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.

#11s2012 , a demonstration to place Catalonia’s independence on the horizon

If you have landed on this page today it may very well be because you want to know more about the huge demonstration that is taking place in Barcelona under the motto “Catalonia, a new European State”.

September 11th is for Catalans the anniversary of the loss of our Constitution after the Spanish invasion in 1714. We will commemorate this defeat until we recover our sovereignty.

Today’s demonstration has been organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and will probably be one of the biggest in European history and will definitely be a turning point for Catalonia and hopefully the start of the last stage before independence.

With that in mind I’ll try to summarize the situation.

  • History

    Catalonia is an old European country in the north eastern corner of the Iberian peninsula. With its own culture, language, traditions and history.

    It used to be independent until almost 300 hundred years ago when it was invaded by Castillian and French armies and forced to become part of the Spanish state losing its centuries long Constitution and institutions.

    Throughout all these centuries Spain has not exactly excelled as a democratic state and because of that until now Catalans have not had a chance to democratically express whether they want want to have their state back or not.

  • The Autonomous Communities

    Franco led a 40 years long fascist dictatorship regime in Spain which brutally repressed the Catalan nation and its culture. After its death, in order to dilute the self government devolution to Catalans and Basques, the only ones who wanted it, Spain granted the same status to several Spanish provinces and thus 17 Autonomous Communities were created.

    However, because the Spanish state was still deeply rooted in Franco’s regime Catalonia was not able to negotiate a fair deal. The proof was the military coup from 1983 which had the immediate consequence of rolling back a great deal of Catalonia’s self government.

    The Spanish Autonomous Communities have been for the last 3 decades a source of political corruption and overspending. Ruled by the same parties that have led Spain to this deep crisis.

    Now with the excuse that these Autonomous Communities have overspent Spain attempts also to roll Catalan self government back.

  • The Catalan Statute of Autonomy

    In 2006 Catalan citizens voted in a referendum for a new Statute of Autonomy that would grant a slightly fairer relationship with Spain, including an equal status for Catalan and Spanish languages. The core aspects of this statute were declared inconstitutional and rejected by a highly politicized Spanish Constitutional Court.

    As a consequence of this the Catalan education system is also threatened. An internationally praised system which guarantees that children are fluent in both Catalan and Spanish, therefore avoiding discrimination to everyone regardless of their origins, was also declared inconstitutional.

    Catalan speaking TV channels have been closed down in the Valencian Country and Balearic Islands in order to erode the share of the already weakened Catalan language, which suffers under the pressure of the Spanish language without the protection of a friendly state.

  • Hatred against Catalonia

    Catalanophobia, or antiCatalan hatred and xenophobia is regularly used by Spanish politicians and media and is ingrained in the Spanish collective consciousness. It is also instigated regularly in the social networks with no action taken by the Spanish authorities to tackle it.

    Regularly we have samples of abuse, violence, military threats and aggression towards Catalonia and Catalan people just for being what they are. (more examples, here and here)

  • Financial situation

    Spain is not a federal country. 95% of taxes are collected by the Spanish Government and there is no control mechanism which regulates how they are redistributed. There is no transparency either.

    As a result of this Catalonia suffers an unparalleled fiscal plundering by Spain, around 40% of taxes Catalans pay Madrid never come back. This amounts to approximately 8% of Catalonia’s GDP or 16 billion euros every year.

    The Generalitat, the Catalan Government, only has decision power to spend, not to collect taxes. Even though it manages the most expensive services States provide (education, healthcare, police and firemen, amongst others).

    The population of Catalonia has increased by about a million people in the last 10 years. Being now roughly 7.5 million. Because of this the spenditure needs have increased.

    No economy is sustainable if it is drained 8% of its resources every year. This is the main cause of the current indebtment of 40 billion euros of the Catalan Government.

    By starving it of its resources the Spanish government have forced Catalonia to request a bailout and are trying to use it as an excuse to roll its self government back.

    This bailout would not have been necessary had Catalonia had the tools to manage its own resources, since it is a net contributor to the Spanish finances.

  • Current situation

    However, all the violence and repression exerted to dilute its personality and culture these last 3 centuries have not succeeded.

    Catalan is today a vibrant culture and the language number 13 in Europe. However, it is not one of its 23 official european languages by decision of Spain, which blocks it.

    Catalan is not official in Spain either, in the Catalan countries under Spanish rule (Valencian Country, Balearic Islands and Catalonia) it is only co-oficial and even though it is the only language native to Catalonia it enjoys a lower legal status than Spanish.

  • Referendum

    Catalans want to democratically express the right to self determination, which Spain doesn’t allow.

    For the last two years all serious polls made by newspapers, universities and official institutions reveal that an overwhelming majority of Catalans would vote for Catalonia to become a new European state. The latest official poll shows the following distribution of votes: 51% yes, 21% no, 21% undecided (CA).

