In my latest op-ed for the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper, I argue Spain should negotiate with Carles Puigdemont rather than put the former Catalan president in jail.
Puigdemont was arrested in Germany this weekend on his way back to Belgium from a conference in Finland. He is likely to be extradited.
The numbers two and three of his party, Together for Catalonia, are already in jail. So is the leader of the second-largest independence party, the Republican Left. Its deputy leader has fled to Switzerland.
At this rate, there won’t be anyone left to form a new government in the region, however, Spain cannot restore home rule so long as there isn’t one. It suspended Catalonia’s autonomy after Puigdemont declared independence in October.
To break the gridlock, I argue that Spain, being the strongest party in the conflict, must take the first step: offer increased autonomy for Catalonia and a referendum, not on independence, but on a revised autonomy statute. That way, Spain would no longer have to fear secession and the Catalans would feel they are masters of their own fate.
Unfortunately, such a compromise is unacceptable to Spain’s ruling People’s Party as well as Catalan hardliners.
English speakers may be interested in my Atlantic Sentinel editorial from December: A Third Way for Catalonia.