After Catalonia’s pro-independence parties Junts pel Si and CUP broke the gridlock that had lasted for more than three months after the 27 September plebiscite elections and reached – literally at the latest possible hour – a remarkable agreement to avoid new elections and to elect Carles Puigdemont as the 130th President of the Generalitat, Catalonia’s independence process revived its momentum and entered its decisive phase. Over the next two years Catalonia will attempt to undergo a historic transition culminating with nothing less than complete independence while the Spanish state will mobilize all of its powers and machinery in an effort to prevent that.

New Catalan government led by President Puigdemont will implement the roadmap to independence that has been outlined in the documents of the Advisory Council for the National Transition, electoral manifesto of Junts pel Si for 27 September elections, the declaration of 9 November 2015 to start the process to construct an independent Catalan Republic in 18 months and the latest agreement of Junts pel Si and CUP. First steps of that transitional period have already been taken and as Puigdemont himself said: Catalonia is right now in a post-autonomic and pre-independence period.

Catalonia’s new executive has already created an own Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Parliament of Catalonia appointed a Commission to study the Constituent Process (both appealed by the Spanish government to the Constitutional Court). Raul Romeva will lead the foreign actions of the Generalitat while Muriel Casals is poised to chair parliament’s Committee on the Constituent Process. Legislative work to draft important legislation will commence during next month. Laws on the Constituent Process, Social Security System and Public Finances will be prepared along with the Law on the Legal Continuity. These will be ready by the spring of 2017. In addition to the Law on the Constituent Process which will include the legislative boundaries for the period between the formal declaration of independence and the ratification of independent Republic’s constitution and the Law on the Legal Continuity which will include clear guidelines on what parts of the current Spanish legal system will remain in effect until superseded by Catalan legislation, an Electoral Law of an independent Catalan Republic will be drafted. That is first used to elect the Constitutional Assembly and then – if not altered during the process of drafting and approving Catalonia’s independent constitution – for the elections of the first Parliament of an independent Republic. Although actual decision by the Parliament of Catalonia to approve these laws will coincide with the formal declaration of independence, Spain's Constitutional Court might act against the committee work or the Parliament’s Bureau when these laws are proposed and worked on in the parliament.

Over the next 18 months Catalonia’s government will prepare and implement (or have ready so that can be implemented fast) so-called independent state structures which include things like own Social Security System, Treasury and the Central Bank. Lot of preparative work regarding infrastructures, resources and other practicalities of independence will also be done. This work will be significantly harder because of the strict limits and measures the Spanish government has imposed on Catalonia’s finances through the regional Liquidity Fund. Most of taxes collected in Catalonia go through Madrid and the tap could be closed if funds are used for separatist purposes.

Parliament and the government of Catalonia will start a constituent process involving citizen participation in order to debate and eventually draft a proposal for an independent Catalonia’s constitution during this spring. While the details of this process and the actual form of citizen participation is still unclear, Catalonia’s pro-independence government can use this process to increase the social support for independence. In other words: to convince some of those that would at this moment vote against independence in a hypothetical referendum to favor it in a form of an independent constitution – once they see more clearly what independence can offer them.

Government of Catalonia will try to start negotiations with the Spanish state, European governments and institutions particularly the EU and supranational actors regarding the practicalities of independence. Independent Catalonia’s continuation in the European Union is major issue that needs to be dealt with sooner or later. Little by little, Catalonia’s situation will stop being just an internal matter of the Kingdom of Spain and even some sort of international support for the Catalan cause could be possible. Obviously the next Spanish government (there’s a big political impasse in Spain at the moment and another general election might be ahead) will not negotiate with the Catalan government on region’s independence. Also it seems that there won’t be any offer from the Spanish side regarding the only right way to solve this issue: letting Catalans decide the matter in an official independence referendum.

