Since Catalonia’s unofficial vote to break away from Spain on 1st of October 2017, the autonomous region has been a very hot topic all over the news and worldwide. Not only has this been the biggest political crisis in Spain in the last 40 years, but it also is a major challenge for the European Union. Years of ill-feeling concerning the level of autonomy the region had under the Spanish constitution led towards independence last autumn.
Then, on October 27, the regional parliament, where separatist MPs made up the majority, officially declared independence, no longer recognizing the Spanish constitution. Madrid’s response was to impose Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to dissolve the regional parliament and dismiss Carles Puigdemont and his entire cabinet.
On October 30 Carles Puigdemont went to Brussels with some of his collaborators to escape Spanish justice. Weeks of protests and mass demonstrations followed to “defend the republic”. Mariano Rajoy’s Deputy Prime Minister was appointed to run the region temporarily and new elections were called for December 21.
After being imprisoned, a few Catalan politicians and activists still remain in Spanish custody after a judge denied bail for the separatist leaders — including the erstwhile vice president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, who was campaigning for the elections on December 21 from behind bars. Six other former Catalan ministers were freed on bail by the court.
The first time the Catalan parliament convened again was to elect a speaker of the house. Roger Torrent, from the leftwing Esquerra Republicana party, was chosen as a speaker on January 17. He called for an immediate end of Spanish rule over Catalonia and criticised the Spanish courts’ decision to keep three separatists in detention pending trial.
This morning, Friday March 23, a Spanish supreme court judge has charged 13 senior Catalan leaders, including the region’s deposed president and the candidate chosen to succeed him, with rebellion over their roles in last year’s unilateral referendum and the subsequent declaration of independence.
The charges, announced by Judge Pablo Llarena, carry a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment and were brought against both Carles Puigdemont, the former president in exile in Belgium, and Jordi Turul, who faces a vote on Saturday to take up the post. Llarena said that Catalan separatists had colluded for the past six years to execute a plan to declare Catalonia’s independence. The court did not give a date for the trial.
What else has been going on?
– Carles Puigdemont criticized the Spanish judge’s decision to charge him and 12 other Catalan separatists with rebellion
– A Spanish Supreme Court judge is requiring the 14 members of the former Catalan Cabinet to pay a collective deposit of 2.1 million euros before an upcoming trial establishes whether they misused public funds for an illegal independence referendum
– Llarena said that 25 Catalans will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience
– Also charged with rebellion are Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, separatist activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart and ERC party leader Marta Rovira, who on Friday announced that she was fleeing Spain
– Catalonia has been without a leader for nearly five months after central authorities took control following the illegal independence declaration
We have interviewed Jordi Vilanova, Translator, Social Media Manager, Radio Producer & Host in Catalunya, regarding the current trends in Catalonia and posed the following questions:
Will there be new elections for a regional president with new candidates and how long do you think Catalonia will be without a leader?
According to parliamentary rules, as the session to appoint the President had been adjourned by the Speaker (the presiding officer) Roger Torrent, the process was frozen, until yesterday. Now, if the candidate Jordi Turull is imprisoned (pending trial) he cannot attend the session tomorrow so he cannot be appointed. In theory. So, if no other candidate is found, i.e. one who will be voted by a majority of members, no government can be formed. This can go on for exactly two months from today. Then, parliament is dissolved and elections are called by the current President. Not Puigdemont, who was deposed by the Spanish government, but by the acting President, Rajoy, 54 days later. So, Sunday 15 July.
Do you think Catalans are losing faith in becoming independent?
Yes. Numbers are declining, according to surveys. But then, the survey was saying the same before the last elections, and more people voted pro-independence candidates than ever!
What has actually changed in the end, apart from politicians in jail and chaos? Will the whole issue just start back from square zero as soon as a leader is chosen?
The issue will not simply go away. The Catalans will want to form a government now as soon as possible, but the far-left radical pro-Independence CUP, who refused to vote for Jordi Turull, will continue to pressure to declare the Republic. The other Independence parties will want to re-establish a ‘home-rule’ (British term for ‘autonomous’) government. They will however not give up and will continue planning for the establishment of a Catalan Republic.
Do you think there can be some sort of compromise?
The Spanish don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘compromise’ when the Nation is concerned. They are extremely nationalist in this sense.
Therefore, it remains exciting to wait and see what will happen next. While some Catalans might have lost the motivation to fight for independence, others believe in it more than ever, although Madrid is very eager to undermine their power. Stay up to date with Barcelona City FM!