Catalonia’s 21300 million euros fiscal deficit

Emili Valdero

The best video I’ve ever seen that explains in very plain (pardon the pun) terms the financial reasons for Catalonia’s independence is Emili Valdero’s presentation, you don’t need to be Catalan to understand it. Emili Valdero is a catalan economist, university professor and former member of the catalan government. And he repeats this speech in every act of the Catalan independentist political association (link in catalan).

Below is a 5 minutes excerpt of Emili’s presentation with english and catalan subtitles (although Youtube allows you to instantly translate it to any other language).

Amongst some facts it mentions that it costs each catalan citizen 3000 euros every year to be part of Spain, or in another terms the catalan fiscal deficit, the amount the Catalans give Spain that never comes back, is of 21300 million euros every year. This represents 10% of Catalonia’s GDP. In comparison federal states like Germany, the USA or Canada limit by law wealth redistribution from richer to poorer states to a maximum of 4%, 4.5% and 2% respectively since it is acknowledged that a greater amount would severely affect the richer’s states economy and their ability to keep generating wealth. In Spain there’s no limit to these redistributions.

As a result of this deficit Catalan infrastructures and social welfare including airports, motorways, trains, public transportation, education, public healthcare suffer from a chronic lack of funding that most of Spain doesn’t and this becomes even worse in the middle of a strong crisis like we are now. This is threatening Catalonia’s survival and financial viability. Catalonia needs solutions to its own problems from a Catalan point of view, not from a Spanish point of view.

If Catalonia became independent it would automatically increase its government’s budget by 70% and it would instantly become the 4th state in average income in the euro EU. More or less like the Netherlands, not a bad start.

The title to this article: “Catalonia is the most generous territory in the world” is a quote from the video. It’s an irony since generosity tends to be a voluntary act. When you have no say in these affairs, just like the Catalans, I would rather call it theft.

Why Catalans want Independence, explained by an English writer

Matthew Tree

One of the easiest ways to understand something is to have someone explain it to you from your point of view. That’s why I think the text “Life on the receiving end” by Matthew Tree is so good. It is based on a speech he gave on November 2008 at the London School of Economics.

Matthew Tree is an english writer who has lived in Catalonia for 25 years and speaks and writes in English and Catalan and he explains the Catalan situation in such a way that it is very easy for anyone to understand why Catalans desire indepedence.

I include two excerpts of his speech:

“Put bluntly, the Catalans are tiring of a tiring situation that has gone on for far, far too long. Of the six million odd citizens who have the vote, over two million now want outright independence, with a further two million remaining undecided. Even us foreigners, voteless though we are, have been canvassed. A majority of Latin Americans, it turns out, would prefer to stay in Spain, whereas the Eastern Europeans, for example, are largely in favour of secession. As is at least one long-term English
resident. Especially since less than 40% of the Spanish population would favour an armed intervention should Catalonia and the Basque Country raise their hands to wave goodbye. ”

“I never realised just how much this was the case, until something similar happened to me. Here we have the Catalan original of a novel published in 2001, ‘Privilegiat’. The biographical blurb is standard: Taught himself Catalan in 1979, published this, that and the other (Catalan titles given), contributed stories to these anthologies, bla bla bla, contributes to this and that newspaper and this and that radio station (their names given, identifying them as Catalan language media). OK.
This is the Castilian version: born in London, writer, contributor to newspapers and radios. He has lived in Barcelona since 1984. Not a single mention of the fact that I had at the time published three books in Catalan, contributed stories to five others, and worked for the Catalan media. Nothing. No mention of the dreaded C-word.

And that is precisely where the problem lies at heart. Just to live in and form no matter how modest a part of the Catalan cultural universe, is in itself seen as indifferent or undesirable or politically incorrect or downright distasteful or even bloody horrible in monolingual Spain. Yet at the same time, in Catalonia we are bombarded with reminders, some of them laced with slights, that we form part of Spain and should therefore behave in a more Spanish way than we do.

