Catalan uprising: a matter of inclusion?: An in-depth case study of decentralization and secessionism in Spain and Catalonia

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Catalan uprising: a matter of inclusion?

An in-depth case study of decentralization and secessionism in Spain and Catalonia

Andrés Durante

Bachelor Thesis Uppsala University, Spring 2018 Department of Government Supervisor: Niklas Bremberg Words: 13379 Pages: 39


camps can be distinguished, with opposite conclusions concerning the merits of autonomy concessions. A lack of systematic attention given to the varying capacity of decentralization to produce contrary outcomes has been identified. To address this, an in-depth case analysis on decentralization and secessionism in Spain and Catalonia was conducted. Using a theoretically- guided process tracing approach, this study explores the role of the state on the causal argument.

Main findings suggest an increase in secessionist activity when full inclusion through central power sharing arrangements within the state’s executive organs is absent or limited.

Keywords: decentralization, secessionism, autonomy, power sharing, Spain, Catalonia




2 THEORY ... 2

2.1 Definitions ... 2

2.2 Literature review... 4

2.3 Theoretical framework ... 6

3 METHOD ... 9

3.1 Operationalization of dependent and independent variables ... 9

3.1.1 Dependent variable ... 9

3.1.2 Independent variable ... 9

3.2 Operationalization of causal mechanism ... 10

3.2.1 Causal mechanism hypotheses ... 10

3.3 Validity and reliability ... 10

3.4 Case selection ... 11

3.5 Process tracing ... 13

3.6 Sources of empirical material ... 14


4.1 Spain and Catalonia ... 15

4.1.1 Dependent variable ... 15

4.1.2 Independent variable ... 17

4.2 1978-1983: Autonomy pacts ... 17

4.2.1 H1: “Implement regional autonomy concessions and power sharing arrangements” ... 18

4.2.2 Interpretation ... 19

4.2.3 Alternative explanation(s) ... 20

4.3 1983-2000: Demands for greater autonomy ... 21

4.3.1 H2: “Demand increased self-governance and pressure the state through substantial means obtained from autonomy concessions” ... 21

4.3.2 Interpretation ... 23

4.3.3 Alternative explanation(s) ... 24

4.4 2000-2010: Resistance from the central government... 24

4.4.1 H3: “Deny demands for greater autonomy, produce unfavorable policies and/or attempt recentralization” ... 24

4.4.2 Interpretation ... 27

4.4.3 Alternative explanation(s) ... 27

4.5 2010-present: Catalan uprising... 27

4.5.1 H4: “Mobilize against a perceived unfair treatment of the state” ... 27

4.5.2 Interpretation ... 29

4.5.3 Alternative explanation(s) ... 30

4.6 Consistency with hypotheses ... 31

4.7 Limitations ... 31




FIGURE 1. Hypothesized causal mechanism ... 8

FIGURE 2. Reverse causation ... 21

FIGURE 3. Public opinion in Catalonia 2010-2018 on self-identification ... 29

TABLE 1. Public opinion in Catalonia 2010-2018 on political status... 28


1 Introduction

Does decentralization, a system of government in which there is a vertical division of power, instigate or inhibit secessionism? Despite being subject to extensive study, there is little agreement in the literature. According to some scholars, granting autonomy concessions for ethnic groups promotes new demands for self-governance or even independence while other scholars argue that decentralization arrangements alleviate ethnic tensions and reduces the probability of secessionist conflict. In practice, evidence shows that decentralization has generated mixed results, suggesting an important research gap (see Bakke 2015). As such, to pursue further clarity on this phenomenon, the following research question was developed:

“When does decentralization prevent and/or reduce secessionism?”

This question is significant because autonomous claims by territorially concentrated ethnic minorities are at the center of the political agenda for many states. By analyzing Spain and Catalonia through a theoretical framework based on the role of the state in secessionist activity, the purpose of this study is to broaden our understanding and explore the different potential causal directions associated with decentralization. Previous research has generally studied cases where conflict has been present but ignored cases where autonomy has had a preventive effect.

Also, the interaction between regional autonomy and power sharing at the center has rarely been analyzed and few studies take reverse causation into account (Cederman et al. 2015). In turn, this study aims to make a contribution by addressing these shortcomings. Once regarded as a democratic example of a successfully implemented decentralization model, the Spanish system of government is now under intense scrutiny. Likewise, Catalonia has often been praised for its civic nationalism, yet recent developments suggest a more complex relationship than previously anticipated. A modern Catalan secessionist movement is on the rise, seeking independence from Spain and to establish Catalonia as a sovereign state.

The general structure of this study is as follows: the next section introduces conceptual definitions followed by a literature review. Then, the theoretical framework and hypotheses are presented, followed by a methodological section outlining operationalizations and choice of method. An empirical analysis ensues, where results, interpretation and alternative explanations are presented and discussed. Lastly, a brief summary of the main findings followed by theoretical implications of the results and suggestions for future research conclude the study.


2 Theory

2.1 Definitions

In this study, the term secessionism is defined as the demand for formal withdrawal from a central political authority on the basis of a claim to independent sovereign status. It is the desire of groups for an independent state (Hechter 1992: 267). Given the context, the term state cannot be viewed in isolation, thus making it important to distinguish between established concepts such as ‘state’, ‘nation-state’ and ‘nationalism’. By state, a traditional definition is used where it is referred to as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Weber 1948: 78). Nation-state is defined as a modern political institution characterized by a state formation which seeks to unite a given population subject to its rule by means of cultural homogenization. Consequently, nations without states are defined as nations that share territorial boundaries within one or more states without necessarily identifying with them. Members of a nation lacking a state of their own maintain a separate sense of national identity, regarding the state containing them as alien.

A state, on the other hand, may or may not recognize the status of its national minorities as nations (Guibernau 2013: 368-369). The term nationalism is defined as a political principle of congruence between the unit of governance and the nation (Cederman et al. 2010: 92).

Furthermore, the concept of a compound nationality – or dual identity – concerns members that share institutional loyalties at both levels of political legitimacy without any apparent contradictions between regional and national state identities (Moreno 2006: 2).

Secessionism is commonly, although not always, associated with violence and often accompanied by ethnic conflict. Ethnic conflict is defined as all forms of small- and large-scale violent acts between different ethnic groups. Ethnic groups are broadly defined as groups of people that share and belong to a common category of attribution such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, etc. (Horowitz 1985).

