BARCELONA—Catalans now know what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object: A lot of noise, but little movement. For the past six months, Catalan separatists and the Spanish government have been deadlocked. The separatists insist on the legitimacy of the independence referendum last October and Catalonia’s right to secede from Spain. The Spanish government is adamant that the referendum was illegal and that the region cannot break away. Senior Catalan activists and politicians have been arrested, charged with inciting rebellion and sedition, while Catalan home rule has been suspended by Madrid.
To restore the region’s autonomy, the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament needs to form a new government. The problem is that all their leaders are either in jail or, in the case of Carles Puigdemont, the last regional president, awaiting possible extradition abroad. Puigdemont is currently in legal limbo in Berlin, since going into self-imposed exile after last year’s referendum.
Both sides are waiting for the other to make the first move: Madrid for the Catalans to form a pliable regional government, and the separatists for Madrid to drop charges against the leaders of their independence movement. Neither is likely to happen. And so six months after the referendum, and four months after regional elections in Catalonia, there is still no breakthrough.