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THE EURO ZONE

Let's be realistic

It was reputedly Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results each time - a definition that seems appropriate when applied to the more radical separatists in Catalonia.

For the second time since December, the region's secessionist parties have tried to reinstate Carles Puigdemont - exiled orchestrator of last October's independence referendum (1-O) - as regional premier. And for the same reasons that their efforts failed last time, the separatists' latest push to restore the former Catalan president will come to nothing.

If Catalan secessionists can't agree to nominate a realistic candidate to lead a pro-independence regional government by 22 May, fresh elections will be held. That might exacerbate the economic damage already sustained by Catalonia since 1-O, but it's not only for that reason that separatists should stop nominating problematic candidates for the presidency. It's also to demonstrate they haven't lost touch with the political realities of their situation.

Puigdemont is one of three separatist candidates who have been unsuccessfully nominated since Mariano Rajoy called a snap election in Catalonia last December (in which pro-independence parties gained a slim parliamentary majority). The other two have been just as controversial as the former president.

Both Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull were prominent members of last year's secessionist drive and are currently in pre-trial custody, charged with sedition and rebellion. Turull was imprisoned in March, the day before he was due to attend a second-round investiture vote (he lost the first), and Sànchez has been in a cell since last October.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after 1-O and was arrested in Germany at the end of March. There he remains, awaiting a decision by the German courts on whether he can be extradited to Spain for misuse of public funds (although the Spanish government claims that no public money was spent on the referendum). The separatists' latest attempt to reinstate him as Catalan president was based on a law recently passed by the region's parliament, according to which Puigdemont needn't be physically present for an investiture ceremony. Spain's Constitutional Court has suspended the law.

Back in December, the same court thwarted Puigdemont's first nomination by ruling that the ex-president couldn't govern Catalonia remotely. Loyal as supporters of his cause are, they are doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting - or at least hoping for - a different result each time.

Catalonia's business and tourism industries are registering the effects of all this uncertainty. Over 3,000 companies have moved their headquarters from Barcelona since 1-O, and in the last three months of 2017 the region received 229,327 fewer tourists than the same period in 2016. To prevent more economic and reputational damage, separatists need to nominate someone who could actually take up the position of Catalan president. They have just over a week to do so.