The term decentralization has generated a substantial amount of debate among scholars, most notably on its definition. Due to its ambiguous theoretical quality, a variety of definitions can be found in the literature. Nevertheless, there is a general consensus on the most basic characteristics which constitute the guaranteed division of power between central and regional governments (Lijphart 1999: 186). As such, decentralization can be defined as a system of


government where a vertical division of power is present among multiple levels of government which have independent decision-making power over at least one issue area. Decentralized systems deliberately share power and resources between national, regional and local levels of government. These different levels of government can therefore legislate independently on certain matters. However, state systems where subnational levels of government administer decisions made at a higher level of government are not considered decentralized, regardless if subnational legislatures are elected. Instead, national levels of government legislate on issues that affect the state as a whole or on other issues which cannot be provided individually by subunits of a state. Subnational governments generally control issues that benefit from policies designed to specific needs of different geographic regions (Brancati 2006: 654-655).

Decentralization, as it is defined in this study, is only genuine in democracies. Non-democracies can assign decision-making powers to regional legislatures in principle, but in practice these are infringed upon and disregarded, as pro-government regional politicians that do not challenge national authority are installed (Brancati 2006: 652). This definition is also commonly known by different names. These include political decentralization (see Brancati 2006), policy decentralization (see Rodden 2004), decision-making decentralization (see Treisman 2002) and even federalism. Since decentralization and federalism are often regarded as theoretical counterparts, it is important to highlight their mutual relationship. The terms are closely related to each other, mainly because the purpose of non-centralization of power is decentralization of power, regarded as principal characteristics of federalism (Lijphart 1999:

187). Yet, according to King (1982: 74), federalism should be observed as an ideology – a philosophical principle of shared-rule and autonomy rather than an institutional equivalent.

Therefore, the federalist principle serves as the recommendation, active promotion and support for federation (Burgess 2006: 2). Federation refers to a federal state. These combine a central government with strong constituent units where each delegates power through a constitution, each exercises power and each is directly elected by its citizens (Watts 1996: 8). Increasingly, scholars are replacing the term federalism with the term decentralization due to multiple reasons. Perhaps the most compelling is the desire to consider states that do not classify themselves as federal but share features such as regional governments with independent decision-making powers, as decentralized (Brancati 2006: 654).


2.2 Literature review

Research on decentralization has in general generated two contrasting standpoints, summarized by either a pessimistic or optimistic view. Some scholars regard decentralization as not only being an ineffective method of conflict resolution, but also an impediment to peace (Brubaker 1996; Kymlicka 1998). Most literature that adhere to this stance reference in particular to the violent dissolution of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Thus, autonomy concessions are regarded as having a “terrible track record”, where such empirical observations prompt a bad reputation for decentralized arrangements along ethnic formations (Snyder 2000: 327).

Critics argue that decentralization risk reinforcing divisive ethnic identities by granting certain ethnic groups legitimacy through formal recognition (Kymlicka 1998; Chapman and Roeder 2007). Other scholars sustain that such arrangements provide substantial resources which ethnic groups can subsequently use to pressure the state (Elkins and Sides 2007: 693). Similarly, Cornell (2002: 254-256; 275-276) questions whether decentralization is a valid strategy as he argues that autonomous regions are by their fundamental characteristics conductive to conflict, secessionism and ultimate state dissolution. They establish the capacity for ethnic groups to challenge the authority of central states through subnational political institutions. By providing self-governance, ethnic identities are settled, and ethnic mobilization is promoted within communities to maintain or increase regional levels of autonomy. Therefore, decentralization is seen as inherently problematic as it facilitates the capacity for ethnic groups to revolt, undermining interethnic stability. Similar reasoning is shared by Roeder (2009: 214), who argues that decentralization supports an inherent incompatibility though the maintenance of a sovereign central state interchangeably with autonomous claims of ethnic groups. This creates a vulnerable equilibrium which has dangerous implications for potential disintegration of a nation-state. Decentralization keeps ethnic conflict alive by not addressing the issue of whether ethnic communities belong in a common state or not. Commonly, partition is advocated as an alternative strategy, suggesting ethnic communities should be divided into separate sovereignties for a more favorable solution to conflict (Cederman et al. 2015: 355).

Other scholars claim that decentralization reduces the likelihood of ethnic conflict and secessionism by successfully answering to demands for autonomy through an increase of self- governance. By offering a devolution of authority and power to regional and local level governments, decentralization promotes an accommodation of ethnic diversity while also maintaining the territorial integrity of the state. The assertion is made that decentralization is the most appropriate form of governance for ethnically divided states, as it not only provides


autonomy concessions for ethnic groups in regions predominantly established by themselves, but also cost-effective measures for central governments to maintain state sovereignty (Hechter 2000: 8-9; Erk and Andersson 2009: 193-194). Beyond division of power, decentralization reinforces democracy “by bringing the government closer to the people, increasing opportunities to participate in government, and ultimately giving groups control over their political, social, and economic affairs” (Brancati 2006: 655). Furthermore, regional autonomy contributes directly to conflict reduction “by making government more responsive to the concerns of disgruntled minorities, potential secessionist groups will be encouraged to feel confident of representation and protection for their most vital concerns” (Lustick, Miodownik and Eidelson 2004: 210). Here, representation implies formal recognition through integration within a legal framework of peaceful political coexistence (Bakke 2015). By granting communities a stronger influence on policy formulation and implementation, decentralization promotes communal political ownership. Through greater political autonomy, incentives to seek an independent state diminish for ethnic groups, resulting in a reduction of secessionist tendencies within a state (Hechter 2000; Miodownik and Cartrite 2010: 733-734).

As evident by the literature presented, the relationship between decentralization and secessionism is contentious. Attempts of theoretical reconciliation between the contested viewpoints have been made by several scholars. Among them is Roeder (2009: 203, 208) who argues that decentralization might have short-term merits, but also gives rise to political instability as actors become embedded between the perils of centralization and dissolution long- term. Different institutional power sharing arrangements are seen as unlikely to solve this fundamental issue. Lake and Rothchild (2005) agree that while decentralization can serve as an effective strategy for ethnically divided societies, restrictive and unlikely conditions such as an absence of ethnic dominance and robust democracies are required. Similarly, Kymlicka (1995:

185) mentions that decentralization arrangements in fragmented societies, where a significant part of the population express a certain level of identification with both the state and the regional community, could reinforce this double allegiance. Erk and Anderson (2009: 196-198) argue that demands of autonomy and secession should be met by extensive decentralization arrangements, as limited reforms will only intensify initial demands. Following a similar reasoning, Miodownik and Cartrite (2010: 743) conclude that low levels of decentralization increase, and high levels decrease the risk of ethnic conflict and secessionism.


