catalan party, ripped photographs of the current monarch, King Felipe VI, during a news conference that was held to protest prosecutions of demonstrators who burned royal photographs.

This week, an Amnesty International report, headlined “Tweet if you dare,” condemned Spain’s use of counterterrorism legislation to prosecute people who posted social media messages judged to “glorify terrorism.” The report concluded that the toughening of the law in 2015 had led to “increasing self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression in Spain.”

By Raphael Minder 13 March 2018

The New York Times

Anger from Catalonia as Spain threatens direct rule on language

Secessionists accused Madrid of -authoritarian behaviour and inflaming Spanish nationalism with the proposal to use Article 155 to impose changes in Catalan education – an issue that has long been a political and social battleground.

The outcry came after the Spanish Ministry of Education confirmed such a move was under discussion, following a meeting between Mr Rajoy and two Catalan groups that advocate -bilingual education.

The proposed change could allow parents in Catalonia to choose greater teaching in Castilian Spanish. At present, state schools teach almost entirely in Catalan, with Castilian usually restricted to Spanish literature and language classes.

Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan independence leader currently vying to be returned to the presidency, accused Mr Rajoy of using the issue to fan divisions. Tweeting from his voluntary -exile in Brussels late on Thursday night, he said the government in -Madrid was “supercharging” Spanish nationalism and “trying to divide Catalan students by their language”.

Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, said the issue went beyond political positions, insisting: “We will not let anyone touch our educational model.”

The initiative is still under discussion, and Spanish government sources suggested it would likely be weeks -before the details were confirmed.

The groups which met with Mr -Rajoy – AMES and the Societat Civil Catalana – have respectively called for parents to be able to choose studies “also using Castilian Spanish as a -vehicular language”, and for a mandated minimum level of 25 per cent of teaching in Spanish.

News of the proposal was welcomed by both groups yesterday.

But it was denounced by educational organisations including USTEC, the largest Catalan teachers’ union, whose spokesperson Ramon Font warned it would stop at nothing to prevent “the attack” from Madrid.

Mr Rajoy’s government has pushed back against the encroachment of Catalan, not only in Catalonia but in the autonomous communities of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where variations of the language are also taking a greater hold in the public sector.

Critics claim that the predominance of Catalan in schools disadvantages students, and they link it to what they say is pro-independence indoctrination in education.

In 2013, a controversial education reform mandated greater use of Castilian Spanish, but this has not been implemented in Catalonia.

The Age, Melbourne

Catalan crisis rekindled as parliament proposes Puigdemont as leader

Rodrigo De Miguel, Teis Jensen

Catalonia’s parliament nominated former leader Carles Puigdemont, sacked by Spain for unilaterally declaring independence, as candidate to rule the region again in a sign of defiance to Madrid and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government.

Puigdemont and his supporters say he can rule from self-imposed exile in Belgium, where he fled to in October to avoid arrest for his part in organizing a banned referendum on a split from Spain and the consequent declaration of independence.

Madrid has rejected this possibility and said it will challenge any attempt by him to rule remotely in the courts.

Puigdemont said on Monday the independence movement would not bow to Spanish authority in comments during a debate held in the University of Copenhagen.

“We will not surrender to authoritarianism,” Puigdemont said at the event, which marked his first trip away from Belgium in three months.

Puigdemont became the top candidate to lead the wealthy northeastern region again after elections in Catalonia last month gave secessionists a slim majority.

The 55-year old former journalist potentially faces decades of jail in Spain if he is convicted of the charges leveled against him, including rebellion and sedition, for organizing the referendum and declaring Catalonia’s independence.

Rajoy and his ministers have said they would appeal to the courts and maintain Madrid’s direct rule of Catalonia if Puigdemont was elected while abroad.

However, the Catalan parliament’s speaker said Puigdemont was the only candidate chosen by parliament to rule the region.

“I am conscious of the warnings that weigh upon him, but I am also conscious of his absolute legitimacy to be candidate,” Roger Torrent said.