    Catalonia has the same right as any other nation to democratically decide its future. We are not better than any other European country, but no less either.

  • The Catalan Republic

    Spain is a bad business for Catalonia. It denies our culture, identity and drains us from our resources. We have tried everything. It has been proven that staying in Spain is a completely non viable option to fulfill our national aspiration to be a normal country.

    The only thing we haven’t been able to try in 300 years is to have our own state. And right now it seems the only reasonable choice.

    The future Catalan State will be a serious and solvent country in the Southern European area with a strong, exports oriented and diversified economy. It will be a net contributor to the European Union and will contribute to Europe’s stability thus making it stronger.

    We want the right to make our own mistakes, and to enjoy our successes.

    To have a place next to all the other nations of the world. For our voice to be heard.

Spanish police beat young man up in Madrid for waving a Catalan flag during football match

Through Vilaweb I read that ERC have denounced that a young Catalan man was beaten up by the Spanish police after waving a Catalan flag during the Spanish King’s Cup Final in Madrid last friday. The policemen ordered him to give them the flag. He refused so they took him away and was beaten up by 6 policemen causing cuts and swelling in his face. When he was on the floor and somebody passed by on the other side of a fence, they lifted him kept beating him up and said “Look how we beat this Pole (way Spanish refer to Catalans as an insult) up”. Once again he was lying on the floor and they said to him “C’mon wave you flag now dirty Catalan!” They took him away and spent the night in a cell at the police headquarters. A friend of his was witness to the beating and even though he tried to record it the policemen took his phone away and deleted it.

This was not the only case reported of Catalan supporters being beaten up by the Spanish police on friday.

Catalan deputies Joan Tardà and Ramon Tremosa are taking these cases of racist violence to the Spanish Congress and European Commission.

All of this happened in Madrid only a few hours after a fascist demonstration went down the streets of Madrid (ca) I made a post about it here.

Also, has denounced that twitter was full of racist comments from people asking for a bomb to explode in the stadium to kill the Catalan and Basque supporters.

Practical guide for Spanish governments on how to increase Catalan independentism

I have come to the conclusion that the Spanish Government are infiltrated Catalan independentists plotting to get Catalonia out of Spain as quickly as possible. You may be tempted to think I have completely lost it but it is the only conclusion I can reach after carefully analysing some of their actions in the last year only:

1- ignore all claims to negotiate a fair financial deal with the area which produces most of the exports in your state so that they can produce and export more, generate employment, increase your tax income and get you out of the crisis

2- attempt to minoritize even more their beloved language by sabotaging their educational system by attempting to enforce language segregation instead of fixing the real problems that make you score at the bottom of the PISA report

3- insist on squandering billions of public money to build the longest high speed train network in Europe which has already proven a financial disaster instead of building the mediterranean freight railway line that would boost trade and exports (as the European Union is asking (ca))

4- instead of increasing infrastructure investment in your most dynamic area to boost its economy reduce it by 45% (ca) while only reducing it on average by 24% in the rest of the state

5- plunder 8% of that area’s GDP for the last 30 years and at the same time accuse them of being the culprits of the crisis. Top it by threatening to intervene them even though they are the only ones having acted responsibly and started reducing their budget one year before you did

6- bail out Madrid’s toll roads by extending the toll road concessions of Catalan toll roads (ca). Making Catalans, who already have 67% of the toll roads in the Spanish State, pay also for Madrid’s toll roads (Catalans were already paying for Spain’s non toll roads through their taxes)

7- refuse to pay 1.4 billion euros you owe the Catalan government claiming that because of the crisis there is no money left. Immediately afterwards bail out Madrid-government controlled savings bank with 10 billion euros of taxpayers’ money.

8- sabotage Barcelona’s airport international connections to favour Madrid’s expansion using a government controlled agency, AENA. (Being, together with Portugal and Romania the exceptions to the rule in Europe, where airport competition is encouraged)

9- block international recognition of Catalan language in Europe instead of being proud of having such a cultural asset and promoting it

10- reply the increase of Catalan independentism by threatening with economic and physical violence (for example, here and here)

10- finally, get your head of state and his family members involved in several scandals within a few weeks: corruptions charges in cases involving public money, underage people getting shot while playing with guns, being caught hunting endangered species in exotic countries. And to make things worse do all of this in the midst of an unprecedented crisis when you should be closely following what is going on.

They deserve my applause. Way to go Mr Rajoy!

Public reply to the Wall Street Journal

This is in reply to an article published on the WSJ on April the 16th 2012: Pressure on Spain builds as bonds face key auction

First of all, Spain is not a decentralised country. Only spending is decentralised but taxes are collected by the Spanish government and then redistributed. This redistribution means that every year for the last 30 years Spain extracts 8% of Catalonia’s GDP which never comes back. This means 40% of all Catalan taxpayer’s money goes to Madrid and never comes back. Or another way of looking at it, it cost every Catalan person 2200 euros to be part of Spain in 2009. Clearly unsustainable. I explained this in more detail here.