As the 27 September plebiscite elections produced a victory for the pro-independence side and a clear mandate to begin independence transition - but without an undisputed over 50 % of all votes mandate - there’s one very important part of the process to construct an independent Republic that needs to solved. Before Catalonia can became an independent country the people of Catalonia need to give a clear mandate for it. In the outmost end of the process to independence there’ll be a ratifying referendum on the constitution of an independent Catalan Republic. In that vote Catalans will ratify the whole process and have a final opportunity to reject independence if they so choose. But that ratifying referendum might not be held before sometime in 2018 and the formal independence could already be declared in the first half of 2017. Therefore the participation process regarding the constitution of an independent Catalan Republic – that will begin this year – offers an opportunity to organize consultation on the constitution/independence sometime in the early months of 2017. If there would be an offer from the Spanish state to organize an official independence referendum, it could replace that. Obviously without Spanish approval any kind of plebiscite in Catalonia whether on independence or on independent constitution would need to be held unilaterally but perhaps at that point in the process disobedience would have already beenneeded and anyway the formal (unilateral) independence alongside the beginning of the second part of the process to independence including stuff like the Constitutional Assembly would already be on the doorstep in the early months of 2017.

If Catalan politicians – whether the government or the parliament – disobey rulings of the Spanish Constitutional Court, they could face disciplinary measures by the Constitutional Court itself. Once these measures will be disregarded as well, Spanish state has in its hands a serious constitutional crisis. In addition to cutting Catalonia’s finances the Spanish government could – with the approval of the Senate – apply article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and suspend – partially or fully – Catalonia’s regional autonomy granted in the Statute of Autonomy. This will no doubt be ahead one day but perhaps not before the real escalation of the situation next year with the most concrete steps to actual independence. But a rapid escalation of the situation could also happen quite soon and among other things that might alter and hasten the agreed roadmap to independence.

Within 18 months (of 10 January 2016) the plan is to culminate the first part of the process with the formal declaration of Catalonia’s independence, approval of the relevant laws such as the Law on the Constituent Process and the Law on the Legal Continuity and calling of fresh constituent elections in which the Constitutional Assembly of the Republic will be elected. Constitutional Assembly will then form a committee consisting of representatives of political parties and civil society (groundwork done in the participation process earlier) to draft a proposal for the constitution of an independent Catalan Republic. This will take a maximum of 12 months and after Constitutional Assembly has approved the constitution, it will be put to the people in a referendum. According to the current roadmap – by no later than the summer of 2018 – the people of Catalonia will vote in an official referendum (organized within the legal framework of an independent Republic) to ratify the Constitution of the Catalan Republic and give the final mandate accepting the creation of the newest independent state in Europe. After that the Constitutional Assembly will be dissolved and the first elections of an independent Parliament of Catalonia will be held (also elections of the first President of the Catalan Republic depending on the form of government chosen while drafting the constitution).

Therefore, after an incredible process that included (after 2012) two early regional elections, proxy referendum on independence (perhaps also twice but paying in mind the very unlikely possibility of an official independence referendum), elections of the Constitutional Assembly and ratifying referendum on the constitution, Catalonia would elect its first normal independent parliament and government in the latter part of 2018.

This is the plan. Obviously things won’t go that smoothly or necessarily in that order or timetable. But the direction is clear. As Spain refuses to even sit down and talk about the civilized and 21th century way to solve the problem (accepting the Right to Decide of the people of Catalonia), only way for the independence movement (that is supported by a huge portion of the society in Catalonia) forward is this unilaterally-seeming 18+12 month transition culminating in the creation of an independent Catalan Republic. But it is Spain – not Catalonia – that has forced the hand here. That being said, the majority support for independence needs to be checked before independence can be fully implemented. Ratifying referendum on the constitution is perfectly suitable for that but the problem is that it will be held quite a long time after the formal independence and the constituent elections. Maybe instead of trying to repeat the 9N2014 vote with the participation process regarding the constitution, Catalonia could end up holding a ratifying referendum on the (unilateral) declaration of independence. Perhaps coinciding with the election of the Constitutional Assembly.

We’ll see how this all turns out. But anyway Catalonia’s independence movement has now entered its final and decisive phase. Current government in Barcelona – with the support of an absolute majority of pro-indy MPs in the Parliament of Catalonia – has initiated and will implement this historic transition: process to construct an independent Catalan Republic. And they are dead serious about this. Game is on!

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