Catalonia’s parliament must hold its first vote of confidence on the new leader by Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Supreme Court rejected on Monday a request from the state prosecutor to reactivate a European arrest warrant to detain Puigdemont while he is in Copenhagen.

While at first glance a blow to Madrid’s efforts to have Puigdemont arrested, the court’s decision could also make it more difficult for the former Catalan leader to be allowed to vote.

Spanish laws make it easier for someone in detention than for someone who is abroad to be granted a parliamentary proxy.

In Copenhagen, Puigdemont declined to comment any further on the day’s events.

After weeks of uneasy calm, the political crisis triggered by Catalonia’s independence drive flared up again last week when the new regional parliament elected Torrent as speaker at its first sitting.

Despite that tension, Spain’s borrowing costs fell to six-week lows on Monday after credit agency Fitch upgraded its sovereign rating to gave Spain its first “A-” grade since the euro zone debt crisis.

According the Danish parliament’s diary, Puigdemont has also been invited to a meeting there on Tuesday by Magni Arge, a deputy representing the Faroe Islands, which have their own independence movement seeking secession from Denmark.

More: MADRID/COPENHAGEN (Reuters)

 

Catalan independence movement takes control upon parliament’s return in boost for exiled Puigdemont

The independence movement in Catalonia regained control of the troubled region’s parliament without difficulties when it assembled on Wednesday for the first time since December’s elections – but their attempts to elect nationalist leader Carles Puigdemont as president-in-exile will likely not prove so straightforward.

Earlier this week Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a strongly-worded warning that direct rule from Madrid will continue if Mr Puigdemont, who faces almost certain arrest if he returns to Catalonia from Belgium, attempts to govern remotely.

“It is absurd that somebody tries to become president of Catalonia whilst they’re in Brussels,” Mr Rajoy said.

“It’s not a political or legal problem, it’s a question of common sense,” he added. “You cannot be sworn in as president from Brussels and without a president, article 155” – the part of Spanish legislation that permits direct rule  – “would continue.”

With their narrow overall majority confirmed in December’s snap elections, the Nationalists won an important initial vote when Republican Roger Torrent was elected new speaker and head of its governing committee, key to deciding which legislation is voted on by parliament.

Overall, the session was much quieter than the fraught pro-independence parliamentary debates of last autumn, when the Catalan parliament last met before direct rule was applied.

But on Wednesday the eight empty MPs’ seats in the nationalist benches constituted a powerful reminder of the huge underlying challenges this parliament faces in a region where pro-and anti-independence support is almost equally divided.

Three of the secessionist MPs are in jail, whilst another five, including Mr Puigdemont, are in exile, and all eight face charges of sedition and rebellion.

The missing MPs seats were bedecked with yellow ribbons, symbols of the campaign for the release of the three jailed lawmakers, including former Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras. All three imprisoned MPs were permitted to delegate their votes to colleagues in parliament.

But despite their return to power, any attempt by the Nationalist-run governing committee to nominate Mr Puigdemont would place the separatists once again on a legal collision course with the Spanish government.

With the 31 January deadline to select a new president approaching, rumours are growing that Mr Puigdemont might attempt a daring return to Catalonia.

There is even speculation that he could emulate WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and seek diplomatic immunity in a foreign consulate in Barcelona, and recently Mr Puigdemont posted an enigmatic photo of people walking along the French side of the Catalan border, with the single word camins, meaning “road”, written underneath.

However, a Spanish Customs house was also visible in the photo’s background, an apt reminder of the considerable political, and legal, obstacles Mr Puigdemont may well now face.

More: The Independent

Carles Puigdemont set to be named Catalonia president in exile as deal is reached by separatist parties

Carles Puigdemont is set be re-installed as Catalonia’s president of government after a deal was reached between the region’s two major separatist parties.

The agreement between Mr Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party and the Catalan Republic Left would to see the exiled or fugitive politician installed at a meeting of the parliament mid next week.

