Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has committed to holding a referendum on a new statute for Catalonia to grant the region further autonomy. At the same time, he once again rejected calls for a vote on independence demanded by the separatists.
The Socialist leader, who has held talks with Catalan president Quim Torra since he came to power on 1 June, said in an interview on the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that the dialogue should lead to “a vote (…) for greater autonomy for Catalonia.”
“It’s a referendum for autonomy, not for self-determination,” Pedro Sanchez told Cadena SER radio, without putting forward a date for the vote. The separatists, who are in power in Catalonia, demand a referendum on self-determination; something that Pedro Sanchez categorically rejects.
The previous statute for Catalonia granted the region of 7.5 million inhabitants a significant degree of autonomy as well as the title of “nation”. It was adopted in 2006 by the Catalans with 73 percent of the vote, under the socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
This status was then partially revoked in 2010 by the Constitutional Court, which triggered a surge in support for the independence movement, resulting in last year’s disputed vote.
“Catalonia currently has a status that it has not voted on, so there is a political problem,” said Pedro Sanchez.
The secessionist government is also demanding from Mr Sanchez a gesture in favour of separatist leaders who have been detained since organising an illegal referendum on self-determination in October last year.
While the the Socialist Prime Minister has struck a more compromising tone than that of his predecessor as prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, he has nevertheless refused to intervene in the legal cases brought against the Catalan leaders for organising the referendum.
Since autumn 2017, Catalonia has been at the heart of a serious political crisis between supporters of independence and defenders of the unity of the country.