"Europe faces its 'last chance' to de-escalate crisis in Catalonia before it's too late" is today's cover story for Scottish newspaper The National. The article is based on an interview with Albert Royo-Mariné, secretary general of Diplocat (Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia), who recalled the closing of websites, the police violence during the 1st October referendum and the imprisonment of "political prisoners", saying this is "not compatible with modern democracy".
Royo warns that the current situation could end up with the arrest of members of the Catalan government. This would, probably, create even more anger among the public and make even more of them take to the streets "to defend Catalonia’s home rule and institutions".
In fact, with the imprisonment of the leaders of the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and Òmnium, about which he says that it's "pretty clear that both are in jail for no other crime than their political ideas", it's already been seen that the public is more mobilised than ever.
Diplocat's secretary general expresses his regret that Mariano Rajoy's government has so far not been "taking measures towards de-escalation". He suggests they could have withdrawn the 10,000 Spanish police sent to stop the referendum (who instead have had their stay lengthened to 2nd November) or stopped the court cases against Catalan officials.
Instead, he says that "the Spanish Government clearly has no interest in relieving the tense situation at all". For example, he says that Sànchez and Cuixart are imprisoned for "a peaceful protest on September 20 at the end of which they called to the crowds for calm".
Royo writes that "Spain has a political problem in Catalonia that will not go away with the action of judges and police", yet that "Spain’s prime minister has rejected any type of dialogue to de-escalate tensions with Catalonia" against the repeated offers from Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
Capitulation or arrest
If Puigdemont doesn't change course, they note that Rajoy's government "with the support of Spain’s main opposition party, will suspend Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy and could end up arresting members of the Catalan government". "It is more than evident that this would lead to an escalation, without precedent, of tensions and would provoke hundreds of thousands of Catalan citizens to take to the streets to defend Catalonia’s home rule and institutions."
Royo says that the Spanish government had other options. "Instead of accepting [Puigdemont's proposal of dialogue] and taking measures towards de-escalation, the Spanish Government has doubled down on the pressure and shoved the Catalan Government into a dead-end street."
For Royo, such actions "surely would have reduced tensions". However, instead of that, he made a "new threat to the Catalan authorities: either your surrender or we will arrest you", showing that "the Spanish Government clearly has no interest in relieving the tense situation at all. What they want is 100 per cent of their objectives."