SPAIN has been stuck in political stalemate for three months. Acting President Mariano Rajoy and his PP Popular Party are no longer even attempting to form a coalition government, while Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the PSOE Socialist Party, is having little luck in finding the necessary support to lead an alternative to the PP. This is a measure of the lack of consensus politics in Spain.

The ongoing threat to political stability has created growing concern that a major EU country could see its economic recovery threatened just as Europe faces major challenges from the unceasing refugee influx, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, terrorism, Brexit and growing inequality across the majority of EU member states.

With no end in sight for Spain’s political paralysis, it has also prolonged the tensions between Spain and Catalonia, where we have been seeking negotiations with the Spanish government since 2010, when our home rule was dramatically reduced by the Spanish Constitutional Court, although it had been approved by the Parliaments of Spain and Catalonia and confirmed by the people of Catalonia in a referendum. I became Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Catalonia in January this year following our own parliamentary elections, which, for the first time, gave a majority of seats to pro-independence parties and a clear democratic mandate to advance towards independence.

The coalition I represent ran on a manifesto that lays out a clear road-map for an 18-month transition to independence, one that includes negotiations with the Spanish government. At the end of this period, our citizens will have the chance to confirm the creation of the Catalan Republic in a new election. All this follows years of exhausting every route possible to formally request an independence referendum like that granted to Scotland.

Catalans are known for being people of consensus, and we continue to seek dialogue and ongoing discussions. However we are also a thoughtful and committed people who have been rebuffed time and time again when we have called for change. The bridges that once linked Catalonia and Spain have been largely burned by the PP government’s incredible denial that there are any political problems in Catalonia, despite millions of Catalans taking to the streets time and time again in peaceful demonstrations calling for independence, and a permanent refusal to even talk.

Instead the Spanish government has chosen to hide behind a barrage of legal cases against Catalonia. The ruling against our Statute of Autonomy by a politically motivated Constitutional Court, recentralising long-devolved powers that had been approved by Spain’s own Parliament, has been followed by a never-ending flow of Constitutional Court cases against Catalonia’s legislation, and even led to the indictment of our former President and Catalan government ministers because they did not stop an informal referendum on independence which took place last year with a turnout of almost 2.5 million citizens. The most recent legal attack was an attempt by the Spanish government to make difficult the normal activity of the Catalan Ministry for Foreign Affairs, denying the Catalan government the capacity to establish global relations, a basic tool of any effective actor in a XXI century globalised world.

If Spain is a true democracy, like Denmark, Canada or the UK, there must be dialogue on a self-determination referendum. For the next Spanish government to continue hiding its head in the sand will only create more tension, when what is needed are negotiations.

Catalans are used to negotiating and to finding common ground with our counterparts. We are willing to negotiate the how and when of a self-determination referendum. In fact, 80 per cent of the Catalan population is in favor of voting in a referendum, and 87 per cent will accept the results of it. However if the new Spanish government refuses to talk or grant it, then the government of Catalonia will continue to honor the democratic mandate given by the Catalan people in the latest election to follow the 18-month road-map to independence without violence or unrest, because we are in the midst of something remarkable, and our whole hearts are in this. With this consistent mandate for independence and through democratic means, Catalonia can soon become a new state in Europe. Democracy should prevail and the government of Catalonia can ensure that it will occur without any political vacuum or legal uncertainty. From vote to vote and from the existing legal framework to a new legal framework. The time has come.