Spain applies the same treatment to the other Catalan speaking countries: the Valencian Country and Balearic Islands. Instead of reinvesting in their most dynamic areas they impoverish them by depleting their resources. This year Spain has reduced Catalonia’s budget for infrastructures by 45% compared to last year. Even though Catalonia is responsible for 20% of Spain’s GDP and 26% of its exports only receives 10% of the infrastructures investment. At the same time Spain keep boosting their delirious nationalistic infrastructures policy by building a high speed train to Galicia.

If we look at Catalonia, its debt problem would be easily solved by stopping the resources plundering, which amounts to 16.4bn euro only in 2009. Then its 48bn euro debt would be inexistent and it would instead show a superavit.

Overall, Spanish Autonomous Communities only account for around 20% of the overall Spanish debt. In most of them they’ve had PP governments (or PSOE in the others, which also means Spanish nationalist governments). Therefore claiming that the “regions” are the culprits for the debt issue is just wanting to look for a scapegoat (Catalonia) and not acknowledging that Spanish nationalism is the only one to blame for this.

Last year Catalonia was the only Automous Community to make a budget cut, 10% of its spending, and took some very unpopular measures, like reducing Catalan Civil Servant’s salaries and cutting on healthcare and education budgets.

In the meantime Spanish Autonomous Communities are doing the opposite. Andalucía for instance, are expanding their budget for 2012. Spain hasn’t reduced Civil Servants’ salaries and amongst some of the first measures to take should be reducing the amount of Ministries that have no real job because healthcare, education or housing are responsibilities of the Autonomous Communities. Reducing spending in the military, for instance, and boosting investment in its most dynamic areas to get out of the crisis. Instead they are doing quite the opposite driven by a nationalist agenda.

Catalonia has been the only responsible entity in Spain. Therefore, painting a picture in which all the regions are culprits, is a means to achieve the end to attack Catalonia’s self government. But this has nothing to do with the crisis and will not improve Spain’s finances. It only serves to reinforce their Spanish nationalist discourse and to divert public attention from the Spanish government incompetence and the real causes of the crisis.

Today is the 81st anniversary of the proclamation of the Catalan Republic

“Catalans, interpretant els sentiments i els anhels del poble que ens acaba de donar el seu sufragi proclamo la República Catalana” (“Catalans, interpreting the feelings and their yearning of the people who have given us their vote I proclaim the Catalan Republic”).

It only lasted for a few days. The Catalan President Francesc Macià declared a Catalan Republic, a state within an Iberian Federation. As usual, Spain threatened military intervention and he had to back off.

Recording of his speech (sorry, no english subtitles):

And through Wikipedia I find an article on the New York Times talking about it.

Latest calculations of Catalonia’s fiscal deficit with Spain

Catalan Minister of Finance Andreu Mas-Colell presented just about one month ago the calculations of the Catalan fiscal deficit with Spain until 2009. The original report can be found here. The results are along the lines that we already knew from before. The average fiscal deficit of Catalonia with Spain every year from 1986 until 2009 amounts to about 8% of the country’s GDP. The fiscal deficit with Spain in 2009 was 16409 million euros. Therefore being in Spain cost every Catalan person 2251 euros that year.

Spain has a system of centralised tax collection but decentralised spenditure, meaning that in the case of Catalonia, the Generalitat provides the most expensive services, like healthcare or education, but only collects around 5% of the taxes. The remaining 95% are collected by the Spanish Tax Ministry. This is not the case for the Basque Country and Navarre, which do collect their taxes.

The Spanish Central Government then decides how much goes to each Autonomous Community. This causes a redistribution of wealth resulting in public spenditure per person differing greatly from some Autonomous Communities to others. This “redistribution of weath”, is unlimited and uncontrolled. Meaning that there is no law to define how much of this forced “solidarity” is taken away every year to subsidize poorer Spanish Autonomous Communities or for how long this situation should continue to go on.

The Spanish system doesn’t respect several principles, first should be transparency. Secondly, this “redistribution” should have a limit so that it doesn’t hurt the economy of the “donor”. Obvioulsy 8% of Catalonia’s finances is too much. No economy can be unaffected by the loss of 8% of its resources every year for very long. Thirdly, the “principle of ordinality” is not respected. This means that a donor should never go down in the ranking of wealth because of wealth redistribution. However, Catalonia, compared with the Spanish Autonomous Communities goes from being the 3rd in the ranking before redistribution to the 11th, below the receivers.

This drainage results in Catalonia being the European region with the highest fiscal pressure. The newspaper El Punt Avui published a study by the Cercle Català de Negocis which calculated that 40% of the Catalan taxpayers’ money goes to Spain and never comes back.

