Dr Caroline Gray, Lecturer in Spanish Politics at Aston University in Birmingham, said the onus was now on opposition parties in Spain’s national parliament to find a way out of the crisis.
With Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont saying Catalonia could declare unilateral independence within days, Dr Gray said the uncompromising tone from Madrid could lead to further clashes and the suspension of Catalan autonomy.
She said: “The deplorable scenes we saw over the weekend, coupled with the unsympathetic intervention of Spain’s King Felipe VI, make me very concerned that this explosive situation is being exacerbated.
“There is still no dialogue at all between the Spanish and Catalan governments and the EU is unlikely to intervene for fear of being seen as meddling in the internal affairs of a member state, despite pleas from the Catalan authorities.
“The Catalan government is treading carefully because it knows the low turnout on Sunday means a unilateral declaration of independence is unlikely to win support from the international community.
“At the same time, Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party is hamstrung politically. As a minority government, it cannot activate Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution – allowing it to revoke Catalonia’s autonomy – without other parties’ support.
“This leaves the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) as the key agents. Should they join forces with Podemos and other left-wing parties, they could force the government to the negotiating table with the Catalans.
“The big fear is that if all sides abandon a political solution to the crisis, we could see more police on the streets of Barcelona, further inflaming the situation and taking us past a point of no return.”
Dr Gray added that opinion polls showed that a majority of Catalans wanted greater powers over taxation and spending, but stopped short of wanting a full break from Spain. With Catalonia accounting for some 20% of Spain’s GDP, however, the central government in Madrid was fearful this could deprive it of billions of euros to distribute to Spain’s poorer regions.
Dr Gray did her PhD on the nationalist movements in Spain and their relationship with the central government. She spent 2015-16 living and working in Barcelona, during which time she interviewed many of the region's leading politicians. She is the author of Nationalist Politics and Regional Financing Systems in the Basque Country and Catalonia (Bilbao, 2016).
Notes to editors
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