I put it to you that this is an untenable situation, which sooner or later will have the kind of consequences that will make headlines around the world – at least for a day – given that they will involve a new place being laid at the table of the United Nations. What I’m sure everybody wants – and I include the vast majority of the inhabitants of monolingual Spain – is that in the photographs accompanying the banner print, there will be no violent scenes, no rumbling tanks, no cadavers on the streets of Barcelona.
Your turn. ”

Read the full article here

Polls show that independence in Catalonia would win with 74% of the votes

Catalonia's independence poll

A poll published yesterday showed that 82.6% of Catalans want to democratically decide about the future of Catalonia and that 74% of the cast votes would go towards independence with the yes being chosen by 50.3% of the people. The poll was commissioned by the Generalitat and performed by UOC in a sample of 2600 people with a 2% error margin.

Independentism has been increasing in recent times in Catalonia, especially since the last Catalan Statute was negotiated. This law that defines Catalonia’s self government inside the Spanish State was heavily watered down once it reached the Spanish parliament and now rumours say that the Spanish Constitutional Court, a highly biased and repeatedly discredited court by their delay of more than 3 years to pass a sentence, will further cut down the Catalan Statute that already was popularly accepted in a referendum held in Catalonia.

This has had as the obvious consequence of generating more and more dissatisfaction and independentism in Catalonia since the Catalans perceive that their generosity towards Spain is not only not reciprocated but anticatalanism is a recurrent tool in Spanish politics as a means to gain votes.

The consequences of this strategy are showing in the polls and a great increase in the independentist option in the last few months reveals that Catalonia is walking towards organising itself as a new state inside the European Union.

Last September a little village, Arenys de Munt, organised a Referendum of Independence. The disproportionate reaction of the Spanish institutions gave the event a massive amount of publicity and now, on December the 13th, 170 villages and towns across Catalonia have organised themselves to hold similar referendums. More municipalities in Catalonia will hold referendums next February and April showing that independence is an important concern within the Catalan society and urging Catalan politicians to act.

Catalonia is not Spain, the Centelles example

The Centelles' archive

Agustí Centelles was a photographer who took 10000 pictures in Barcelona during the Civil War, he died in 1985. In 1939 he fled to France and took 6000 of those negatives with him. The Spanish Fascist army seized the remaining pictures and took them to Salamanca to remain part of the Salamanca Papers, the documents stolen to the Catalan Generalitat to be used as part of the post war repression that were recently returned to their original owners after much controversy in Spain. Agustí kept those negatives hidden in France for 40 years until after Franco‘s death.

This week it’s been made public that the Spanish Ministry of Culture has paid Centelles’ sons 700000 euros for his father’s collection. It has also been made public that the Catalan Generalitat was also under negotiations and had so far offered 500000 euros but the Spanish Ministry of Culture has outbid the Generalitat without previously notifying them. The Minister of Culture, González Sinde, has announced the negatives will be moved to Salamanca. This can only be interpreted as a sinister “compensation” to the city for the “loss” of the stolen Papers.

The Centelles negatives are part of Catalonia’s cultural legacy and the money the Spanish government has used to pay for them comes from Catalonia. There is no reason for those pictures not to stay where they belong and Centelles himself would have rather burnt them than see them in the hands of the Spanish.

Yet another example that for non tax collection matters the Spanish know Catalonia is not Spain.

Spanish fury unleashed after all Catalan newspapers defend the Statute

Editorial en defensa de l'estatut.

Today all catalan newspapers have published a joint editorial titled “La Dignitat de Catalunya” (Catalan language version) or check here Catalonia’s Dignity, a translation into english.

That article is a defense of the Catalan Statue that was passed by the Catalan and Spanish Parliaments and then approved in a referendum by the Catalans. This text was already an extremely watered down version of the text originally approved by the Catalan Parliament which Zapatero had promised to approve without any changes but finally didn’t and had to endure very difficult negotiations that had as a result the elimination of its most important points that would have increased Catalonia’s self governance both financially and in its identity and cultural aspects to move it a little bit closer to normal federal states.

PP appealed the Catalan Statute to the Spanish Constitutional Court since they believed the text doesn’t comply with the Spanish Constitution but mostly following their usual attitude against anything that comes from Catalonia since many Autonomous Communities, following Catalonia’s lead, renewed their Statute with similar articles but PP didn’t appeal those.

No court has any legitimacy to deny what has been approved by the Parliaments and the people. The citizens’ will is the base of any democracy. With only 10 out of 12 positions currently filled and with five of them holding expired positions the Spanish Constitutional Court is formed by extremely policitally biased members that were nominated exclusively by the two main Spanish parties, PSOE and PP and is basically doing the dirty work that the Spanish Parliament didn’t do since it would have been unpopular with the Catalans.

