Topic: Spain should negotiate with Puigdemont, not put him in jail

I have an op-ed in the Netherlands' NRC newspaper today, in which I argue Spain should negotiate with Carles Puigdemont rather than put the former Catalan president in jail.

(I've been writing quite a bit about the Catalan independence crisis since moving to Barcelona last year.)

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.

Please read the op-ed if you're Dutch (or Flemish).

English speakers may be interested in one of my previous stories on the topic:

Re: Spain should negotiate with Puigdemont, not put him in jail

I agree that Spain should begin the negotiations by offering Catalonia greater autonomy. It's unfortunate that the Spanish ruling party is so obstinant. Perhaps they believe that they will lose face. I don't think they will. Rather, they will appear more adult. Interesting situation. By the way, Do you like the Picasso museum and the architecture of Gaudi? I visited Barcelona way back in 1984. At that time the reproduction Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were in the harbor. Later, during 2000, I visited them again when I was working in Corpus Christi in the US. Nina was in the harbor, while Pinta and Santa Maria were on the grounds of the museum complex.

Re: Spain should negotiate with Puigdemont, not put him in jail

I haven't visited the Picasso Museum yet, but Gaudi's architecture is amazing. A lot of the architecture here is, in fact, Barcelona is one of the most busiest cities I've lived in. (Sharing first place with Amsterdam, I would say.)

The ruling People's Party fears losing face, yes, and they fear losing voters to other right-wing parties. There is already movement in the polls: conservative voters switching to the Ciudadanos, who are socially liberal but take a harder line on the Catalan independence issue.

I wonder if that also hasn't to do with Rajoy being unable to resolve the situation, though. What I hear from people elsewhere in Spain is that they are simply tired of the crisis and want it to go away, one way or another.

Re: Spain should negotiate with Puigdemont, not put him in jail

Here is my latest column on the Catalan independence crisis: Spain, which treats Catalan separatism as a legal problem, is angry that Germany treats it the same way.

Re: Spain should negotiate with Puigdemont, not put him in jail

The situation has evolved quite a bit in the last few months.

The Socialists came to power with the support of Catalan independence parties. The were willing to negotiate about more autonomy for the region.

However, they refused to agree to a legal referendum on independence, causing the Catalans to withdraw their support. The government has now called early elections, which are due in a month.

The right is upset the Socialists were even willing to talk about more autonomy. A new party has emerged on the far right, called Vox, which could win up to 10 percent of the vote.

The Catalans are still dissatisfied, because they've received nothing. The Socialists are up in the polls, but probably won't be able to form a government without the support of the Catalans, which means that in a month we could be back to square one.

As I argued in an editorial for the Atlantic Sentinel last month, it's getting harder and harder to find a way out of this impasse.