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10.02.2012

I recommend you read Jeremy Smith's post on Catalonia

I recommend you read Jeremy Smith's post "Pain in Spain, and the Catalan Cortes Zone" (1st October 2012), http://www.refractions.org/post/32710903100/pain-in-spain-and-the-catalan-cortes-zone

As his weblog has - quite legitimately - no space for comments, allow me to reply here, to beg to difer from several of his remarks.

As to the Constitutional Court judgment you rightly describe as "highly controversial", it is the Preamble as a whole that is devoid of any legal effect, which is why the Court didn't slash out any particular part of the text.

However, it was not that particular issue that brought out into the streets of central Barcelona over a million people on July 10 2010, but rather the rest of the judgment.  

Moreover, that particular, historic demonstration pailed before the scale and message of the September 11th demonstration this year,  which brought together up to 1,649,800 people according to one source, and 1·5 million according to the local authorities, a figure accepted by most of the international press. The know-how of the organisers, the grass-roots Assemblea Nacional Catalana, which is totally self-funding (and of which I am proud to be a founding member), was sufficient for all predictions to fall well short of what exactly happened.  The spectacular event was photographed for posterity by Lluís Brunet.

There was another big difference between the two:  the first was to put up a strong face as a reaction to the long overdue Constitutionasl Court judgment. The second one was for "Catalonia, a new State in Europe", and it was perfectly clear in the mind of every single person that attended or supported it, that the independence of Catalonia was its goal.

The headlines of La Vanguardia (which, as you know, is Barcelona-based and one of the most prestigious newspapers in Spain), read as  follows on June 26th, that is, over two months before the latest preo-independence demonstration: 

El 51,1% de los catalanes votaría 'sí' a la independencia en un referéndum. El dato supone 8,2 puntos más que hace un año, el 21,1% votaría en contra -7,1 puntos menos-, otro 21,1% no iría a votar y los indecisos representarían el 4,7% (51·1% of Catalans would vote "yes" to independence in a referendum. This figure is up 8·2 percentage points on last year. 21·1% would vote against - 7·1 fewer percentage points -, another 21·1% would not go to vote, and 4·7% have not made up their mind)

Never, in the run-up to the (successful) Montenegro referendum did surveys come anywhere near these figures.

What is remarkable about Catalonia right now, and since September 11th, is people's collective self-confidence. Is there anywhere else in Europe whose hopes for the future are higher, whose enthusiasm is greater? 

Finally, you claim that Catalonia would have to apply for EU membership. You clearly tow the Madrid line here. So in response I am glad to resort, as you do, to Viviane Reding, of whom I have fond memories (she was the rapporteur for the December 1990 European Parliament Resolution (A-169) on Languages in the Community and the situation of Catalan, and I attended the session when it was put to the vote). During her recent stay in Andalusia, Madame Reding was interviewed by the Diario de Sevilla. The last two exchanges have to do with Catalonia.  
  • Q -Cataluña plantea actualmente la posibilidad de independizarse. Pero si lo hace debería abandonar la UE y negociar su ingreso. Además, desde su salida habría un agujero en la libertad [de] circulación de personas y bienes en la Unión. (Catalonia is now the possibility of becoming independent. But if it does it would have to leave the EU and negotiate its admission. Moreover, there would be a hole in the freedom of movement of people and goods in the Union)
  • A -No querría inmiscuirme en asuntos de política española, pero no pienso ni por un segundo que Cataluña quiera dejar la UE. Conozco a los catalanes desde hace mucho tiempo, he sido una de las pocas personas no catalanas en recibir la Cruz de Sant Jordi, y sé que su sentimiento es profundamente europeo. (I don't want to interfere in matters of Spanish politics, but I don't fo a moment think that Catalonia would want to leave the EU. I have known the Catalans for a long time, I am one of the few non-Catalans to have been awarded the Cross of St. George, and I know that there feelings are depply European.)s
  • Q -No le pregunto por la posibilidad de que Cataluña quiera o no ser parte de la UE, sino por el proceso que se abre cuando dejen de serlo. Lo dice la Convención de Viena: el Estado resultante de un Estado matriz abandonará todos los organismos internacionales en los que la matriz esté representada. (I'm not asking you about the possibility of Catalonia wanting or not to belong to the UE, but for the process once it ceases to belong to it. The Vienna Convention says as much: the State resulting from the mother State will leave all international bodies in which the mother State is represented.)
  • A -Vamos, hombre, la legislación internacional no dice nada que se parezca a eso. Por favor, resuelvan sus problemas de política interna en España. Yo confío en la mentalidad europea de los catalanes. (Come off it man, international legislation says nothing resembliung that. Please solve your problems of internal politics in Spain. I trust the European mentality of the Catalans).
Some European Union members do have some national skeletons in their cupboard, certainly (Scotland is a case in point). Maybe you could have written a similar article about the EU and Scotland, and maybe you have! But can the EU turn its back on the democratically expressed will of its peoples? Not if it wants to be credible. And I seriously doubt that the level of fiscal spoliation Catalonia's has had to endure for years is felt in other "wannabe" nations, as you put it. To lose 8·4% of Catalonia's GDP every year, over a long period, is utterly crippling, and has lasted so long that Catalonia has dropped from first to fourth place in terms of Spain's regional wealth as a direct result. 

Well before the economic crisis Catalans' welfare was under threat, and even more so now that Spain is dragging its heels miserably over infrastructures that should have been in place years ago. 

  • The main road to France (which is used by 40,000 vehicles every day, largely lorries) still isn't a dual carriageway, and the road works have been completely stopped for years (how many of the 45 lives lost in this time are due to the condition of the road is open to dispute). In the meantime €998M have been earmarked this year for a dual carriageway linking Benavente to Palencia (pop. 19.187 and 82.626 respectively), in Castilla y León.
  • The TGV from Barcelona to France is years behind schedule, while the high-speed railway line from Madrid to Galicia forges ahead. 
  • The Mediterranean corridor to link up ports along the Spanish Mediterranean coast to the railway network north of the Pyrenees, is being held up, despite being an EU priority route for freight transport because of the strategic importance of trade witrh the Middle and Far East. The Spanish government persists in the idea of boring a hole through the widest part of the Pyrenees. 
  • And the list goes on, without leaving the world of economics. 43% of the wealth tax in the whole of Spain is raised in Catalonia, for instance.

The fragmentation of the traditional European states has taken place throughout eastern Europe and quite frankly, what Europe will never allow is for potential internal conflicts to build up into civil wars. If 51% of the population of other stateless nations were to vote for independence, and only 21% against it, who could deny them the right to become states just like Denmark or Lithuania? However, the EUt needs to call Spain (and even an MEP!) and its threatening tones to order, at once.


Finally, I invite you, Mr. Smith, to spend half an hour watching a documentary, in English, on "Spain's Secret Conflict". Yes, you got it: it's Catalonia! You can find it, alongside other videos about the case of Catalonia, here.
 



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