- Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s call for a dialogue with the federal government is the first sign in many months of an attempt to break the stalemate in Spain’s continuing crisis. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has remained steadfast in his defence of Spanish sovereignty and integrity, should seize the opening, slight though it is.
- In his address to the regional parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday, Mr. Puigdemont insisted that he would act on the popular mandate for a declaration of independence in the October 1 referendum. But he also expressed a willingness, not necessarily shared by allies in the ruling coalition, to defer such a proclamation so as to negotiate with the Spanish government and to explore international mediation. There are conflicting interpretations on the essence of that address. But Mr. Rajoy seems to be in no mood whatsoever to relent. He has said that he wants to ascertain whether Mr. Puigdemont’s speech amounts to a declaration of independence before Madrid triggers Article 155 to exercise direct control over Catalonia. While it is an option he has been weighing for some months, this obduracy is hard to understand in today’s altered circumstances. The centre-right government’s refusal to engage the Catalan leadership in any dialogue may have had a context prior to the referendum. There was sound legal basis to its insistence that the question of secession was outside the framework of the Spanish constitution, as vindicated by the country’s highest court. But the fact is that Madrid failed to convince Catalan leaders to abandon the vote; in fact, the vote held on October 1 brought the Spanish government widespread condemnation for the violent incidents of the day.
- This grim backdrop should trigger fresh thinking on Mr. Rajoy’s overall approach. A plain refusal to talk to the separatists is politically untenable when the other side seems inclined to push back on the declaration of independence. The attempt instead should be to impress upon his interlocutors in Catalonia that a sizeable proportion of the population was opposed to secession. In fact, Madrid should weigh the larger ramifications of rolling back Catalonia’s regional autonomy at a time when passions are running high. What is needed most of all currently is calmer rhetoric. Mr. Rajoy needs to steer the public debate more constructively to how regional aspirations could be met without precipitating a bigger crisis. Whether the European Union could influence the course of events is at best a matter for speculation. But a more interventionist posture cannot be ruled out, should there be an unfortunate relapse to the violence of recent days. Mr. Rajoy should draw upon his decades-long political experience, and the backing he enjoys of the opposition socialists, to fashion an appropriate response to Mr. Puigdemont’s overtures.
Stalemate: a situation in which further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible.
Example: The war had again reached stalemate
Synonyms: Deadlock, impasse, standstill
Steadfast: resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
Example: Steadfast loyalty
Synonyms: loyal, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated, dependable
Mandate: an official order or commission to do something.
Example: A mandate to seek the release of political prisoners
Synonyms: instruction, directive, decree, command, order, injunction
Proclamation: a public or official announcement, especially one dealing with a matter of great importance.
Example: Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Alaska to the Union
Synonyms: declaration, announcement, pronouncement, statement
Negotiate: try to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion with others.
Example: His government’s willingness to negotiate
Synonyms: discuss terms, talk, consult, parley, confer, debate
Relent: abandon or mitigate a harsh intention or cruel treatment.
Example: She was going to refuse his request, but relented
Synonyms: change one’s mind, backpedal, do a U-turn, back down, give way/in
Ascertain: find something out for certain.
Example: An attempt to ascertain the cause of the accident
Synonyms: find out, discover, get to know, work out, make out
Secession: the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state.
Example: The republics want secession from the union
Grim: forbidding or uninviting.
Example: His grim expression
Synonyms: stern, forbidding, uninviting, unsmiling, dour, formidable
Untenable: not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.
Example: This argument is clearly untenable
Synonyms: indefensible, insupportable, unsustainable, unjustified, unjustifiable
Ramification: a consequence of an action or event, especially when complex or unwelcome.
Example: Any change is bound to have legal ramifications
Synonyms: consequence, result, aftermath, outcome, effect, upshot
Interventionist: a person who favors government intervention.
Example: The unilateral interventionists still hold the reins of power within the GOP
Overture: an introduction to something more substantial.
Example: The talks were no more than an overture to a long debate
Synonyms: preliminary, prelude, introduction, lead-in, precursor