2.3 Theoretical framework

In line with the reconciliation attempts of previous research, the theoretical reasoning adopted in this study follows a similarly structured debate. Rather than asking whether decentralization instigates or inhibits secessionism, the aim is to explore what conditions lead to an outcome of one or the other. The reason for this shift in focus is twofold. First, the initial debate is ultimately indeterminate as both camps make theoretically valid arguments and present empirical evidence to back their claims. Second, less systematic attention has been given to decentralization’s varying capacity to produce opposite outcomes (Bakke 2015: 9-10). Previous research also suffers from several shortcomings, directly affecting the assessment of the contribution of decentralization on conflict resolution. Relevant literature has generally studied cases where conflict has been present while disregarding cases where autonomy has had a preventive effect.

Researchers also rarely analyze the interaction between regional autonomy and power sharing at the center. In addition, few studies take reverse causation into account in their research designs (Cederman et al. 2015: 356). Conventional theories on secessionism focus primarily on grievance-based arguments, whereas the role of the state has largely been absent from the causal argument. As a result, nationalism has rarely been linked to the outbreak of ethnic conflict and secessionism (Cederman et al. 2010: 87, 114).

In contrast, this study’s theoretical framework is based on the central assumption that governmental maltreatment of minorities instigates ethnic mobilization and insurgencies. As such, the state plays a fundamental role in secessionist conflict, as it is often caused by competing claims of ethnic groups to state power. Ethnic minorities devoid of access to state power tend to demand increased independence from the central state (Gurr 2000: 195; Erk and Anderson 2009: 192). Girardin et al. (2015) argue that “[group] exclusion from government is associated with a higher risk of civil war”. The argument can be directly derived from basic principles of political legitimacy following the emergence of nationalism. Cederman (2013) states that “nationalism prescribes that alien rule cannot be tolerated, which occurs wherever ethnic groups are blocked from political influence”. Along this argumentation, recent literature adopting this theoretical framework contend that the less self-governance ethnic minorities have in a multiethnic state, the greater the possibility of ethnonationalist conflict (Hechter 2004;

Cederman et al. 2015). Self-determination conflicts involve central governments (central elites), regional minority groups (regional elites) and the population they represent. They also associate around aspirations and demands that either challenge the integrity of the state – such as independence – or are less challenging but equally important to the group – such as greater


cultural autonomy for ethnic minorities. What influences these aspirations and demands are political institutions as these can determine regional minorities’ welfare as well as their possibility to express their identity. In particular, institutions governing relations between the central and regional governments can shape the perceived legitimacy of the state and thus promote anti-state collective action if the state is seen as responsible for ongoing conflicts. As such, institutional arrangements shape subnational populations’ relationship to the central government (Bakke 2015: 13-17). Institutional framework of decentralized powers may not prevent further claims for self-governance – in particular if regional identity outweighs state identity. Yet, positive perceptions by citizens of the actions of state actors may result in a

‘loosening’ of their regional identity and reinforce their sense of membership within the national state, and vice versa. Consequently, an absence of dual identity would result in secessionist demands, as citizens identifying in an exclusive manner tend to lead to exclusive institutional outcomes due to such antagonism (Moreno et al. 1998: 70-71).

Paradoxically, institutional arrangements involving autonomy can also strengthen regional and ethnic identities, institutionalize them and provide resources for mobilization – including encouraging the formation of regional or ethnic-based parties, both of which are considered destabilizing for a state (Horowitz 1985; Brancati 2006). Autonomous institutions which are detached from states’ central decision-making mechanisms are more prone to be used for mobilization purposes by regional elites. Whether state opposition challenge the integrity of the central state or not hinges then on political ties between central and regional governments. The absence of political ties between leaders at the center and minorities in regions increase the risk of secessionist conflict. Thus, ethnic group exclusion from national executive influence is associated with secessionism, particularly if the central government subject ethnic minorities to unfavorable policies or recentralization attempts. In turn, central power sharing arrangements are expected to have a more pervasive pacifying effect. This is because it increases the need to bargain and coordinate policies on a daily basis rather than creating separate compartment of governance. By sharing influence within the state’s central executive, separatist activity is contained (Bakke 2015: 16-17; Cederman et al. 2015: 358-359, 364). By involving regional elites in central decision-making processes, the more integrated in the political system they become, and the less incentives they will have to disrupt it (Mattes and Savun 2009: 742).


The mechanisms behind this theoretical framework are based on the different causal directions associated with decentralization. This can be summarized by the main hypothesis of this study:

“Decentralization prevents and/or reduces secessionism when full inclusion through central power sharing within the state’s executive organs is granted for regional elites.”

In order to test the implications of this theoretical framework in an empirical analysis, a hypothesized causal mechanism was developed – as illustrated in Figure 1:

Figure 1

Macro mechanism

Micro mechanism

Each part of the mechanism is framed as a hypothesis so as to be empirically measured.


Government actors


Regional elites Central elites Regional

civil society

H1: Implement regional autonomy

concessions and power sharing arrangements

H2: Demand increased self- governance and pressure the state through substantial means obtained from

autonomy concessions

H3: Deny demands for greater autonomy, produce unfavorable

policies and/or attempt recentralization

H4: Mobilize against a perceived unfair treatment of the state


3 Method

The purpose of this study is to conduct a theory-driven qualitative empirical single-case study in order to explore the circumstances under which decentralization instigates or inhibits secessionism. Since decentralization and the aforementioned research theorize primarily about the distribution of power between central and regional governments, the unit of analysis is states. Applying the theoretical framework previously defined, the aim is to examine the interaction of the phenomena in question by building on existing decentralization literature. To test and evaluate the preconcerted hypothesized causal mechanism, specific dependent and independent variables as well as theory-derived hypotheses are defined and used in the analysis.

