9th Dec 2023

Sanchez's 'amnesty' talks with Catalan separatists to stay PM

  • Pedro Sánchez's team have been in talks in Brussels with exiled Catalan separatists (Photo: La Moncloa)
Listen to article

Spain's incumbent caretaker government, led by socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez, is keen to avoid another election and is finalising details to secure a second term, which he hopes could begin as early as next week (7-8 November).

The Popular Party leader, Alberto Feijóo, tried to push through his own investiture after his centre-right party came out on top in the July elections, but failed to attract enough other coalition partners to form the majority needed for government. After that failure, it is now the turn of the incumbent prime minister, Sánchez.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Carles Puigdemont has been on the run from Spanish justice since October 2017, when he self-exiled to Belgium following the illegal referendum in Catalonia (Photo: European Parliament)

Sánchez has until 27 November to gather enough parliamentary support for his investiture to go ahead, although the party's aim is for Sanchez to arrive as president-elect at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Malaga on 10-11 November.

With this deadline in mind, last Tuesday the socialist party (PSOE) concluded its agreement with the leftwing Sumar party led by Yolanda Díaz, but still needs the vote of the Catalan pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya, led by Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont has been on the run from Spanish justice since October 2017, when he self-exiled to Waterloo, outside Brussels, following the illegal referendum in Catalonia.

That's why Brussels — and Waterloo in particular — has been in the national and international spotlight recently, as it's where the victory or failure of the progressive government Sanchez has been negotiating since July hangs in the balance.

And the conditions Puigdemont has put on the table in exchange for his support are not straightfoward.

The first of them is a so-called amnesty law, which would give something like a legal clean slate to those who took part in the 2017 referendum. In other words, to drop the legal proceedings against Catalan independence supporters, including himself.

Puigdemont has also requested exploring the possibility of holding a new referendum in Catalonia and recognition of the 'political conflict' in the region.

If these negotiations fail, Spaniards would have to go to the polls again, most likely in mid-January 2024 — an option Sánchez hopes to avoid.

"The amnesty is a means of moving forward on the path of harmony and reunification between Catalans and the rest of the Spanish people," the PM said on Saturday at the party's headquarters in Madrid.

He added: "It is the only possible way for there to be a government in Spain".

The scope of the amnesty being discussed behind the scenes is currently unknown, but the negotiations with Puigdemont are "moving in the right direction" and will follow in the upcoming days, according to a statement issued on Monday (30 October) by the socialist party.

That statement was motivated by a photo of Sánchez's number three-in-command, Santos Cerdán, at the offices of the pro-independence party in parliament, accompanied by Puigdemont himself, and the leader of the S&D group in the European Parliament, Iratxe García-Pérez.

The most striking thing about the personal meeting, however, was two details. The first was the reference to Puigdemont as "president" in the party's statement.

The second is the photo of the illegal 2017 referendum hanging in the office where the meeting took place.

"The photograph (...) was withdrawn by the European Parliament from an exhibition for reflecting an illegal act. But the PSOE has no qualms about sitting next to it, despite what it symbolises. It is very sad," complained the centre-right European People's Party MEP Juan Ignacio Zoido on social media.

Feijóo's reaction was also not long in coming: "Stop playing behind the backs of the citizens, say what you are negotiating and accept that Spaniards are consulted in elections because they do not deserve a government born of a lie".

On Sunday, thousands of citizens took to the streets of Madrid to demonstrate their rejection of the government's support for such an amnesty. Another demonstration has been called for 18 November, which Feijóo has announced he will attend "against the amnesty and in defence of equality for all".

Exiled Catalan leader sets conditions to make Sanchez PM

Catalan former separatist leader and current MEP Carles Puigdemont has set out preconditions for negotiations to support Pedro Sánchez as next prime minister of Spain — seeking a "historic agreement" for Catalonia.

Spain's Sánchez secures Catalan support to become PM

After noisy protests and prolonged negotiations, Spain's centre-left leader Pedro Sánchez has reached a deal with pro-independence Catalans in exchange for their parliamentary support. A Catalan amnesty bill and an investiture vote are expected next week.


Why Spain's amnesty deal with Catalans is source of resentment

Spain's new amnesty law for Catalan separatists has sparked protests across the country, fueling concerns about the rule of law, judicial independence, and accountability. But why is the bill so problematic? And who opposes it?


Tusk's difficult in-tray on Poland's judicial independence

What is obvious is that PiS put in place a set of interlocking safeguards for itself which, even after their political defeat in Poland, will render it very difficult for the new government to restore the rule of law.


Can Green Deal survive the 2024 European election?

Six months ahead of the EU elections, knocking an 'elitist' climate agenda is looking like a vote-winner to some. Saving the Green Deal and the EU's climate ambitions starts with listening to Europeans who are struggling to make ends meet.

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us