Third Way


Javier Zarzalejos. Secretary-General of FAES Foundation

Federalism has a serious problem in Spain because it has become what each person–of those who proclaim to be federalist–wants it to be. Consistent and rigorous federalists, which there certainly are, are thus left at the mercy of the reasoning whims of those who use the term "federal" as a flexible concept used for everything, from labelling the most anachronistic arguments of legal historicism to arguing in favour of confederal undoing of the State.

Some catchy headlines these days offer how to change the State without changing the Constitution. Others argue that the so-called 'third way' is gaining ground as the focus of negotiation on the eve of the meeting between the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Prime Minister of Spain. I don't think so. And I don't think there's any reason to think that this supposed negotiation formula is to tempt Mariano Rajoy in any way as a practicable way.

Rajoy's emphasis on placing his answer within strictly constitutional parameters and–as he has reiterated–the reminder that neither he nor any Prime Minister can decide as regards all Spaniards in a conversation with the president of an autonomous community, even though it be the Catalan case, clearly define his position.

The 'third way' involves, according to its prescribers, adding an Additional Provision to the Constitution under which Catalonia will be recognised as a nation, completely 'shielding' the Generalitat's absolute authority in linguistic, cultural, educational and territorial organisation affairs, and establishing a Catalan tax agency which, without prejudice of Catalonia's regulatory capacity, collects all taxes, assigning the State a 'solidarity contribution'.

This formula, according to its promoters, would have the effect of obliterating independentism and regaining a friendly getting-on.

Some questions inevitably arise. Isn't adding an additional provision to the Constitution a reform? Does anyone think that an additional provision can affect the national definition of Spain (Article 2 of the Constitution), the linguistic and educational rights (Article 3 and 27) or can alter the constitutional system of allocation of powers for a single Community? Can anyone explain what's federal at all in this formula? But the question, in political terms, should be different: if this is an agreement, what will the counterpart of Catalan nationalism be? That some could be provisionally satisfied, and incidentally stake the achievements of a secession strategy, does not seem enough. Even worse, it would be an invitation to relapse.