The deal, announced early on Wednesday, comes after pro-independence parties won the narrowest of majorities in seats in the Catalan parliament, following fresh elections on 21 December called by Spain’s national government – which had suspended the sitting Catalan government.

Spokespeople for both parties confirmed the deal had been struck, but confusion remains about how the president will read his legally mandatory installation speech to the Catalan Parliament on 17 January without returning to Catalonia, where he is wanted by the Spanish authorities.

The Catalan Parliament’s lawyers are set to examine proposals for Mr Puigdemont to read his address via videolink from abroad – or whether another MP can read the speech, according to Spanish media reports.

The possibility of a remote investiture is not covered by the rules of the Catalan parliament, and the ERC says the deal to reinstall Mr Puigdemont is conditional on a legally sound way of reading the address.

Mr Puigdemont is currently living in Brussels, where he fled after charges of sedition, rebellion, and the misuse of public funds were levelled against him by Spanish authorities for his role in the region’s disputed independence referendum.

While Spanish authorities have dropped a bid for a European Arrest Warrant to deport the politician, he has previously said he would only return to Spain if offered certain “guarantees”. Some of Mr Pugidemont’s political allies who have returned to or remain in Spain are currently in jail on similar charges.

Mr Puigdemont said on Tuesday at a videoconference that “it is not possible to return to Catalonia” because the current legal situation. His lawyers have previously suggested that he might return to Spain following December’s elections.

More: INDEPENDENT

Catalan Separatists Seek to Re-elect Puigdemont

The main separatist parties of Catalonia have reached a preliminary agreement to re-elect Carles Puigdemont as leader of the restive Spanish region, even as he remains in self-imposed exile in Belgium, the Catalan news media reported on Wednesday.

The deal — reached over dinner in Brussels on Tuesday — would allow Mr. Puigdemont to deliver his acceptance speech this month either by videoconference from Belgium or by having another lawmaker read it in the Catalan Parliament on his behalf, according to the Catalan radio station Rac1 and other outlets.

In a Catalan election on Dec. 21, the three main separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in the regional Parliament, with 47.5 percent of the vote — almost identical to the result in 2015.

The result was a setback for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, who had called the election in the hope that voters would deliver a decisive blow to the secessionist movement. But the separatists will still struggle to form a coalition government, in large part because eight of their 70 elected lawmakers are either in jail in Madrid or with Mr. Puigdemont in Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain.

Marta Rovira, a deputy leader of the separatist party Esquerra Republicana, met with Mr. Puigdemont on Tuesday evening. On Friday, judges from the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Esquerra leader, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in jail in Madrid since early November, pending his trial for corruption and sedition.

The Spanish attorney general wants to prosecute 20 separatists, including Mr. Puigdemont, on charges of organizing an unconstitutional referendum on Oct. 1 and then declaring Catalonia’s independence that month.

The Catalan Parliament is set to reconvene next Wednesday, under a timetable set by Mr. Rajoy, and is expected to elect a regional leader within two weeks. Mr. Puigdemont’s party unexpectedly won the most seats among the main separatist parties in December, even though Mr. Puigdemont has not made clear whether he plans to return from Belgium.

Mr. Puigdemont has called on Mr. Rajoy to meet outside Spain, to negotiate a settlement to their dispute, a proposal the prime minister has rejected. The Spanish leader has also described as “absurd” the idea that Mr. Puigdemont could lead Catalonia from abroad.

Far from ending the secessionist conflict, the election has opened another uncertain chapter for Spain. The botched independence declaration prompted Mr. Rajoy to use his emergency powers to oust Mr. Puigdemont’s government and take direct control over Catalonia from Madrid. Mr. Puigdemont, for his part, has not made clear how he plans to revive his independence drive.

In order to guarantee a separatist majority in a parliamentary vote this month, Mr. Junqueras and the other jailed separatists are expected to ask for special permission from Spain’s judiciary to travel to Barcelona for one day to cast their votes. Some of the lawmakers in Belgium could appoint substitutes to take their seats.