3.1 Operationalization of dependent and independent variables

3.1.1 Dependent variable

The dependent variable is secessionism. To operationalize the incidence of secessionism within a state, identifying indicators that measure collective action and oppositional movements that aim for independence is the main focus. The Minority at Risk (MAR) dataset offers information on organizational behavior of ethno-political groups and separatist movements relevant in the unit of analysis. These include organizations such as political parties which actively advocate and support independence. Indicators that measure the occurrence of this particular type of activity are gathered using the information available in said database. The latest MAR release contains only data for 2004-2006 (Minorities at Risk Project 2009). Because of this, additional up to date data will be gathered independently from alternative sources based primarily on official electoral results, current political representation and formal declarations of sovereignty and independence referenda from relevant actors engaged in secessionist activity.

3.1.2 Independent variable

The independent variable is decentralization. In order to effectively analyze the interaction between regional autonomy and power sharing at the center, decentralization is measured in two distinct ways in this study. First, the form of government in the unit of analysis is operationalized. More specifically, the division of power between central and regional governments within the state’s structure will be examined. Indicators of independent decision- making powers, legislation, issue areas, and shared resources between national, regional and local levels of government will be identified. Second, the power sharing arrangements in the


unit of analysis will be operationalized by identifying and analyzing indicators that measure ethnic groups’ access to executive government power. This information is provided by the most recent version of the Ethnic Power Relations dataset (EPR-ETH) which identifies all politically relevant ethnic groups and their access to state power worldwide between 1946 to 2013 (Girardin et al. 2015). It includes annual data and uses specific categories indicating valid and theoretically relevant types of power sharing configurations.

3.2 Operationalization of causal mechanism

3.2.1 Causal mechanism hypotheses

H1: Empirically measured by identifying and specifying observable manifestations in the form of account and trace evidence. These include official reports, meetings, negotiations and activities involving government actors on the implementation of autonomy concessions.

H2 & H3: Empirically measured by identifying and specifying observable manifestations in the form of account, trace and sequence evidence. These include chronological activities and events of political cooperation, competition, negotiations and bargaining, political bills and strategies, policy as well as political discourse and public statements involving regional and central elites.

H4: Empirically measured by identifying and specifying observable manifestations in the form of account, trace, pattern and sequence evidence. These include chronological activities such as protests and demonstrations, publications and interviews, public opinion and election statistics as well as public statements involving regional civil society.

3.3 Validity and reliability

In order to adequately pursue the aim of this study, it is important to utilize indicators that reflect and capture the concepts of interest and also measure these reliably. This is primarily facilitated by having well established theoretical definitions of said concepts so as to match chosen indicators appropriately. Therefore, operationalizing variables and causal mechanism with indicators that measure what they are meant to measure is crucial. In this sense, case studies offer a high level of validity by allowing conceptual refinements. Whereas statistical studies are exposed to the possibility of “conceptual stretching” through the compilation of divergent cases on large samples, qualitative studies intend to seek conceptual development


(George and Bennett 2005: 83-85). In contrast, quantitative research has the advantage of using reliable data which is often well documented – offering measurements that return the same value for a given case regardless of the individual doing the evaluation. Because of this, the decision was made to partially use this type of data in this study. While most of the empirical data is collected independently, complimentary data is collected from major data collection projects such as MAR and EPR-ETH with the intent to contribute to a higher level of reliability.

3.4 Case selection

The primary objective for a successful case selection strategy is relevance to the research purpose of the case study in question (George and Bennett 2005: 240-241). In order to be able to explore the phenomena of interest, the case should be selected according to the control required by the actual research question. Therefore, having the distribution of population and scope conditions well-defined is necessary for an appropriate selection. The case should be representative of the research population and match the unit of analysis in the theory-driven study. Because case selection in qualitative single-case studies is strategical rather than random, methodologists argue that this approach leave scholars vulnerable to systematic error. As such, selection bias is an important risk to take into consideration. Selecting cases where the dependent and independent variables vary according to the researchers’ hypotheses while ignoring cases that contradict the study’s theoretical framework is inherently problematic (Levy 2008: 8). The danger of confirmation bias is particularly present when the values of the studied variables are known beforehand. However, avoiding knowledge prior to the research task is very difficult in practice. Still, George and Bennett (2005: 103-104) argue that preliminary case knowledge allows for much stronger research designs, as researchers can choose based on theoretical implications, making the testing more intense.

Another consideration that applies to single-case studies is generalizability. According to Lijphart (1971: 691), a single case cannot constitute the basis for valid generalizations nor the ground for disproving established generalizations. Even so, case studies indirectly contribute to the establishment of general propositions and is therefore a valid method for theory-testing and theory-building in political science. Yet, some methodologists question this (see King, Keohane and Verba 1994). Most case study researchers agree however that single-case studies can provide tests that might strongly support or challenge theories. Bennett (2004: 29) references


many influential research findings as evidence for this. It is nevertheless important to be aware of potential limitations present in the selected research design.

Case studies are particularly useful in explaining cases that do not fit existing theories. A single- case research design consisting of a so-called deviant case can inductively help identify why the case is deviant – that is, to uncover additional variables that have not been considered previously, or to refine the operational definitions of relevant variables (Lijphart 1971: 692- 693). It is also a possibility that upon closer inspection, the researcher concludes that the case does not violate theoretical core predictions, rather, measurement errors, inappropriate operationalization of key concepts, or other reasons are to blame. Such inquiry can, without the initial intention, rescue a theory from potentially damaging evidence. Thus, such research design can have important theoretical value by contribution to hypothesis testing, as well as hypothesis refinement and generation (Levy 2008: 5, 13).

With these criteria in mind, the selected case for this study is Spain. More specifically, the state’s autonomous community Catalonia and the Catalan independence movement will be examined. Spain was selected because it is formally a unitary state consisting of territorially- concentrated ethnic minorities organized as autonomous communities. Spain adopted a highly decentralized political system following the transition to democracy and subsequent Spanish Constitution of 1978 and is frequently referred to as “a nation of nations” (Colomer 1998: 40- 41). Catalonia, in particular, was chosen because it has often been characterized as a “a paradigmatic example of a ‘nation without state’ characterized by the importance of ‘dual identities’, with a predominant ‘civic nationalism’ and claims for self-government of non- secessionist character” (Serrano 2013: 523). Yet, there has been a substantial rise of secessionist activity in Catalan society in recent years (Guibernau 2014a: 15; Colomer 2017).

