Carme Forcadell to declare in Court for allowing debate in Parliament

Today Carme Forcadell, President of the Catalan Parliament, will declare in Court for allowing a debate about Catalan independence to take place at the Chamber. People all over Catalonia have shown their support to Forcadell and against the judicialization of politics led by the Spanish Governement.

The strategy of the Spanish Government to criminalise pro independence politicians instead of dealing with this conflict within the political sphere has already taken to Court, amongst others, former President Mas and two former Ministers for allowing the November 9th, 2014 vote about independence to take place.

Alex Salmond in Scotland, Gerry Adams in Ireland and Bernhard von Grünberg in Germany, amongst other international politicials and intellectuals have already shown their support to Forcadell and against the Spanish Government’s attack to freedom of speech and lack of separation of powers of the Spanish State.

Now that the Catalan Republic is getting closer

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote on this blog. After the November 2012 elections the process was in the hands of the politicians, President Mas won the elections with the promise of holding a referendum and the international media increased interest on the subject. Mission accomplished. I limited my contribution through CataloniaDirect to the occasional tweet when anything worth mentioning happened (which was not very often).

Still, now that we are getting close to the birth of the Catalan Republic I feel like writing about it again. Even if just occasionally.

The last couple of years I often refrained from writing because it would have involved invariably criticising Catalan politicians, the very people who would have to eventually leave their differences aside if this was to suceed. They drove me insane at times, other times I lost hope. Glad that is mostly in the past now.

However, from the last 3 years three days are worth mentioning.

Day 1 – September 11th 2013, the 400km Via Catalana (Catalan Way). 2 million people holding hands across the country on . I was lucky enough to be there taking pictures. I will never forget that afternoon.

Day 2 – September 11th 2014 The Big V (for Vote) demonstration in Barcelona. Involving again about 2 million people. I had my doubts, it was so ambitious that I was afraid people would be tired of doing these mass demonstrations. I was mistaken.

Day 3 – The November 9th 2014 Referendum

We all knew Spain would never agree to a referendum. Rajoy kept saying everyone stay calm, no referendum would take place in Catalonia. That was my biggest hope, if Rajoy said it wouldn’t happen that had to mean one way or another it would. Mas astutely manouvered, challenged Spain and went ahead and hosted the promised referendum on November 9th 2014 anyway. Catalonia’s was to take place shortly after Scotland’s. The comparison between the UK and Spain was stark. Threats, insults, legal prosecution but nothing we weren’t used to. Mas also managed to irate the other Catalan parties who wanted a more confrontational attitude but I guess when you make decisions you can’t make everyone happy.

Using the Generalitat’s civil servants was not a possibility because Spain threatened them with losing their jobs. So the week before the referendum the Generalitat publicly requested for 20000 volunteers. I immediately registered. All positions were filled within a few hours. My job would be to check the amount of votes cast in each of the 8 tables and call the central at the end of the day with the final results.

So I flew back from Germany, were I live at the moment, and spent a lovely weekend in Barcelona. On the day of the voting I woke up at 6am and checked the news just in case the Spanish Government had carried out their threats to send the Guardia Civil to close down the voting points. I know this may sound ridiculous, but read the Spanish news that week if you don’t believe me. In the end everything was quiet, only threats. Pictures of the Spanish police taking away ballot boxes would have looked really bad on the international press.

I got to the voting school in a part of the city I don’t know well. There was a couple of Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, at the corner. They weren’t supposed to be inside the voting point because it was not a normal referendum but the Generalitat sent them anyway in case violent groups attempted to carry out the threats to disrupt the voting. I was relieved to see the Mossos there.

It was a glorious day. Thousands of people voting as if making a birthday wish, hoping for a better future with big smiles on their faces. At times it got hectic, crowds of people eager to vote and we had to make them wait in line for their turn to vote.

Since the referendum had not been agreed with Spain it was not legally binding. 2.3 million people voted in spite of the threats, the good weather and it not being binding. Almost two million voted Yes/Yes (yeah it was a double question, us Catalans are complicated like that). But nevertheless we know at least 2 million Catalans want independence, which out of about 5 million voters is a huge chunk. It also felt good to do a little disobedience against Spain.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the fact that every person in the organisation was a die hard pro independence activist, but also understandable since normally you’d think of better things to do on a sunny sunday than spend 14 hours at a voting point hosting a referendum under threat of a hostile State. But above being independentists we are democrats and the counting of the votes was meticulous and thorough.