The preliminary deal to re-elect Mr. Puigdemont was struck just hours after his predecessor, Artur Mas, resigned as leader of his own conservative party. Mr. Mas was barred last year from holding public office after Spain’s judiciary ruled that he had organized an illegal vote on Catalan independence in 2014. “This new stage requires new leaders,” Mr. Mas told a news conference on Tuesday.

More: The New York Times

Catalan parties to seek return of Puigdemont as president

Catalonia’s two largest pro-independence parties have cut a deal that could see Carles Puigdemont re-elected as the region’s president, three months after he fled to Belgium following the Spanish government’s decision to sack him over his role in staging an illegal referendum and unilaterally declaring independence.

On Tuesday night Puigdemont’s party, Together for Catalonia, reached an agreement with its former coalition partner, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), to give pro-independence parties a majority on the parliamentary board when the regional assembly sits next week for first time since the secessionist bloc retained its majority in last December’s elections.

A spokesman for Puigdemont said that under the pact both parties would “move forward with this new parliamentary term with Puigdemont as the president”.

However, it is unclear exactly how the deal will work in practice as Puigdemont is facing arrest the moment he returns to Spain on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds relating to the secessionist campaign.

An ERC spokeswoman said the party’s legal team was looking into whether Puigdemont could be invested via videoconference or have one of his MPs read the speech that presidential candidates are required to give before voting takes place in the investiture session.

The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy, which helped the two larger pro-independence parties secure a majority after previous elections and is adamant that the unilateral push for independence must continue, said it would support the formation of a “republican government”.

In recent weeks fissures have appeared between Together for Catalonia and the ERC, whose leader, Oriol Junqueras, a former vice-president of the region, remains in custody after choosing to remain in Spain while Puigdemont fled.

Junqueras, who has promised to obey the law if he is released on bail, has signalled that he is prepared to take a more moderate approach to independence. Shortly before the election on 21 December, he appeared to hit out at Puigdemont, saying: “I went to prison because I do not hide and I am consistent with my actions.”

On Thursday night the former Catalan president Artur Mas announced that he was stepping down as leader of his pro-independence PDeCat party – whose political platform in the election was the Puigdemont-led Together for Catalonia – saying the new stage required new leaders.

In what some have seen as a coded warning to Puigdemont, he said: “Throughout my political life I have been guided by one principle: the country first, then the party and, finally, the person.”

Although the secessionist bloc retained its parliamentary majority in the elections, winning 70 of the 135-seats in the regional parliament, it again failed to attract a majority in favour of independence, taking 47.7% of the vote.

The biggest single winner was the centre-right unionist Citizens party, which won 37 seats and 25.4% of the vote.

More: The Guardian

Catalonia crisis: Spanish supreme court refuses to release former Vice President accused of rebellion

Supreme Court judges have ruled against allowing deposed former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras out of jail.

He faces charges of potential rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for going ahead with an illegal independence bid for the region of Catalonia.

In the decision on Friday, the judges said there was a risk that Mr Junqueras might again commit crimes as there was no sign he intended changing his ways.

The politician has previously committed to obey the law if he is released from prison, his lawyers told a panel of judges reviewing his case.

Mr Junqueras has been in jail in Madrid pending trial since 2 November but sought to be released from prison and allowed to resume his political duties.

“I am a man of peace,” Mr Junqueras told judges, according to Spanish media.

Mr Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, said he had vowed to seek negotiations with Spain on the Catalan issue.

“He asked to be freed, to represent the people who voted for him, to be with his family, and to let him manage this situation which demands political maturity,” the lawyer said.

A referendum was held on 1 October 2017 to decide whether Catalonia, an autonomous region of northeastern Spain, should declare itself an independent country.

Catalan officials put the vote in support of independence, vehemently opposed by Spain, at nearly 90 per cent. Turnout however, even by Catalan officials’ estimates, was well below 50 per cent.

