We have a roadmap to Catalan independence (Opinion)
ARA – Article by Carles Boix, Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and member of the advisory body that assists the Government of Catalonia in the current political process
You only have to read the statements of its detractors to realize that the “roadmap” signed by the country’s main parties and civic organizations on March 30th represents a decisive –in fact, irreversible– step for the Catalan sovereignty movement.
The agreement, despite its brevity, proposes a concrete plan both to make possible a democratic and ordered consultation on the political future of Catalonia, and to manage a possible favorable vote for Catalan independence. The truth is that this agreement simply responds to the social and citizen demand for a democratic vote — a demand that has remained broad-based and steady for many years. Therefore, this is the Plan B that we talked about so much before the unofficial consultation of November 9th. Faced with the decision by the Spanish government to block a referendum using the mechanisms provided by Spain’s constitution, the only possible option, other than holding a “unilateral” referendum, is to transform the upcoming Catalan elections into the decisive place to determine the extent of Catalonia’s sovereignty. This also explains why the agreement has begun to untie the partisan knot of the past few months.
The agreement is carefully democratic: it doesn’t pressupose any particular outcome. The first paragraph states that the road to independence will only begin “if that is what the majority of citizens want”. On September 27, this majority will have to rest on all of the pro-sovereignty parties –that is, those forces that “make it clear, first and foremost, that voting for them means expressing a favorable position on the independence of Catalonia”. This pronouncement will have to be specific on two counts: first, a formal declaration (in Parliament) that “announces the beginning of a process towards the proclamation of a new State”, and second, –which sets apart this declaration from previous ones– the commitment that none of the events that derive from it be “subject to the existing legality or eventual challenges” by the Spanish state. Logically, the signatory parties to this agreement are pro-sovereignty. But nothing should prevent other parties or politicians (on an individual basis) from joining it or voting for the complete declaration of sovereignty when it is presented this fall.
The denunciation of the agreement by those who prevented the holding of a referendum is consistent. They always refused to resolve the open constitutional crisis over the statutory process of 2005-10 with a democratic vote, and have always argued that the Catalans, a minority in Spain, must remain subject to what is decided by the majority in Spain.
On the other hand, opposition to holding “plebiscitarian” elections by those who defend “the right to self-determination” is illogical. Considering that the constitutional referendum that they demand is impossible due to Spain’s veto, these elections are the only feasible alternative within Spain’s legal coordinates. In addition, the declaration, in a nod to the as-yet undecided parties, agrees “to maintain an expectant attitude towards the alternative of a binding referendum by the Spanish state on Catalan independence”.
The only thing that supporters of the right to self-determination who have not signed on to the agreement (UDC, ICV, CUP, etc.) have to do is to announce publicly what they will vote (Yes or No) in the event of a declaration that announces “a process towards the proclamation of a new State” and indicates that this process will “in no case be subject to existing law or eventual challenges to this declaration”. A Yes vote would be in favor of independence. A No vote would have to be accompanied by a realistic, honest alternative proposal that explains what it seeks to achieve and how. Let me give an example: to argue for a confederation is neither honest (to form a confederation you must first be an independent state) nor realistic (Spain doesn’t want to form a confederation with anyone). Incidentally, the same could be said of the formula of the free associated State. On the contrary, the March 30th agreement has the virtue, fundamental in a democracy, of offering citizens a way to close (with the victory of either No or Yes votes) a debate that has already lasted too long.
The “roadmap” outlines an action plan –between the initial declaration and the final proclamation– to be carried out over a maximum of 18 months. I understand this plan, adapted from the recommendations of the CATN1 (essentially from its report on a “constituent process”) and in fact inspired by the model proposed for Scotland, not as yet another political maneuver to delay the decision of Catalans but, rather, as a time offered by Catalonia to conduct good faith negotiations with Spain in a situation of collaboration between the two governments: the Catalan willingness to negotiate legitimizes the process in the eyes of the world; a transition from one sovereignty to another takes time; and negotiating the transfer will benefit everyone. Having said that, it is true that Spain could decide not to accept a democratic vote, and could decide not to cooperate. This scenario is not explicitly addressed in the agreement, but it is evident that we all must keep it in mind, and we all must help to devise a number of contingency plans (in the administration and in society) for that eventuality.