Sánchez approached the breakaway Catalans – primarily out of political self-interest. This is still an opportunity, because without accommodation, reconciliation is hardly possible.
If you seriously want to pacify and reconcile, you have to approach each other. Pedro Sánchez does just that – he shakes hands with Catalan separatists. But he does it primarily out of self-interest.
Sánchez has changed his stance on an amnesty for Catalan independence supporters, largely out of power-political calculations. And Sánchez is by no means the first professional politician to act out of selfish motives. So what?
Why not think differently? Self-interest as an opportunity to possibly heal an injury that has been running through Spain for decades? Sánchez must now be held accountable accordingly.
No reconciliation without accommodation
A look at other regions of the world shows that reconciliation is only possible with accommodation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid is seen worldwide as a successful model for bringing a population back together after civil wars. Without this compromise, the peaceful transition to democracy might have failed.
In the case of Northern Ireland, an amnesty was chosen as a political instrument, provided that the perpetrators cooperated with an independent reconciliation commission – controversial and certainly not perfect, but not per se unconstitutional devil’s work. Spain’s constitution does not provide for an amnesty, but it does not explicitly prohibit it either. It’s good that Sánchez apparently wants to use this leeway.
And it’s about much more than just Catalonia. Other autonomous communities such as Galicia or the Basque Country see themselves as nations within the nation. A construct that has worked quite stably in a certain United Kingdom for many years. And it’s good that Sánchez’s movement signals a similar direction.
A chance for a new Spain
The alternative, however, would look like this: The conservative People’s Party doesn’t seem to have any serious interest in amnesty or diversity – we don’t even need to talk about the right-wing extremist party Vox here. Their point of view is clear: Spanish is everything that is Castilian and everyone else has to keep their mouths shut. All other minorities in the country should take note of this carefully.
Anyone who seriously claims that allowing co-official languages such as Basque, Galician or Catalan in parliamentary debates endangers the cohesion of the nation is not concerned with equality for all, but with egalitarianism and dominance.
With his self-interest, the socialist Sánchez has, at least theoretically, created an opportunity for a different Spain in which all of its components could treat each other on an equal footing. A Spain that sees its linguistic and cultural diversity as an asset and not as an industrial accident. He should be judged by that.
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