Spain is anomalous with respect to theoretical predictions because despite implementing extensive decentralization, secessionism has been experienced (e.g. Erk and Anderson 2009;

Miodownik and Cartrite 2007). Furthermore, regional autonomy concessions with power sharing arrangements – including central executive state inclusion for regional minorities, did not prevent or reduce secessionist conflict (e.g. Cederman et al. 2015), nor did the absence of ethnic dominance and the presence of a robust democratic system (e.g. Lake and Rothchild 2005). Additionally, Catalonia can be said to deviate as well. Decentralization reinforced the population’s level of identification with both the state and the regional community, but a


significant part of those who express a balanced dual identity also support independence (e.g.

Moreno et al. 1998; Serrano 2013: 541). By applying this study’s theoretical framework, Spain and Catalonia will be analyzed with the ambition to potentially explain why they deviate from existing theories, why they violate theoretical predictions and to possibly refine, replace or uncover relevant variables previously not considered. The time period examined is between 1978-present day, marking the phenomena of interest.

3.5 Process tracing

The primary within-case method used in political science is process tracing. The method is employed to study series of links within an event. Particularly, the processes that lead to an outcome of interest are examined to determine whether theoretical support is present. Using the

‘black box’ analogy from international development, the purpose of this method is to understand how and why a specific intervention led to a specific outcome. In other research methods typically utilized, the ‘black box’ between the intervention and the outcome remains closed. Process tracing attempts to open it and uncover the causal mechanism inside. In Beach and Pedersen’s (2013) description of process tracing, mechanisms are conceptualized to be made up of a number of parts, which are composed of entities (i.e. people, organizations, systems, etc.) that engage in activities (i.e. protesting, researching, campaigning, etc.).

Therefore, process tracing is a methodology well suited for theory-testing and theory-building in social science inquiry where it is difficult to explain outcomes with few variables due to complex and multiple determinants. Single or different paths to an outcome can be identified.

When investigating social phenomena, tracing the process that might have led to the outcome of interest helps narrow the list of potential causes (George and Bennett 2005: 554-556, 559).

A variety of process tracing methods are available. This study will use a more analytical form of process tracing that uses hypotheses and generalizations (Ibid: 570, 576, 586-588). Rather than an extensive, minute detailed tracing of a causal sequence, a more general explanation is constructed. The decision to do so is because an explanation on a higher level of generality is preferred for the research objective – a well-known practice in political science research of moving up the ladder of abstraction to increase generalizability. This allows for the theoretical framework to be applied on other situations and contexts (Beach and Pedersen 2013). As such, process tracing can be conducted to explain both macro and micro phenomena, where the focus is not necessarily on the individual decision-making level of analysis. Moreover, process


tracing is particularly useful for obtaining an explanation for deviant cases. The method offers an opportunity to differentiate and enrich theoretical explanations.

3.6 Sources of empirical material

Material is mainly gathered from systematic and critically reviewed secondary sources in the form of relevant books and peer-reviewed scholarly articles. Relevant refers to intentional decisions made to include research primarily done in fields concerning the study in question.

This includes a body of academic literature done on political science, decentralization, secessionism, autonomy, nationalism, federalism, Spain and Catalonia as well as territorial and governmental power-sharing and conflict resolution.

Author bias is a noteworthy issue with secondary sources, as an analysis between the original data and reader has been made (George and Bennett 2005: 261). Unfortunately, due to the limits of this study, primary sources are difficult to obtain. This is because secessionist activity is intractable at its time of occurrence, but also because the timeframe available is restricted.

Because of this, authors were chosen through a strategically conducted selection process with careful considerations in mind. The result is a usage of work done by scholars well-renowned within their respective academic disciplines. Authors originating from different parts of Spain have been taken into account, for a deeper contextual understanding and a more balanced viewpoint. Foreign scholars are included as well. Additionally, information and data are used from non-academic sources such as reports, dataset and statistics by organizations and institutions – as well as public data and official documents by governmental agencies. Lastly, news media articles are also used as complimentary material. An effort has been made to include as much data possible on the native languages spoken in Spain and Catalonia. This is to increase information proximity and avoid misinterpretations and translation issues.


4 Empirical analysis

4.1 Spain and Catalonia

4.1.1 Dependent variable

Spain has experienced increased secessionism in the last decade. Particularly through political parties engaging in secessionist activity by explicitly campaigning for independence. The MAR dataset indicates that Catalan advocacy for full independence receives a score of 3 on its

‘separatism index’, representing “active separatist or autonomy movements in the past 25 years”. As for ‘group organization and representation’, organizational behavior receives a score of 2, representing “group interests promoted by one or more conventional political parties or movements” indicating an absence of militant organizations (Minorities at Risk Project 2009).

In January 2013, a Catalan declaration of sovereignty was issued and adopted by the Catalan Parliament. It stated that "the Catalan people have, for reasons of democratic legitimacy, the nature of a sovereign political and legal subject", referencing to the right of the people to decide on their own political future (Crameri 2014: 50). The Spanish government appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court – eventually leading to the ruling of the declaration as unconstitutional in March 2014. However, it accepted the Catalan people’s right to decide, as it would not imply self-determination, referencing instead to the principles of democratic legitimacy and pluralism (Moodrick Even-Khen 2016: 49). In November 2014, former Catalan political party Convergència i Unió (CiU), together with Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP) agreed to hold an independence referendum which asked two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" and (if yes) "Do you want this state to be independent?". Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Catalan government changed the vote to a "process of citizen participation", which would be supervised by volunteers (Guinjoan and Rodon 2016: 36). Another appeal from the Spanish government followed and the Constitutional Court suspended the process pending consideration of the appeal. Nevertheless, the voting went ahead resulting in an 81% vote for yes-yes, albeit with a turnout of only 37%. The Spanish government responded by filing criminal charges against several Catalan leaders for violating a court order (Field 2015: 117).

On November 2015, the Catalan parliament passed a resolution declaring the beginning of the independence process – as proposed by Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC)


together with ERC and CUP. In response, Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy immediately announced that the state was entitled “to use any available judicial and political mechanism contained in the constitution and in the laws to defend the sovereignty of the Spanish people and of the general interest of Spain”, indicating the use of military intervention if necessary (Simms and Guibernau 2016).

In September 2017, a law on the referendum on self-determination of Catalonia and a law of juridical transition and foundation of the Republic were approved by the Catalan parliament.

The Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the laws pending an appeal from Rajoy, which declared them, and the referendum scheduled to be held on 1 October unconstitutional. The laws were subsequently declared void and illegal according to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which requires a two third majority in the Catalan parliament for any change to Catalonia's autonomous status (Ríos 2017). Nonetheless, the referendum took place with the question: "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?" (The Telegraph 2017). Prior to the voting, the Spanish government endorsed police actions ordered by the regional high court to stop the polling. Reports of violence soon followed, with hundreds of civilians being injured by the security forces (BBC News 2017a). Amnesty International criticized the actions taken by the National Police and the Civil Guard by calling it "[an]

excessive and unnecessary use of force" (Amnesty International 2017). Despite the actions of Spanish police to prevent voting, the results were a 90% of voters supporting independence, yet turnout was only 43% and reports of irregularities emerged. Following the aftermath of the referendum, Carles Puigdemont, the President of the Generalitat of Catalunya, declared independence but left it suspended to engage in a dialogue to reach an agreement with the Spanish government (BBC News 2017b). During the suspension, the Catalan parliament secretly voted in a ballot to approve a resolution declaring independence from Spain by a vote of 70–10. This was done in the absence of the constitutionalist deputies, who refused to participate in a vote considered illegal for violating the decisions taken by the Constitutional Court. Correspondingly, article 155 of the Spanish constitution was activated – dismissing the Catalan parliament and imposing direct rule from the central government in Madrid (Sastre, Rubio and Sanchez 2017). Elections were subsequently held under this rule, resulting in the current political party representation in the Catalan Parliament which includes the Junts per Catalunya coalition (majority PDeCAT, formerly called CDC), ERC and CUP. Together, they obtained a total of 70 out of 135 seats in the Catalan 2017 election, with an overall share of 47.5% of the popular vote (Medina Ortega 2017: 142).


4.1.2 Independent variable

Spain can be classified as a heavily decentralized unitary state with an ethnically diverse population represented by territorially-concentrated national minorities. Often referred to as a

“State of Autonomies”, the Spanish contemporary state is considered one of the most decentralized in Europe (Colomer 1998: 40-41). However, Spain is not officially considered a federal state despite its extensive division of power. There is no general consensus on whether the Spanish form of government should be considered properly as a federal system or a federation (Moreno 2007: 95). Thus, scholars address its ambiguous characteristics in various ways. Elazar (1991: 228) refers to it as a “federation in all but its name”, while Lijphart (1999:191) categorizes it as “semi-federal”. Colomer (1998: 40) regards Spain’s form of government as non-institutional federalism since “[it is] not derived from an explicit constitutional mandate”. Its de facto institutional arrangement has a unique structure, being similar to a federation but not equal (Hernández Lafuente 1999: 50-67). Yet, its fundamental attributes can be compared to states which are undeniably federal (Marín 2013: 381).

Spain is a democracy with two tiers of government – central and regional – sharing constitutional separate powers and representative parliamentary institutions. Composed of 17 autonomous communities (AACC), each features a regional organization with democratic constitutional statutes of autonomy. The Spanish autonomous system combines then both ‘self- rule’ and ‘shared-rule’. Furthermore, the Spanish Constitution is the source of legitimacy concerning the right for autonomies to self-government, where the regional authority is not merely an agent of the central government. The Spanish Constitutional Court is the supreme arbitrator for concurrent powers and governmental competencies and the Spanish parliament is bicameral with a Senate understood as a ‘territorial upper chamber’ (Moreno 2007: 95-96).

Catalonia’s statute of autonomy was first obtained in 1979 – superseded in 2006 – and serves as the framework for the Generalitat of Catalunya, which is the institution where the region’s self-government is politically organized. Since it was adopted, the region has gradually achieved a greater degree of autonomy. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in matters such as culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local government, but shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice (Generalitat de Catalunya 2014). Because of this, analysts argue that Catalonia is formally granted "more self-government than almost any other corner in Europe" (The


Economist 2012). It is important to denote that as an autonomous community of Spain, Catalonia has no official status or recognition at an international level.

In terms of power sharing arrangements, Catalans have as a politically relevant ethnic group been represented in the national government according to statistics by Linz et al. (2003), which summarize regional representation of the Spanish autonomies. Despite ethno-nationalist claims characterizing power relations in Spain, national political parties cut across regional differences, being multi-ethnic through the inclusion of members of all groups into power.

Catalans are therefore categorized as being included into the executive as junior partners by the EPR-ETH, where representatives participate as junior partners in government between the time period of 1978-2013 (Girardin et al. 2015).

4.2 1978-1983: Autonomy pacts

4.2.1 H1: “Implement regional autonomy concessions and power sharing arrangements”

Prior to the constitutional reform and democratization process in 1978, Spain functioned as a highly centralized unitary state where a “sacred unity of the homeland” was enforced by the authoritarian regime led by general Francisco Franco for nearly 40 years. During this period, any form of separatism, federalism or ethnic identity characterized by linguistic and cultural differences were suppressed. Following the death of Franco, government actors led by Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez began the developments of what would later culminate as the promulgation of the Spanish Constitution. Drafted in conjunction with negotiations between regional political elites and central elites, it laid the foundations to the framework known as the

“State of Autonomies” – a compromise of "(1) the idea of an indivisible and solely Spanish nation-state and (2) a concept of Spain as an ensemble of diverse peoples, historic nations, and regions" (Moreno 1997). The starting point of regional autonomy in Spain is illustrated in the Art. 2 of the constitution (Hernández Lafuente 1999: 50-67):

“The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”

As such, regionalization and decentralization agreements were reached by the desire of citizens and politicians alike to attain governmental stability, avoid confrontational clashes, and protect minorities (Colomer 1998: 44). However, the framework of the territorial organization of Spain


is neither constitutionally defined, detailed nor imposed. Instead, it enables a voluntary process of autonomy by granting the right to self-government. A process of symmetrical devolution referred to as “Café para todos” (Coffee for everyone) was introduced with two routes initiated for autonomous accession. Catalonia, The Basque Country and Galicia – being the three historical nationalities – were implicitly reserved for the “fast” route, as stipulated in article 151. The “slow” route involved the rest of the AACC, as established in article 143. Eventually, a total of 17 AACC were formed. Institutional arrangements were to be explicitly parliamentary, where each community would establish its own executive branch of government and receive a maximum level of devolved competencies from the central government. Once regional autonomy was in place, article 145 would prohibit the “federation of autonomous communities”. Alterations to this political and territorial equilibrium are to be regarded as not compatible with the unity of the nation. Article 155 affirms the obligations of the autonomous communities towards the Spanish state and its interests. If not met, autonomy concessions could be withdrawn. Once autonomy is in place, the constitution makes no differentiation between communities (Congreso de los Diputados 2003).

