Catalan referendum anniversary sparks renewed calls for self-determination
Six years ago, on October 1, 2017, Catalonia held a referendum on its independence from Spain. The vote was met with violent repression by the Spanish authorities, who declared it illegal and unconstitutional. More than 1,000 people were injured and several Catalan leaders were arrested or fled into exile.
The referendum result, which favored independence, was not recognized by the Spanish government or the international community. Since then, Catalonia has been in a political deadlock, with no clear path to resolve its status.
On the anniversary of the referendum, thousands of pro-independence supporters took to the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities to demand their right to self-determination. They also called for an amnesty for all those who were prosecuted or are still facing charges for their role in the referendum.
Spanish government offers amnesty but not referendum
The current Spanish government, led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, has proposed an amnesty law that would pardon all those involved in the 2017 referendum, including the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is living in Belgium.
The amnesty law is seen as a gesture of goodwill and a way to ease tensions between Madrid and Barcelona. It is also a condition for the support of the pro-independence Catalan parties in the Spanish parliament, which Sánchez needs to pass his budget and other reforms.
However, the amnesty law does not address the core issue of Catalonia’s right to decide its own future. The Spanish government has repeatedly ruled out any possibility of holding a legal and binding referendum on independence, arguing that it would violate the constitution and the unity of Spain.
Catalan leader rejects amnesty without referendum
The current Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, who leads a coalition of pro-independence parties, has rejected the amnesty offer as insufficient and unacceptable. He said that an amnesty is not a concession but a right, and that it should not be used as a bargaining chip.
Aragonès said that the only way to solve the conflict is through dialogue and negotiation that leads to a referendum on independence. He said that Catalonia will not renounce its democratic mandate and will continue to pursue its legitimate aspirations.
He also said that he will not drop the cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that challenge the legality and impartiality of the Spanish judiciary and the violation of the rights of the Catalan political prisoners and exiles.
International observers urge dialogue and respect for human rights
The anniversary of the Catalan referendum also attracted the attention of international observers, who visited Catalonia as part of a cross-party delegation from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia in the UK.
One of them was Joanna Cherry, a Scottish National Party MP and a human rights lawyer, who witnessed the violence of the Spanish police against peaceful voters in 2017. She wrote an article for The National, a Scottish newspaper, in which she expressed her solidarity with the Catalan cause and criticized the Spanish government’s repression and denial of democracy.
She also praised the work of Josep Costa, a Catalan lawyer and politician who has been defending the right to self-determination and freedom of speech in Catalonia for 25 years. Costa has several cases pending before the ECtHR that could have implications for other European countries facing similar issues.
Cherry said that she hopes that the ECtHR will uphold the rights of the Catalans and that the Spanish government will respect its rulings. She also said that she hopes that dialogue and negotiation will prevail over confrontation and coercion.
What will happen next?
The future of Catalonia remains uncertain and unpredictable. The amnesty law is still pending approval by the Spanish parliament, where it faces opposition from some parties. The Catalan government is still demanding a referendum on independence, which is rejected by Madrid. The ECtHR is still reviewing several cases related to Catalonia, which could have significant consequences.
Will there be a breakthrough or a breakdown in the relations between Spain and Catalonia? Will there be a new opportunity or a new obstacle for dialogue and democracy? Will there be justice or injustice for the Catalans?
The answers to these questions are yet to be seen.