Basques Are Working Back Channels Between Catalans and Spain

  • PNV party’s lawmakers backed Rajoy’s government budget law
  • Some of the Basque party’s supporters sympathize with Catalans

The Basque Country’s ruling party is acting as an interlocutor between Spain’s central government and the Catalan regional executive in a bid to reduce tension and find a compromise, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Senior officials from the Basque Nationalist Party, known as the PNV, have been trying to find common ground between Madrid and Barcelona to limit the fallout from the biggest institutional clash of Spain’s democratic era, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is confidential.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy set out on the path toward intervening in the government of Catalonia, Spain’s largest economic region, after its president, Carles Puigdemont, claimed the right to independence and immediately put it on hold for an indefinite period to pursue dialogue.

Rajoy, who runs a minority administration, was able to pass the government’s 2017 budget with the help of the PNV’s five lawmakers, who backed the law in exchange for a more favorable calculation of the region’s contribution to Spanish coffers.

Yet a part of the PNV’s electoral base supports Basque independence from Spain and hence sympathizes with the Catalan separatist cause. Those twin loyalties make it in the party’s interests to help end the stalemate in Catalonia, albeit in an unofficial capacity since Madrid doesn’t accept that the dispute merits mediation.

Spokespeople for the PNV and the Spanish government declined to comment.

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