In order to spare the volunteers from the wrath of Spain all names and records were deleted after the voting. In the end the only victims have been President Mas and Vicepresident Ortega and Education Minister Rigau who now face a criminal lawsuit for prevarication, disobedience and misuse of public funds. Yeah Spain was still Spain, someone had to be punished for voting.

Spain getting used to the idea of Catalonia leaving. Bi-weekly highlights.

2013/03/07 Rodríguez Ibarra, former President of southwestern Spanish region Extremadura, currently a member of Spain’s Council of State and one of the leading members of Spanish PSOE compares Catalan President Mas to Hitler and Mussolini. Unfortunately in Spain these type of irresponsible statements happen all too often and they never seem to have any consequences for those who make them but it is very worrying that they come from a leading member of the currently main opposition party in Spain.

2013/03/09 President Mas said, regarding the unfortunate statements by Rodríguez Ibarra, remarked that Catalonia will continue with its project and its open to dialogue attitude, “no matter how much we are insulted”. [ca]

2013/03/13 PSC voted a resolution in favour of negotiating with Spain a referendum of independence, joining the main Catalan parties in the pro Catalan sovereignty ranks. After voting differently to PSOE for the first time a few days before in the Spanish Parliament. Now 80% of the Catalan Parliament is for a Catalonia to vote to decide its future. Only PP and Ciudadanos are against it. This is very important since PSC has in the space of two weeks voted for the first time in its history differently than PSOE and now they have rectified their initial position against Catalonia’s sovereignty.

2013/03/15 One year after it’s constituency meeting the ANC (Catalan National Assembly), which organised the massive demonstration of September 11th 2012, held its second meeting in Girona, which gathered 3500 people. The ANC currently counts with around 12000 associates and is a grassroots movement which spinned off from the popular referendums for independence movement that organised 60000 volunteers all across Catalonia and has become the main civical platform to push for Catalonia’s independence. The ANC have agreed to continue leading the way for independence by means of peaceful protest and civil disobedience to the Spanish state. The AND supports a referendum before May 2014 and in case Spain blocked the possibility of a referendum considers a unilateral declaration of independence. It announces that this year’s September the 11th (Catalonia’s National Day) will organise a massive human chain across the country to raise awareness internationally, inspired by the human chain on 1989 that led to the independence of the Baltic countries.

2013/02/16 CiU and ERC leaders admit that the possibility of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence should Spain finally block a referendum of independence has been discussed [ca].

2013/03/18 Spain is already increasing its diplomatic efforts lobbying 22 european states to bias them against Catalonia’s independence [ca]. Spain is getting used to the idea that the Catalan process will end up in the international courts and broadening its attacks to the international sphere.

2013/03/18 Professor Christopher K. Connolly has published a report about the independence movements in Catalonia, Scotland and Flanders for the American Department of Justice. Professor Connolly considers worrying Spain’s position on the Catalan issue.

The Catalan declaration of independence could happen in December. Bi-weekly highlights.

February 22nd, the latest poll made by the Catalan Generalitat shows results that 54.7% of Catalans would vote Yes to independence [ca], 20,7% No, 17% abstention and 5.4% doesn’t know. The good thing about these results is that all the attacks and efforts to scare Catalans made by the Spanish Government and Spanish State structures are proving to be completely in vain.

February 21st, the Catalan Minister of Economy, andreu Mas-Colell, is already working on setting up the Catalan Tax Agency [ca].

February 25th, for the first time in 31 years PSC, the Catalan branch of the Spanish PSOE, voted differently and against PSOE’s will. This was in the voting at the Spanish Parliament about a Catalan referendum on independence. Even thought the voting was lost all Catalan deputies, except for those from PP, voted together for the first time in the Spanish Parliament. PSOE have threatened to break up with PSC but their dilemma is that they know they wouldn’t be able to win an election ever again without PSC’s votes. In any case this is a great victory for Catalonia since it has forced PSC to accept Catalonia as a sovereign entity.