The independence campaign catapulted Spain into political turmoil and sparked a mass exodus of businesses and banks from Catalonia to other parts of the country, due to the region’s instability.

The Spanish government responded to the independence drive by enforcing direct rule in the region, removing Mr Junqueras as well as Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians.

More: Independent

Puigdemont urges Spain to accept Catalan election results

In an address posted on his Twitter account from Brussels, where he is in self-imposed exile, Puigdemont said:

“Democracy has spoken. Everyone has been able to express themselves. What is Rajoy waiting for to accept the results, to accept the will of the Catalans?

“Next year, the-end-of-year speech of the Catalan president will be delivered in the only possible way: in the Catalan government building.”

The December 21 election failed to resolve Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades, with Catalonia still deeply divided.

Puigdemont faces arrest should he return, for organising an illegal independence referendum and proclaiming a Catalan republic.

Rajoy has called for the new Catalan parliament to meet on January 17.

More: Euronews

Catalonia’s Crisis Is Just Getting Started

Since October, all across Catalonia, the lampposts, bridges, and facades have been decorated with yellow ribbons. It is not a Christmas tradition, but a show of solidarity with two pro-independence politicians and two well-known activists who have been in pretrial detention for almost two months. In general, yellow has become the color of resistance in this autonomous region, whose government failed in its attempt to gain independence from Spain last October. And it is this spirit of resistance that explains the results of last week regional elections.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, called the regional election after the Catalan government held its own referendum on independence on Oct. 1. Madrid declared that referendum, which showed a large pro-independence majority, illegal. The Spanish government sent masked riot police to raid polling sites and confiscate ballot boxes and later called for a new “legitimate” election. Rajoy had hoped that a defeat of pro-independence parties in an election sanctioned by Spain’s central government would solve the Catalan conflict; he was wrong.

Against the odds, the three pro-independence parties together won the Dec. 21 regional poll with close to 48 percent of the votes with nearly 80 percent turnout, allowing them to keep the absolute majority in the Catalan Parliament. These results were a slap in the face to Rajoy. To add insult to injury, his People’s Party nearly disappeared in Catalonia, winning only four seats out of 135. His rivals on the Spanish right, the Ciudadanos party, won 36 seats — a result that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

In the week since the vote, nationalists in the Spanish press have not been kind to Rajoy. They argue that it was a mistake to call for a snap election just hours after suspending Catalan self-rule in late October. However, at that point, Rajoy had no other option. A sustained suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy, the preferred solution of hardcore Spanish nationalists, could have led to civil strife.

For all his recent faults, the Spanish premier’s blunder in fact came much earlier, when he failed to address the Catalan government’s grievances, such as unfair fiscal policies or the lack of recognition of Catalan national identity.

For a long time, Rajoy seemed to buy the so-called souffle theory, which held that the independence movement would grow but eventually deflate and therefore there was no need to make concessions. Seen in that light, the sudden rise of the movement in 2012 was linked to Spain’s recession and would naturally weaken along with an economic recovery. But the conflict has much deeper roots, and its main trigger was the failed process to expand Catalonia’s autonomy a decade ago. During the discussion of the new autonomy law in mid-2000s, Rajoy’s People’s Party launched a strong campaign against the law that led to the boycott of Catalan products, infuriating most Catalans. Once the law was passed by both the Catalan and the Spanish parliaments, the Constitutional Court struck down several of its main provisions, such as the article that recognized Catalonia as a “nation.”

Once it became evident that the pro-independence movement would not just go away, Rajoy chose to ignore its leaders and let the judicial system deal with any challenge to the authority of the Spanish state. As a result of this policy, the exiled Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is now in Brussels, and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, is in prison. They face possible 30-year prison sentences, despite having never used violence. More than 100 highly regarded Spanish lawyers have stated that the “sedition” and “rebellion” charges against them are baseless, and many Catalans consider them political prisoners. Yet instead of seeking a political solution for what is a political problem, Rajoy has let the conflict fester and treated it as a “law and order” problem. And by outsourcing resolution of the Catalan conflict to the judiciary, he now risks losing control of events.

