Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Spanish PM Sanchez Faces Surprising Political Setback 

Nicholas Zalewski
Prime Minister Sanchez appears tense in the Spanish Parliament. Source: Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez’s ruling coalition is already showing cracks. An extremely controversial amnesty bill was narrowly defeated in The Spanish parliament, after 179 members voted against it and 171 members voted for it. This came as a surprise as the bill was expected to pass; however, the Junts, a pro-independence party from Catalonia, demanded additional amendments at the last minute before the vote. When the amendments were not added, they voted against the bill. The harsh reality is that even though the legislation has faced criticism over the perception of weakening the unity of Spain, the measure surprisingly lost due to politicians who were expected to support the measure. 

Members of parliament argue that the law doesn’t go far enough to protect Carles Puigdemont, an exiled politician from Catalonia, member of the European Parliament and who currently lives in Belgium from punishment for his role in Catalonia’s illegal secession attempt from Spain. Members of PSOE, Prime Minister Sanchez’s political party have made it clear however, that the amnesty law will respect the 1978 Spanish constitution and that the Junts are asking too much through proposed amendments. 

This legislation was the key to Prime Minister Sanchez receiving enough votes in order to form a coalition government, despite receiving less votes than Partido Popular in the last parliamentary election in July 2023. If Sanchez fails to create an amnesty bill that will gain enough support in Parliament, he likely risks the coalition government falling apart. As the amnesty bill has faced an immense amount of backlash from the Spanish public, it will be very difficult to create a version that will satisfy politicians who failed to create an independent Catalonian nation. The coalition now must decide how far it is willing to go to protect people who broke national law in an attempt to stay in power, or let the coalition fail and call for new elections. 

Prime Minister Sanchez brought this on himself in his quest to hold onto power. First, he chose to hold the election in July during the sweltering summer in an attempt to prevent Partido popular from gaining additional support before the deadline to hold the election which was in December. He however made the decision to move up the election after his party had historic losses in regional elections in May. He risked the lives of his constituents to stay in power and now he is paying the price. There are allegations that elderly voters were passing out while waiting their turn to vote and in Mallorca voting was moved outside due to the temperature being too high inside the polling station. Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of Partido Popular wants to make it illegal to hold elections in summer. 

Spaniards protesting against the amnesty bill in Plaza de Espana in Madrid. Source: AFP

The Elusive Dream Of An Independent Catalonia

Besides embracing the difficulty in passing an amnesty law, the Junts must also accept the reality of how difficult it will be to create an independent nation in the future, if ever. Reflecting back on the column from two weeks ago, Spain is not the only nation concerned about maintaining its territorial integrity and preventing a part of the nation from trying to claim independence. This would result in a significant challenge for Catalonia to re-enter the European Union. As all new member states must receive unanimous approval, Catalonia would have to appease Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia for why it should be allowed to enter the EU as a new member state instead of remaining a region of Spain. 

Catalonians seeking independence would also face a challenge that Great Britain didn’t have after leaving the European Union, creating a new currency. While Catalonia currently enjoys its status as one of the wealthier regions of Spain, this can quickly deteriorate if it was kicked out of the eurozone. the Catalonian economy benefits from using the same currency while a part of Spain as 22 nations currently use the euro (20 members of the eurozone and Kosovo and Montenegro unilaterally adopted the euro currency). The euro has been able to maintain a relatively stable value, yet Catalonia would have to create a European Central Bank and establish its own stable currency.

Catalonia’s Unhappiness As Region Of Spain

While Catalonia should not hope for independence anytime soon, there is still logic behind why some Catalonians are not satisfied with its current standing. This, however, is not all a result of Spain. Some Catalonians are unsatisfied with Catalonians not being able to use Catalonian, their native language as a working language within the European Union.

Simultaneously however, Catalonians are not the only linguistic minority impacted by this. The European Union currently has 24 official working languages and each nation has the right to select one. For Catalonia unfortunately, Spain has chosen Spanish, the native tongue for the majority of the nation. Other linguistic minority speakers of languages such as Corsican, Ladino, Turkish, Armenian are also impacted by this. None of the native speakers of these languages can do work in the European Union in these languages. 

Map of the autonomous communities of Spain.
Source: Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

In 1978, Spain allowed for the creation of autonomous communities in order to devolve some powers from the national government when writing the new constitution. Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque provinces were classified as historic nationalities and were allowed to gain autonomy through a quick process. The other regions (apart from Andalusia due to large public displays of support of autonomy) had to go through a slower process to argue why they should gain autonomy. This shows that Catalonia has, at times had a privileged position and that remaining within Spain does not equate to absolute oppression. 


Prime Minister Sanchez may soon see his fragile coalition government fall apart due to being tasked with the impossible, passing an amnesty law for Catalonian politicians and residents who contributed to the failed attempt at secession. The coalition government was not constructed with a strong foundation so it is no surprise that the coalition may soon fail, or the current coalition tries to go against the 1978 constitution in order to hold onto their power. Catalonia may not be fully happy currently as a region of Spain, yet independence could bring even more challenges the region is not prepared for and lead to economic challenges. Before Catalonians attempt to become independent again, they must be prepared to be free from Spain, yet a poorer nation trapped outside of the European Union. 

Please Read The Following For More Information:

“Spanish lawmakers vote against highly divisive law to grant amnesty to Catalan separatists”. Euronews. 30 January 2024. 

Heller, Fernando. “Catalan separatists threaten to topple Sánchez government over amnesty law”. Euractiv. 31 January 2024. 

Laing, Aislinng. “Spaniards, some in swimsuits, brave summer heat to vote”. Reuters. 23 July 2023. 

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