Barcelona pro-unity protesters Borja Sanchez Trillo/Getty Images

A Federal Spain in a Federal Europe

In politics, there is no shame in compromise. Quite the contrary: When a choice must be made between a constructive bargain and ideological purity, it is always better to choose the path of unity, however small the steps may be.

BRUSSELS – I have always been a profound admirer of Spanish democracy, but especially since February 23, 1981. On that dramatic day, Colonel Antonio Tejero attempted a coup d’état against the young democratic regime.

In his acclaimed book Anatomía de un instante (The Anatomy of a Moment), Javier Cercas describes how, under the threat of Tejero’s pistol, three Spanish political leaders sat upright in their seats, refusing to hide under their benches. Not one of them – Communist Party leader Santiago Carrillo, Adolfo Suárez, the first prime minister of post-Franco, democratic Spain, and Suárez’s deputy, General Gutiérrez Mellado – blinked. It was an act of courage and determination that anchored democracy forever in the soul of Spain. Under the pistol of Tejero, Spanish democracy was born.

Today, 36 years later, Spanish democracy must steel itself once more if it is to overcome the deep division created by the Catalan regional government’s unconstitutional bid to secede from Spain. Today’s democrats will need to show the same disciplined determination as Carrillo, Suárez, and Mellado to resolve Spain’s gravest political crisis since Tejero’s attempted coup.

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