Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Spaniards Take To The Streets

Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Spaniards Take To The Streets

Nicholas Zalewski
Man holds sign which translates to “Traitor, in his game of deception the homeland pays for the damage.” Source: REUTERS/Susana Vera

After an election last summer that did not immediately result in a clear path to a coalition government, current Prime Minister Sanchez faces the wrath of Spaniards angry at him for potentially selling out the nation in order to stay in power. In order to serve another term in power, Sanchez has promised amnesty to Catalonian political leaders who held an illegal vote for independence. This is a serious matter considering besides the vote, those who participated in violence and assisted the region with its temporary independence claim will be pardoned as well. Hundreds of people who were involved in Catalonia’s attempt at independence will be granted amnesty. In exchange for this amnesty, the Junts and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya will support Sanchez and form a coalition government. On Thursday November 16th, Prime Minister Sanchez has been confirmed for another term. European Commission President Von Der Leyen congratulated Sanchez on another term as she does with the confirmation of every European leader, but many Spaniards will not be celebrating.

Spain’s Latest Election

Partido Popular won the most support from Spaniards at the polls on July 23rd, they were unsuccessful in building a ruling coalition, which is necessary considering the party did not win a high enough percentage of the votes to rule alone. Partido Popular attempted to negotiate with other parties but failed to get enough members of Parliament to back their bid. This has led to current Prime Minister Sanchez’s controversial efforts in order to avoid another election. This has led to him having to offer significant concessions which has resulted in major protests throughout the nation as Spaniards are concerned about the consequences of this amnesty law.

Large protests in Puerta del Sol square located in Madrid. Source: Bloomberg

Unifying or Tearing Spain Apart

While Prime Minister Sanchez is attempting to rationalize his decision to grant amnesty as a way to unify the nation, his opposition views it much differently. People who attempted to help Catalonia secede from Spain will be excused for their crimes instead of punished. The amnesty law is expected to apply to as many as 1,500 people. The law will have to name each individual in order to not be considered a mass pardon, which is illegal in Spain. It is unclear how this will help unify Spain considering that confirmation that Catalonia will not attempt to secede again may not be a condition of the amnesty law. According to recent polls, a majority of Spaniards are opposed to amnesty. The reality is that Spain saw a lot of violence as a result of Catalonia’s attempt to break away from Spain yet now politicians and citizens may not have to serve even a day in prison for their crimes. Alex Ramon, a delivery driver who claims to be innocent and not have lit a trash bin on fire, sees amnesty as moral justice. Obviously he would benefit from likely not having to spend time in prison as a result of the amnesty law but it begs to ask how is it justice to allow Spaniards to break national law through a secession attempt.

Sanchez will also face opposition to passing legislation. While several small parties are supporting him, it already has been clarified that their members in Parliament will not vote in support of each bill Sanchez will put forward. This would result in Sanchez holding onto power, yet unable to move forward with his vision for the nation. As Spain currently has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, the nation cannot afford to have an unproductive four years until the next election in 2027. This would potentially mean Spain falling behind other European Union member states economically and continued brain drain for Spain. If these four years are unproductive, Sanchez also risks fueling support for the far-right in Spain for the next election and weaken support for PSOE. As it currently stands, it is clear that people in Catalonia who are pro-independence believe amnesty legitimizes their movement. If Sanchez is unable to compromise on legislation with these smaller radical parties, he risks inspiring another sedition attempt in Catalonia if people become convinced once again that Catalonia which has a higher regional GDP per capita than average in Spain would be better economically if it was its own nation. This also ignores the reality that Catalonia would find itself outside of the European Union and having to create its own currency and international trade deals while it tries to renegotiate its way back into the European Union. Each prospective candidate nation must receive unanimous approval, meaning Spain would have to approve Catalonia’s request as well. 

Protest sign that reads Spain will not break, who does it will pay” at a protest in 2021.
Source: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue


As has been witnessed in other nations, yet another politician acted in their self-interest rather than for the good of the people. Prime Minister Sanchez may have received enough votes to remain in power and avoid another election on January 14th, but he should ask himself at what cost. When political tensions are at an all-time high not only in world, but particularly in Spain. While Sanchez will be Prime Minister for another term, he will likely struggle to produce positive results as the parties that make up the coalition have widely different ideas. Time will tell if Sanchez made a decision that is beneficial for Spain, or only himself. Those dreaming of independence in Catalonia are very naïve and do have not thoroughly thought-out what independence would truly mean for the region. While Catalonia is prosperous in Spain, it would struggle outside the European Union, an immediate consequence of secession from Spain.

Please Read The Following For More Information:

“Spanish PM Sanchez secures another term, ending four-month deadlock”. France 24. 16 November 2023.

Keeley, Graham, Faus, Joan, Carreño, Belén. “Explainer: What does the amnesty for Catalan separatists in Spain mean?” Reuters. 10 November 2023.  

“Young Catalan separatist sees justice, reparation in proposed amnesty”. Reuters. 7 November 2023.

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Let’s Tune In To The EU…

by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min