February 25th, Catalan President Mas continues his efforts to counter the Spanish diplomatics attacks against Catalonia by explaining the process to independence during a meeting of liberal democrat european rulers in Amsterdam [ca].

February 24th, the Spanish Minister of education insists that he wants to finish with the “dominance of Catalan language in schools” (sic).

February 28th, Spanish army General in the reserve Juan antonio Chicharro said: “The country is more important than democracy” and suggested a possible military coup should Catalonia’s independence process continue [ca]. Disciplinary action may be taken against him. However, nobody from the Government or the army has publicly contradicted him.

February 28th, the Spanish Government will appeal Catalan Parliament’s Declaration of Sovereignty to the Spanish constitutional Court [ca] in an attempt to invalidate it. Even though this will not have any effect since it is a political declaration of intentions to justify the self-determination process in Catalonia. However, we should thank Spain that they see the threat is poses since it is, effectively, a detachment from the Spanish Constitution by stating that Catalonia, and not Spain, is the political subject.

March 4th, Spain threatens freedom of speech. The Spanish General Attorney, Mr Torres-Dulce, will dismiss the Catalan General Attorney, Mr Rodríguez Sol [ca]. The latter said in an interview to Europa Press that he believes, even though he is not an independentist, that it would be legitimate for Catalans to decide their future and that the Spanish Constitution from 1978 may not reflect the changes in society and needs a reform.

March 4th, ERC are considering to accelerate the process through a declaration of independence which could happen as early as December this year [ca]. This is in line with other informations that confirm that also President Mas is already considering the possibility of a declaration of independence given the Spanish rejection to dialogue and the Spanish constant attacks to Catalonia’s economical and political stability.

A game of Spanish spies. Catalan students only ones to not receive scholarship funds. Catalonia’s highlights week 8

This week’s highlights on Catalonia’s process to independence

February 15th USA ambassador in Spain Mr Solomont said last week his country will remain neutral to the Catalan independence process[ca]. Considering the pressure that the Spanish diplomacy must be exerting against Catalonia’s independence process this is great news. Their neutrality means a respect towards the democratic process. Thanks Mr Solomont. Mr Solomont also announced that now that he speaks Spanish he will start learning Catalan.

February 16 ERC’s leader Junqueras gave Mas’ government a warning. If there is no referendum in 2014 they’ll drop their support to the Government [ca].

February 16th Catalonia is the only Autonomous Community where no single student has yet received their scholarships funds [ca]. While Spanish students continue to receive these funds, even though with some delays. The Spanish Education Minister, Mr Wert, is well known for his declarations of wanting to “hispanicize” Catalan students.

February 18 Spain increases its budget for spies by 11% from last year to 19.8 million euros [ca]. Unlike education or healthcare Spain doesn’t want to reduce “intelligence” budget.

Feb 18th A Court forces the Valencian Government to open a line of education in Catalan at the school Rei en Jaume in Xirivella [ca]. There are 200.000 students in the Valencian Country who, even though they have requested it and it is their right, can’t study in Catalan because the Valencian government refuses to open lines in Catalan.

Feb 18th Catalan TV reports an increase of activity of Spanish spies in Catalonia since March 2012 precisely when the 1st Catalan National Assembly was constituted. It also revealed the location of the Spanish intelligence services HQ in Barcelona, Avinguda Diagonal 666, a military building. The Spanish State is increasing its resources destined to spying activities to disrupt the Catalan process to independence. Links here, here [ca] and here [ca].

Feb 18th Catalan blogger and activist Marc Belzunces denounces the racism experienced trying to speak in Catalan to the Spanish Tax Revenue Services [ca]. The public servants either hang up or rudely demand the caller to speak in Spanish.

Feb 19th a case of spying between catalan politicians is unveiled. The spying was done by detective agency “Metodo 3”. Catalan PP leader Camacho could be involved in it [ca]. “Metodo 3” is also suspected to have links with the Spanish secret services. The investigations will be led by the Spanish police instead of the Catalan police in a maneouvre that is seen by many to keep the Spanish spying activities information away from the Catalan Government.