4.2.2 Interpretation

The “State of Autonomies” has been an approach that seeks to combine both unity and diversity, with the purpose of accommodating domestic plurality. Decentralization has demonstrated to be the most innovative institutional feature in democratic Spain. Generally, the process of decentralization has been accepted by most Spaniards. Yet, visible cleavages on territorial issues are still present. The implementation of decentralization – which can be regarded as the only issue on which the constitutional agreement promotes political pluralism – was developed at a rather fast pace, where negotiations relied on compromise and bargaining (Colomer 1998:

40-41, 44). As such, its institutional framework remained largely unconsolidated. Examples of this ambiguity can be observed in the constitution. Despite being a popular expression within Spain, “State of Autonomies” does not appear in the constitutional text. Neither does it specify the difference between “nation” and “nationalities”, nor which “nationalities” or “regions” are referred to. Instead, Art. 2 suggests a dilemma of identity, where recognition of nationalities and regions is preceded by what can be regarded as Spanish nationalism. Indeed, the very term

“state” is loosely utilized in the text of the constitution. Some articles (e.g. 1, 56, 137) refer the term to the entire Spanish legal-political system, where regional administrations and autonomous bodies are included. Other articles (e.g. 3.1, 149, 150) refer the state as synonymous with the institutions of the central administration (Congreso de los Diputados


2003; Moreno 1997: 72, 76). The limitations of the autonomous model are reflected on subsequent developments following its implementation. For instance, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia were granted a substantially lower level of autonomy than what could have been obtained had a more generous reading of the constitution been applied. There is also a clear lack of facilitating instruments for the integration and participation of the historical nationalities in central state institutions (Guibernau 2013: 377-378).

Regional autonomy concessions have meant that AACC can develop self-rule in certain domains. In other, they share rule with the central government, which can exercise constraints on autonomous legislative and executive decisions. Perhaps the most important inadequacy of this division of power is shared-rule at the national level. This is because the AACC lack appropriate institutions to contribute to national public policy (Colomer 1998: 50). The absence of an institutionalization of the shared-rule function is imminent – which is why Spain would not fully qualify as a federation. Despite being described as a territorial chamber, the Spanish Senate merely performs duplicating functions in relation with the Congress of Deputies, which functions as the lower chamber (Moreno 2007: 95-96). Its value has thus been instrumental, as the decision of the Congress always prevails in a case of disagreement between chambers.

Colomer (1998: 50) argues that the Senate is not a decisive actor in the decision-making process and can therefore not adequately represent the AACC in the national arena. Intergovernmental relations are dependent on political party affiliations at the different levels of governments.

Incompatibilities between actors are therefore politically-contingent rather than policy- oriented. Political agreements are reached through bilateralism rather than a multilateral institutionalization of shared-rule in a genuine federal Senate. Power-sharing arrangements are consequently not institutionalized at a federal level in Spain, which is considered a fundamental feature of federations (Moreno 2007: 96).

4.2.3 Alternative explanation(s)

An alternative explanation for H1 is reverse causation. That is, the presence of secessionism led to the adoption of decentralization, not vice versa. This is illustrated in Figure 2:


Figure 2

This notion suggests that decentralization is primarily implemented because of secessionism, as states with deeper regional cleavages are more prone to experience secessionism, hence also more likely to adopt decentralization. However, while the risk for secessionism and the presence of regional parties might contribute to the adoption of decentralization, it cannot account for why states acquire decentralized systems of government in the first place. This is because decentralized systems do not necessarily experience secessionism more than centralized systems, nor possess stronger regional cleavages (Brancati 2006: 660-661).

In the case of Spain and Catalonia, endogeneity is taken into account by analyzing sequences of claims and concessions with consideration of the strategic interaction between group actors explicitly. During the negotiations of the “State of Autonomies”, Catalan nationalists did not express secessionist demands. Instead, the objective of regional political elites was autonomy (Guibernau 2013: 380). Significant strategic concessions were made by Catalan nationalists in order to reach an agreement. Further demands for greater autonomy were not abandoned, but the primary objective was obtained, namely political autonomy for the Generalitat – their most important constitutional issue (Colomer 1998: 43). Furthermore, decentralization was promoted as an integral part of the nation’s transition to democracy. It was viewed as the reinstatement of self-government and Catalan institutions which were present prior to Franco’s regime.

Manifestations made in Catalonia in 1976 serve as evidence for this, as they explicitly involved demands of “liberty, amnesty and statute of autonomy”, which were seen as enough (Gil 2017).

4.3 1983-2000: Demands for greater autonomy

4.3.1 H2: “Demand increased self-governance and pressure the state through substantial means obtained from autonomy concessions”

With decentralization consolidated, regional parties gained a substantial increase in political influence. The creation of a regional tier of government allowed regional parties to establish themselves and obtain governance. The ambiguous territorial model meant that the distribution of competencies across state levels could evolve through political negotiation in the national




parliament. As a result, incentives were generated for regional parties to negotiate for political concessions. Regional parties presented candidates at all levels of government, attaining representation in both the national and regional parliaments (Field 2016: 43). Regional parties managed to obtain substantial bargaining power by adapting their position in regard to traditional parties in the political spectrum. With important separate powers obtained through autonomy concessions, regional parties as well as regional leaders of the central government party found incentives to promote further decentralization in favor of the AACC (Colomer 1998: 46). The growing influence of regional elites and their capacity to cooperate and negotiate was made possible by the budgetary and financial capacities of the regional governments. This is explicitly illustrated by percentage changes in public expenditure in Spain between 1978- 1992. Central government expenditure fell from 90 percent to 60 percent, while regional spending rose from zero to 27 percent (Moreno 1997: 74-75). The main Catalan parties were effective in obtaining increased devolution through the transfers of powers for parliamentary support to Spanish governments (Colomer 2017: 953). The resulting competition among parties and AACC advanced pressure on the central government.

