Spain’s social democratic prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has the right idea for Catalonia, I argue in my latest op-ed for the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper: a revision of the region’s autonomy statute, followed by a referendum on self-government.
It’s short of what the separatists what: a referendum on self-determination. But it’s enough to satisfy the broad middle of Catalans.
I’ve argued in the past that Catalonia needs a third way between secession and the status quo. If those are the only options, then Catalans split nearly 50-50. But add the option of becoming a federal state of Spain and the share of Catalans who support either that or the current regime outnumbers the separatists.
Not by much, though. The stubbornness of Sánchez’ conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, has radicalized Catalan nationalists. Whereas they would have been content with more autonomy in the past, Rajoy’s refusal to negotiate and his heavy-handed response to last year’s independence referendum (which had been forbidden by the Constitutional Court), convinced many they have no future in Spain.
Sánchez is taking the right approach: listening to the Catalans and trying to meet them halfway. Let’s hope it’s not too late.