Read in Catalan

After the burial, without any funeral, of the dialogue table, which, as was predictable, failed to produce any results in terms of a solution for the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, only having held three meetings in more than three years - the last one on July 27th, 2022, there was a lot of intrigue in waiting to hear the substance of the Catalan president's proposal for the establishment of an academic council to draft a clarity agreement, which he had outlined but not specified. Although the prior expectations about the commissioning of the official body - with its members to receive payment for attendance at the meetings - were not very high and the parliamentary support for his proposal was thin on the ground to put it mildly, at least up till now it has been worth waiting to find out where Pere Aragonès wanted to go after the two attempts carried out by his predecessors, Artur Mas (the unofficial consultation of 9th November 2014) and Carles Puigdemont (the independence referendum of 1st October 2017).

Well, without wanting to deny the initiative shown and his ability to surprise by opening a path different from his predecessors, and in which the president renounces his own leadership in order to find a solution to the conflict, it is very difficult to think anything other than that we have before us is an action of distraction that leads nowhere. It obviously does not lead to a referendum on self-determination, since the Spanish state and its political parties have set down their red lines. It does not lead us to learn Catalans' views, this happened on 9th November and the judicial and economic consequences are still being dragged through more than one court. It also does not seem aimed at a new Statute of Autonomy, since an academic council is not required for this. I doubt that it is seeking a fiscal pact or an economic concert, since that is not the task of constitutionalists or political scientists. So where does the proposal for a clarity agreement lead and with whom does the Catalan government intend to agree it?

There is a risk here of losing the thread of the problem: there is a conflict between Catalonia and Spain, recognized by almost all parties. As well as a second affirmation: beyond the polls saying that support for 'yes' in an independence referendum has fallen below 'no', it is this binary voting mechanism that more than 70% of Catalonia's citizens want, according to the Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO), the Catalan public research agency similar to Spain's CIS. To think that an academic council should be the one to bring the solution to the political conflict is to leave the responsibility in the hands of those who can do nothing. The apparent will to broaden the consensus must have a solid basis and this can only be the result of a political agreement.

I will be even clearer: the most significant increase in Catalonia's autonomy since 1979, when the first Statute was approved, was not the result of the second Statute in 2006, which the Constitutional Court declared to be violation of the Spanish Constitution and, as is known, the Constitution continues being the same one. It was the result of Catalonia's Convergència i Unió coalition squeezing all the juice possible out of the agreement with the People's Party (PP) for the investiture of José María Aznar as Spanish PM, in 1996, in the much-maligned Majestic Hotel pact, a document that its detractors would do well to read to know what they are talking about. It is clear that Jordi Pujol humiliated Aznar, who had to pay a high toll to form his Spanish government. This is the only realistic formula for changing the political course of history by agreement. The other attempts to convince those beyond the river Ebre of the goodness of proposals formulated from Catalonia are doomed to failure.

In the words of Seneca, the writer, philosopher and politician from Roman-era Córdoba, for those who do not know which port they are heading to, no wind is good enough. And, on the other hand, to those who know where they are going, all winds are favourable. The problem is that surely since 2017 in Catalonia, Seneca's question has not had an answer. At least a clear one. And much less an agreed one.