Feb 20th Geoff Cowling, former UK general consul in Spain supports an independence referendum in Catalonia for democratic reasons and advises the Catalan government increase its diplomatic efforts. Thanks Mr Cowling!

Bullfighting fights back – Weekly highlights

Bullfighting

Because of lack of time I feel I never have time to explain everything that I would like to talk about in the blog but feel that twitter is too short. This is intended to be a little weekely-ish summary of the, in my opinion, most relevant news on the Catalan independence process now that we have entered its final phase after the Declaration of Sovereignty passed by the Catalan Parliament a few days ago.

Feb 12th – Spanish Parliament passed a Popular Law Initiative [ca] which intends to declare bullfighting as a protected cultural heritage within Spain and this would cancel the ban on that activity in Catalonia declared by the Catalan Parliament. Even though bullfighting shows are subsidized in Catalonia because of the low turnout.

Feb 12th – Mariano Rajoy replied to a question by an international journalist about whether he thought he would be able to keep Catalonia in Spain without changing the current Spanish model. Rajoy replied :“don’t worry, I will” [ca]. Considering that everything Rajoy promises tends to go wrong I think this is excellent news.

Feb 11th – Spanish foreign minister has let the UN secretary for Western Sahara that they support Western Sahara’s right to self determination [ca]. Western Sahara’s right to self-determination yes, Catalonia’s no.

Feb 11th – EuroParliament VicePresident Alexander Álvaro has declared to Catalan radio RAC1 that Spain should let Catalans vote on independence [ca]. Even though, personally, he doesn’t understand why Catalans want independence he said it’s not very useful for Madrid’s government to try to stop what people want.

Feb 8th – The Spanish Government will take Catalonia’s Declaration of Sovereignty to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The same court that was used politically to cut the Catalan Statute of Autonomy will be now used to attack the document that declares that Catalonia is a sovereign political entity [ca].

Feb 05th – Business Association “Foment del Treball” fail in their attempt to organise a Catalan anti independence business lobby [ca]. Other Business Associations like PIMEC or Cercle Català de Negocis have recently shown most Catalan business owners support independence and almost none want to keep the status quo.

CiU and ERC close the deal for the Catalan referendum of independence

Last night Catalan President Mas and ERC’s leader Oriol Junqueras closed the deal to support CiU’s government this term until the referendum takes place. Both leaders have just signed it at the Parliament in front of the media.

After the election results from November 25th and following the popular mandate for those two parties to pilot the national transition for Catalonia to regain its State both parties have come to an agreement. CiU’s government will, thanks to this deal, be supported by ERC with the common goal to hold a referendum of independence on 2014. This way the national transition will be led by the two main Catalan parties to the right and left of the political spectrum.

The agreement to hold the referendum is open to other Catalan parties in order to seek the maximum amount of consensus within Catalan society.

The Spanish Government has already threatened (ca) it will use all tools at its disposal to stop the referendum.

Via digital newspaper Nació Digital we find a link to the part of the document (ca) that CiU and ERC have signed which explains the main steps to take in order to set the ground for the referendum. Please find below a translation to english I have made:

During the last 30 years an important section of Catalan society has dedicated itself to transforming the Spanish State. This was done with an eye to making it possible for Catalonia to fit into Spain without renouncing its legitimate national aspirations, self government or its continuity as a nation. But the negative response of the Spanish government to these attempts have led to a dead end. That is why CiU (Convergence and Union) and ERC (The Republican Left) consider that Catalonia has to start a new phase based on a right to decide– to guarantee social progress, economic development, democratic reinforcement and the promotion and conservation of the Catalan culture and language.

In this regard, CiU and ERC express their explicit commitment and political determination to hold a referendum so that the people of Catalonia can democratically and freely decide their collective future.

Catalonia is today facing an opportunity that only appears once every several generations. This is the opportunity to build a new country. The opportunity for the Catalan people to lead our own history. The opportunity to place politics in the centre of the public debate. The opportunity to assert our commitment to democracy, to peace and to Europe.

Like any other nation, Catalonia needs to equip itself with the instrument of a State to allow it to ambitiously develop its national project. Catalonia has the potential for a much better standard of living that it has now. It would if it could dispose of, on one hand, all the resources generated by Catalan citizens and companies and on the other, the capability to make political decisions everything that is ours and concerns us.