This causes a mass destruction effect on the Catalan economy. For instance, last years’ Tsunami disaster in Japan caused it to lose an estimated between 3.6% to 5.7% of its yearly GDP.

In other european countries like for instance Germany, its richest land’s, Bavaria, fiscal deficit in 2010 was only 3491 million euros despite its economy almost doubling that of Catalonia in size. Compare that with Catalonia’s 16409 million euros.

The repeated efforts of the Catalan political forces to limit this to reasonable levels have always hit a wall, with the latest chapter being the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy being declared as unconstitutional in 2010 by the Spanish Constitutional Court after having been voted in a referendum by the Catalan people.

The Spanish government only has published this fiscal data once in the last 30 years, in 2008. Catalan parties keep demanding it to be published regularly but since the Spanish government has refused to do so the Generalitat has decided to publish them anyway.

On the report from 2008, which can be found here, and covered all Spanish Autonomous Communities, data showed that in terms of GDP, the main three net contributors within the Spanish State are the Catalan speaking Countries: Catalonia, Balearic Islands and Valencian Country. With the Balearic Islands fiscal deficit amounting to a whopping 14.20% of its GDP. The fourth contributor was Madrid, even though it is, on the other hand, greatly benefited by being the Spanish capital.

CEO poll shows sharp increase in support for Catalonia’s independence since June

The latest CEO (Opinion Studies Center) poll shows a sharp increase in votes for the independence option. On June 2011 60.33% of votes would have been yes while now this percentage has increased to 64.76%. You can download the full report in pdf format (in Catalan) from here. The results about the question on independence are on page 35.

The CEO is a public institution depending from the Generalitat de Catalunya and its polls are generally regarded as very accurate and not politically influenced. The poll was made using a sample of 2500 people and follows the trend of a sustained support for the independence of Catalonia. This is only the second time that the CEO includes a direct question about the independence but in the last couple of years there have been other polls made by universities and newspapers which showed similar results.

Below, the results from June’s CEO poll:

“In the last one hundred years, twenty-nine new states have been created in Europe”

Last Thursday saw the first conference on self-determination in Catalonia, organized by Sobirania i Justícia, and held at Palau Robert in central Barcelona. All sessions took place in English, and were given by an international assortment of academics and experts, whose field of knowledge stretched far beyond Catalonia.

The conference was not concerned with reasons and motivations for Catalans to seek independence, but instead focused on the practicalities of achieving it in a context altered almost beyond recognition in recent decades by globalization and the European Union. In his opening remarks at the afternoon session, Quim Torra, president of Sobirania i Justícia, addressed the commonly-stated belief that independence holds no place in the modern world by reminding attendees that “in the last one hundred years, twenty-nine new states have been created in Europe alone.”

Indeed, first speaker Dr. Charles E. Ehrlich, used Kosovo, the most famous state to gain independence in recent years, to raise many issues surrounding the process of independence. While acknowledging that the political situation in Kosovo was unique in many ways, he argued that there were nonetheless many lessons to be learned from the way in which the people of Kosovo sought to build a state both under the supervision of and independently from the United Nations, and a state moreover that would accommodate not only the Albanian majority, but the minority Serbian population of 5%. Drawing comparisons between Catalonia and Kosovo, Ehrlich suggested that Spain in the aftermath of Franco’s death occupied a roughly equivalent position to the UN in the Kosovo situation… that of heavy-handed regulation of the development of the democratic institutions.

Patrick Dumberry, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, focused more specifically on the Catalan situation in his address on the legal aspects of separation from Spain. He emphasized the necessity of a great deal of work on the part of the Catalans to ensure that other states, particularly European states and other world powers, will recognize Catalonia in the event of its succession. He addressed such open questions as those of territory, whether Catalonia would receive automatic membership in the EU or would have to reapply, and such issues as a possible
Catalan army, citizenship (and whether Spain would recognize dual citizenship), and potential trade barriers in the short term with Europe.

Describing himself as the “pessimist” of the conference, Dumberry nonetheless concluded that while many aspects of Catalan secession were illegal in Spanish and international law as it currently stood, this was not necessarily a problem provided that Catalonia were recognized by the international community, which he didn’t consider to be likely to cause many problems. The ascension of newly separated states into the existing European framework is untested waters in many particulars, Dumberry pointed out, but “either you or Scotland will be the first. I hope it’s you.”

Conclusions from the conference ran along the lines that preparation is key, and that the sooner Catalans begin preparing in earnest for the myriad of issues they will need to face in the event of secession from Spain, the easier that secession is likely to be.

Article and picture by Emily McBride. Emily is a Canadian who now calls Barcelona home. She holds an MSc in Urban Studies, writes freelance about tourism and style and is currently finishing her first children’s novel. Thanks Emily!