The CiU in particular – under the leadership of Jordi Pujol, positioned itself exclusively on a moderate territorial strategy, with the aim to increase Catalan autonomy within the boundaries of the constitutional framework. This contradicted his self-proclaimed federalist stance:

“In the specific case of Spain I could conceivably be a federalist, if the federation was based on genuine and authentic nationalities of the state” (Pujol 1980: 26)

The gradualist approach meant that CiU could nonetheless extract further powers for the Catalan regional institutes. Successfully appealing to Catalan voters across the traditional left- right ideological dichotomy, the regional party managed to win successive regional elections by absolute majority for 19 years, ruling the autonomous government of Catalonia for 23 consecutive years between 1980-2003. By providing legislative support for minority Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) and Partido Popular (PP) governments in Madrid between 1993-1996 and 1996-2000 respectively, enhanced decision-making autonomy was obtained in exchange (Elias 2015: 85, 92-93). The moderate strategy employed by CiU under negotiations with PSOE was expressed by Pujol in 1993 when referencing the party’s demands:


“I do not deny that we have problems with the central government, but Catalonia is for autonomy and not for independence" (El País 1993)

The cooperation with PP leader José María Aznar was particularly controversial, given the historical hostilities between the parties. However, both needed support as neither managed a majority of seats in their respective parliaments. The coalition formation was crucial, as the political landscape provided no other large coalition partner. As a result, representatives of the PP changed their critical discourse and began praising the Catalan region and their respective leaders. Eventually, PP succumbed to the pressure from the CiU and agreed on their demands for further autonomy (Birnir 2007: 143). A significant decentralizing activity began, where numerous areas of competence were accelerated. Art 150.2 of the Constitution was invoked to provide concessions on other issues on the Catalan region such as an increased control over income taxes and a reformation of the Senate to allow non-voting participation of direct representatives of the communities (Maiz et al. 2010: 67). What materialized was a legislature dubbed “Pacto del Magestic” lasting for 4 years (González 1999).

4.3.2 Interpretation

Demands for greater autonomy were successfully achieved through political bargaining by exercising the increased political influence attained by regional parties. However, while this strategic competition allowed regional elites to obtain power, it was mostly obtained within their respective autonomous community. Elements of political pluralism where not developed, rather, a contribution to the concentration of power in few actors emerged. Catalan representatives did not participate in full coalition governments but gave parliamentary support to single-party minority governments instead. The decision to refrain from participating in central government came from fear of losing their regional political position. Thus, the absence of an institutionalized decentralization creates a vulnerable situation for the AACC, as an absolute majority control to a national political party could introduce institutional and legal restrictions on the regional governments (Colomer 1998: 44, 51-52).

In general, political as well as financial power at the national level is still concentrated in the central state government. Legislation has exploited the ambiguous structure of the Constitution to establish a distribution of competence that is biased towards the nation in comparison with the AACC (Maiz et al. 2010: 69; Field 2016: 59). Moreno (1997: 76) argues that a centralist


inertia is present, which inhibits a Spanish inclination toward the self-government of the nations and regions that it consists of.

4.3.3 Alternative explanation(s)

A significant alternative explanation emerged recently and involves corruption. Jordi Pujol confessed in 2014 that for 34 years – including his 23 years as President of Catalonia – hid money from the fiscal administration, locating it in foreign banks. Suspicions of him cashing in on the political power he amassed during his presidency had arisen before, albeit never proven (La Vanguardia 2014). As such, doubts about his intentions regarding demands for increased autonomy (fiscal matters in particular) have emerged. While it is difficult to conclude whether he fought for increased self-governance of Catalonia due to ideological, political and/or personal economic reasons, it is nonetheless an important matter to be taken into consideration when analyzing the causal process.

Another alternative explanation assumes that Catalonia, being one of the three historical nationalities, demanded greater autonomy due to the competition perceived and experienced with other AACC in Spain. As Colomer (1998: 51) argues, the decentralization model is competitive rather than cooperative – incentivizing regions to compete for financial and legal resources from the central government. Yet, this view is only possible if H2 is correct too, since this explanation concedes that demands and pressure on the state is made possible because of autonomy concessions obtained.

4.4 2000-2010: Resistance from the central government

4.4.1 H3: “Deny demands for greater autonomy, produce unfavorable policies and/or attempt recentralization”

Under the leadership of Aznar for a consecutive presidency, PP gained absolute majority in the Spanish parliament in 2000, effectively ending their alliance with CiU. As a majority government, concessions with regional elites were no longer necessary. As a result, the political discourse changed drastically. Catalan demands previously met with sympathy and understanding were replaced by hostile neo-centralist, conservative and neo-liberal argumentation (Guibernau 2013: 381). This is displayed in statements made by Aznar shortly after the convincing victory of PP in the general elections:


“The moment of claiming [regional] nationalism has ended” and in regard to regional elites he expects them to “commit to political stability and the great national projects we are going to undertake” (El País 2000)

The strategy adopted initially by Aznar was to not affect the institutional relations with the Generalitat, where he would “fulfill his commitments, but without concessions” (Aizpeolea 2000). Claims for greater autonomy were consequently dismissed. Accusations were made against other parties for wanting to reform the Constitution in a federal manner – granting more autonomy, which Aznar and his representatives saw as a threat against national unity, effectively promoting secessionist activity and the liquidation of the state’s central administration (González Casanova 2009). Aja (2003) argues that it seems as Aznar’s personal position was decisive in stopping autonomy reforms. A clear line of acceptance of the existing autonomic structure was adopted, yet further reforms were discarded. The argument presented on several occasions was based on the notion that Spain is not a federal system:

“Spain is made possible by its Constitution, which is not to be played with by means of federalisms or frivolities” – José María Aznar (Casqueiro 2000)

Because of this, CiU dismissed offers from PP to form part of the central government. The decision was justified by Pujol in an interview, stating:

“We can distinguish some trends from Aznar’s government that concern us: a series of proposals for new laws that, if passed, would represent a step back for autonomy” (Casqueiro 2002)

Eventually, CiU’s government at the Generalitat ended in 2003 when a three-party coalition formed by PSC, ERC, ICV and led by Pasqual Maragall won the Catalan elections by ratifying the so called “Pacto del Tinell”. Immediately, the new Catalan government declared the Spanish central government at the time (PP led by Aznar) its irreconcilable adversary –excluding any governmental or parliamentary cooperation previously experienced with CiU, either in the Generalitat or the Spanish parliament. The primary aim of this government was to elaborate a new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia (Colomer 2017: 960). Because of the growing dissatisfaction with the Aznar government, the new leader of the PSOE, J. L. Rodríguez Zapatero enjoyed strong support from Catalonia. His victory in the 2004 general elections was well received, regarding the new Prime Minister as a supporter of a plural Spain with





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