For all these reasons, CiU and ERC express the commitment to allow the Catalan people to decide, by means of a referendum, the possibility for Catalonia to become a European State, in order to provide itself, thus, with the tools needed to overcome the economical crisis, encourage growth and guarantee the cohesion and welfare of Catalan society.

In this regard, and in accordance with the described commitments, CiU and ERC agree:

  1. To formulate a “Declaration of Sovereignty of the Catalan People” in the first plenary session of the tenth term, with the object of guaranteeing the right to decide of the Catalan people.
  2. To pass the Referendums Law based on the work started during the previous term, adding amendments and modifications that will be agreed upon. In this regard, the commitment is to begin the parliamentary process at the end of January 2013 at the latest.
  3. To open negotiations and dialogue with the Spanish State to exercise the right to self determination and to include the right to hold a referendum, as set out in Law 4/2010 of the Catalan Parliament, of popular referendums. In this regard, the commitment is to formalize the petition within the first half of 2013.
  4. To create the Catalan Council for the National Transition, as the entity to drive, coordinate, participate and advise the Generalitat Government with regards to the referendum and national transition processes, and with the goal to guarantee its drive and execution.

    This body will consist of well-known and respected personalities and/or representatives of the diverse areas linked to the national transition process and the preparation to the referendum.

    The Council will encourage the economic, social and cultural entities of our country to take part, as well as those political parties that support the right to self determination and a referendum taking place.

  5. CiU and ERC commit to work all the possible formal, legal and institutional procedures until December 31st 2013 in order to be ready, from then on, to call a referendum according to the legal framework that will provide it, within the next year, unless the socioeconomic or political context requires a postponement. In any case, the date will be agreed, at least, by the two signing parties.
  6. To call a referendum so that the people of Catalonia may decide upon the possibility of Catalonia becoming a European State.

(with thanks to Emily McBride for checking the translation)

An independentist Parliament to pilot the transition to the Catalan State

Yesterday’s election in Catalonia is a turning point for Catalan politics.

Coalition CiU has clearly won the election and ERC has become the left wing main Catalan party. Currently, the two main parties at the Catalan Parliament are independentist.

Comparing with the 2010 results. Out of 135 the amount of pro independence seats has increased from 14 to 74. 87 seats support the referendum since left wing – ecologist Catalan party ICV continues to be undefined in their position about independence but support the referendum.

Some people see the decrease in CiU’s support as a disqualification of Mas’ turn towards independence but they overlook that there are more independentist parties and that Mas has paid the price of 2 years of budget cuts, deals with PP, cases of police brutality, etc.

Another key point is that during the campaign Duran, Unio’s leader, Convergencia’s partner, kept contradicting Mas on the coalition’s support to independence, raising concerns on some potential voters that may have preferred to vote ERC instead to secure the independentist vote.

The 69% turnout was an increase of 10.7% compared to 2010. The increase in Catalan vote has kept up with the increase in Spanish nationalist vote who may have abstained in previous Catalan elections.

From my point of view I think the current is one of the best scenarios since CiU will be forced to look for ERC’s support. ERC will not be able to justify austerity for long in front of their voters. Therefore, the independentist agenda may accelerate.

With the current funds drain from Spain there is no room to change the austerity policies in Catalonia so the fastest way to turn this around is to continue the transition towards the Catalan State. It won’t be easy and will require maturity, generosity, concessions and building large consensus but if done properly it will be the base for a very strong majority for the Catalan State. The popular mandate to the Parliament has been clear.

Now that independence support has been measured it needs to be translated into political change.

Catalonia’s next goal: to become a European State

Two eventful weeks of September

The huge demonstration on September 11th has been the turning point. 2 million people peacefully marching down the streets of Barcelona which made it to newspapers all over the world.

I couldn’t make it to the demonstration itself, since at the moment I live and work in England but I was there on the weekend of the 14th and the main topic of convesation with everybody I spoke with (an african friend who runs a restaurant, my hairdresser, relatives, a friend) was independence. Without me even having to raise the topic.

