Catalan Referendums in 2014 and 2017: Policies of Central and Regional Authorities
A comparative analysis of the policies of the national government in Madrid and the Catalan government towards the independence of the autonomous community in the context of the 2014 and 2017 referendums is performed in the paper.
Both referendums were defined as public acts of self-determination of Catalans and had no legal force because they contradicted the Spanish Constitution. But Catalan political leaders Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont had different strategies for the referendum. The 2014 referendum was presented by the regional authorities as a consultative survey on the political future of the autonomous community. And the referendum of 2017 was already comprehended as a full-fledged legal act of self-determination of Catalonia.
On October 27, 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia voted in favor of the resolution on the separation of the autonomous community from Spain. Catalonia was proclaimed an independent sovereign republic.
Madrid, in response to the unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament, abolished the autonomy of the region. The government was dismissed and direct administration was introduced. By activating Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, the Spanish authorities hoped to stabilize the situation in Catalonia, but this method did not work. Both parties did not hear or understand each other.
Strict actions of Spanish security forces during the 2017 referendum, activation of Art. 155 of the Spanish Constitution, and the arrests of separatist leaders provoked protests of a large number of Catalans. They regarded the actions of the Spanish authorities as a violation of civil rights and human dignity.
Both the government of Artur Mas and the government of Carles Puigdemont agreed that Catalonia needed a full-fledged referendum on sovereignty in the conditions of the absence of a meaningful dialogue with Madrid. EU mediation to facilitate dialogue between the two governments would be the most effective way to de-escalate tensions, but it is also the least likely scenario.
Both parties declare their openness to negotiations on the painful problem, but at the same time accuse each other of the impossibility of such a step. Madrid has repeatedly stated that there is a dialogue between the parties and even the achievement of certain results in the negotiations, but this directly contradicts the information provided by the Catalan authorities. In such statements, the Spanish central government refers primarily to the effective interaction between the center and the region, established before the coming to power of Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont. This, in turn, indicates the inability of the central government to maintain an open dialogue with the regional government.
The most favorable option for resolving the Catalan crisis remains a political dialogue between the central Spanish government and the Catalan authorities.
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