The secessionist leaders are not without blame. The Catalan government’s worst mistake was to promote a declaration of independence after a referendum with only a 43 percent turnout. The argument that this percentage would have been higher had the Spanish police not brutally repressed voters does not legitimize such a foolish move. The consequences of the unilateral declaration were easy to predict: No country recognized the new “republic,” self-rule was suspended, and Catalan society became more bitterly divided between pro- and anti-independence citizens.

In a rare show of self-criticism, pro-independence Catalan leaders recognized some of their mistakes during the electoral campaign. “The Catalan government was not ready to enforce independence,” Clara Ponsati, former regional minister for education, declared from Brussels. The two biggest secessionist coalitions, Together for Catalonia and Republican Left of Catalonia, which together got 66 seats and are expected to form the new regional government, have stated in their party platforms the need to negotiate with Madrid and have rejected the idea of a unilateral solution to the conflict.

While this is a positive development that may soothe tensions, a serious dialogue between the two sides remains unlikely. To begin with, the rise of Ciudadanos in opinion polls threatens the hegemony that Rajoy’s People’s Party has enjoyed within the Spanish right since the late 1980s, and this will probably lead to a nationalist bidding war between the two parties. In fact, Ciudadanos’ leader, Albert Rivera, has already accused Rajoy of being too soft on secessionists. Stirring anti-Catalan feelings has always been a successful electoral strategy for Spanish right-wing politicians, so it is hard to imagine them abandoning it now.

The most likely scenario for the foreseeable future is an entrenched conflict. Neither side seems able to “win,” and Madrid is rejecting any European Union mediation. Canada and the United Kingdom have taken an alternative approach. Both countries held self-determination referendums to address similar demands from Quebec and Scotland. And in both cases, the secessionists lost and tensions eventually receded.

Madrid could also win such a vote if it made a few concessions, such as offering more fiscal and political autonomy to Catalonia. However, Rajoy has refused to even discuss the conditions under which such a vote could be held, insisting that the law forbids it. But if the Spanish government took the issue seriously, it would not be so difficult to amend the constitution to allow for it.

The other long-term solution would be to turn Spain into a confederation with full recognition of its national minorities. Unlike a referendum, such a shift would not create winners and losers. In private conversations, some pro-independence Catalan politicians say that they could accept it as a compromise. However, Spanish leaders do not seem ready for it; this change would force the Spanish state to rethink the way it has defined itself for the last three centuries. Confederation has worked reasonably well in the past. This was the arrangement between Catalonia and Spain from the marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon in the late 15th century until the War of Succession in the early 18th century.

So far, the Spanish political class doesn’t see the need to pay such a high price to put an end to the “Catalan question.” Many Spanish politicians and intellectuals consider the conflict in Catalonia a chronic pain, but not a mortal disease that really threatens the integrity of the nation. They may be correct for now, given the polarization of Catalan society.

But the independence of Catalonia cannot be ruled out in the long run if the Spanish government continues to rely on painkillers rather than proposing a genuine remedy. According to polls, in addition to the roughly 50 percent who want independence, 20 percent of Catalans would like to have more autonomy; together, they represent a clear majority against the status quo. In addition, support for independence is the weakest among older voters, probably because many of them were born in other regions of Spain and immigrated to Catalonia during the economic boom of the 1960s. Support for independence could therefore grow simply due to generational change over the next 20 years.

At the moment, however, Prime Minister Rajoy and his political adversaries have more pressing concerns than the emergence of a hypothetical threat by 2040; Spain is currently being led by a minority government, and the prospect of snap elections is quite likely. This is why the conflict between Catalonia and Spain has no end in sight.

BY RICARD GONZALEZ | DECEMBER 27, 2017, 2:56 PM

More at: Foreign Policy