The ANC organised the referendum and now it is the time of the politicians. President Mas has taken the challenge. This has surprised many people. Including, I have to admit, myself. Especially since he declined to go to the demonstration. I don’t know if he was planning from the beginning to do what he did or he was overwhelmed by the demonstration and decided to take action. We may never know.

It is also true that Mas had not much more choice than doing what he did. After the demonstration he had no more room to approve budget cuts while closing those deals with PP and the nth humiliation was having to request the bailout from the Spanish Government which is like having to ask a loan from the burglars who emptied your house.

Mas’ is a smart decision and also a brave one and now he knows the country backs him. A better decision than being caught by the tsunami and disappear politically. Not doing what he did would have left him this week limited to discuss all the unpopular budget cuts from the last two years without a light at the end of the tunnel and with the European bailout to Spain threatening to weaken Catalonia even more.

On november 20th, thursday last week Mas and Rajoy had a meeting where Mas requested Rajoy, as agreed by the Catalan Parliament, that Catalonia should manage all its taxes. In the same fashion as the Basque Country and Navarre already do. And Rajoy said it was impossible. This had been Mas’ main promise two years ago to win the elections. Since this failed it was time for elections.

On tuesday during the annual general politics debate at the Catalan Parliament Mas made a historical speech [ca]. He said that “the time has come for Catalonia to exercise its right to self determination”. Mas called for early elections which will be held on November 25th. The last ones for Mas, as he said he won’t run again for President after Catalonia’s national transition was complete.

On wednesday Mas clarified that he wants for Catalonia the same status as any other European nation [ca]. Like Denmark, Slovenia or the Netherlands. He also clarified that if there is a qualified majority of deputies in the Parliament a self determination referendum will be held whether Spain allows it or not. And for that, the Catalan parties CiU, ERC, SI and ICV have agreed to make a joint statement today [ca] to explain further how the process will take place.

Spain, has hurried to say that such a referendum would be illegal and newspaper El Mundo has gone as far as to threaten Mas with jail and Catalonia with military intervention [ca] should the process continue.

I have criticised Mas in the past for his vagueness and lack of decisiveness but these last two weeks he has proved that he wants to lead Catalonia’s national transition to become a european state. If he continues down this path he’ll have the people’s support.


The reactions from Spain

While the debate about independence goes on in a completely normal and democratic way in Catalonia Spain has so far behaved according to the script. Hysterically. In ways more according to the XIX century.

The Spanish King, going beyond his duties as Head of the Spanish State wrote a shocking political note against the process going on in Catalonia. At least by picking that side we know now that the future Catalan State will be a Republic. I can’t help but wonder where was he while the Catalan Statute of Autonomy was cut? or where is he, in his position as head of the spanish army, while military threats are sent on a daily basis? he has not raised his voice about those.

The rest of responses from Spain from politicians, newspapers or TVs have also been hysterical so far. Ranging from the calls to military intervertion [ca], to explaining how Catalonia would be expelled from the EU and banned by Spain. Attempting to instill fear by saying that Catalonia would not be financially viable as an independent state (but without explaining why). Using the Spanish Constitution as a hammer to say that independence from Spain is impossible, that it would be illegal. PSOE leader in Extremadura Guillermo Fernández has gone as far as to suggest that the 150000 people from his region who emigrated to Catalonia during the 50s and 60s should be deported back to Extremadura should Catalonia become independent(!).

Some spanish politicians are timidly hinting that a solution may be to convert Spain into a federal country. A solution that until 2 weeks ago had no advocates in Spain, only in Catalonia. But it looks, by the vagueness of what they propose that it’s just yet another distraction manouvre. Federal countries are always a free union of States, not the case of Spain. Plus Spain has used the anti catalan hatred so much that the public opinion would never accept such a deal.

But the most shocking so far, not one single argument for Catalonia to stay in Spain formulated in positive. All of them based on fear, imposition and negativity. Spain refuses to enter the debate, I wonder if it may be because they have nothing to offer?

Spain has always perceived negotiation as a weakness. Having lived in Mexico, and having learned from their process to independence I know this is the typical reaction from Spain. What is surprising is that Spain hasn’t learned a single thing in all these centuries. But that is something they will have to deal with by themselves. Catalonia can’t waste any more time in a failed state that works against its interests and shows such a lack of democratic culture.