The music changes, but not the words. With the “dialogue operation” in full flow, the Spanish prime minister has held an end-of-year press conference, after the last cabinet meeting of 2016, in which he showed that the Spanish government’s position on the Catalan independence process hasn’t changed. “I’m still defending the same thing I have been for my whole political career,” said Rajoy, who, despite repeating his offer of dialogue to the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, warned that he won’t allow a self-determination referendum to be held in Catalonia because that would mean “eliminating national sovereignty”. The negotiated route to a referendum will not find an ally in Rajoy: not now, not ever.
Rajoy repeated his invitation to Puigdemont to the Autonomous Communities’ Presidents conference, but insisted that he can’t “discuss breaking the law”. So, the door to dialogue is only open to subjects the Spanish prime minister believes you can talk about. “If someone wants to talk about the unity of Spain, national sovereignty or the equality of all Spaniards” they won’t find Rajoy at the table. For that reason, he’s asked the Catalan government to work on “building” and for them “not to take more steps in the opposite direction”.
“That’s not leading anywhere” he claimed, referring to the independence process, which is enjoying a moment of growing judicialisation with the progress of the legal proceedings against Francesc Homs, for his role in the unofficial 2014 independence referendum, and the measures taken against Joan Coma, a town councillor in Vic, by the Spanish National Court. In this environment, Rajoy’s message signals that there will be little change of direction because “the law has to be followed”.
Not even a constitutional amendment could smooth the path to the 2017 referendum according to Rajoy, who believes a new Magna Carta wouldn’t solve the problem of Catalonia’s place within Spain.