Even though the current Statute is not really the tool that the Catalans need right now since it is so watered down that it won’t improve anything it was approved by the Catalans and therefore it should be respected. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court have filtered information to the Spanish media that they will cut most of its main articles.

In an attempt to influence this soon to come sentence all Catalan newspapers, even the ones with a more openly unionist profile, like La Vanguardia or El Periódico have published the same editorial appealing to Catalonia’s dignity so that the Constitutional Court doesn’t tamper the Catalan Statute.

This has had an immediate reaction from the Spanish media which and have published very aggressive editorials. Following is an excerpt of the first reaction in El Mundo: “What’s at stake is not “Catalonia’s dignity”, as these colleagues say, but the attempt of a political oligarchy to control the Catalan society by means of a Statute designed to distance it from the rest of Spain at the expense of breaking the Constitutional order and the model of democratic coexistence”. Other reactions include declarations by popular Spanish radio presenter Federico Jiménez Losantos saying that the Catalan society is “sick” and that the Spanish are “the jews of the Catalan nazis”.

While I agree that most Catalan newspapers are not independent what doesn’t make sense are the accusations of wanting to destroy Spain since the Catalan government is currently in the hands of a unionist party, the PSOE of Catalonia.

Therefore, what is the conclusion that the Catalan society has to extract from this? The certainty that the Spanish don’t seem to understand or respect that Catalonia is a nation and every attempt from the Catalans to try to fit more comfortably in Spain has always been received with extreme aggressivity or war

How much longer will the Catalans’ patience last?

Catalonia’s independence, size doesn’t matter

Xavier Sala i Martin

I believe that the most important reason that will bring Catalonia‘s independence is not the desire to preserve its identity, its cultural heritage and history or even its language. What will bring the independence will be the realisation that it is not only economically viable but extremely important and desirable to achieve it as soon as possible to stop the financial choking that results from not being an independent state.

Xavier Sala-i-Martín is a respected catalan economist, one of the most quoted economists in the world and professor of economics at Columbia University, also known for his flashy suits and for being part of the Barça management.

In 1998 he gave a speech about the economic viability of Catalonia’s independence that I find very interesting today because many people who are still against it claim that since Catalonia would become a small country its economic viability is not clear.

In that speech he compared Catalonia’s case another successful european small country: Switzerland. However, in my opinion that is not the only example, there are many other similar examples of successful countries of a similar size such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden or Belgium, amongst others and concludes that when it comes to independence size doesn’t matter. I personally think that it would also be a better way to deal with the challenges of globalisation.

He goes on to analyse more arguments that unionists have traditionally given against Catalonia’s independence. They claim that since Catalonia’s biggest market is Spain becoming independent would lead to the loss of the Spanish market and therefore its economy would collapse. Sala-i-Martin argues that this is partly true since some people would actively boycott Catalan products for a while. However, this is unsustainable in the long run. Spanish people choose Catalan products not because they are Catalan but because they are the best in their market and so they’d still be after the independence. On the other hand Catalan economy is less dependent every year of Spain because it is highly internationalised compared to how it was 30 years ago coming out of 40 years of isolation due to Franco‘s dictatorship.

These are a few of the arguments against Catalonia’s independence that he countered in his speech. In case you are still undecided I invite you to read the original article in Catalan or in English and find out for yourself.

I’m Catalan, I love freedom

I'm Catalan I love freedom

Last week, on November the 11th, it was the anniversary of the end of World War I. That date changed Europe’s map forever and meant the birth of several European states linke Finland, Poland or Hungary.

On that day and under the motto “I’m Catalan I love freedom” a group of Catalans flew to Brussels to give every eurodeputy a copy of the book “10000 Catalans a Brusel.les” (10000 Catalans in Brussels). A photobook about the demonstration that happened in Brussels earlier this year where thousands of Catalans flew over to Brussels to say that we also want a state.

After giving the book they also had some things to say. First they played a video of Pau Casals’ speech in the UN and later Toni Strubell delivered an inspiring speech of which I have reproduced a fragment here:

“… Catalans are here today because they have always been present where the cause of Freedom has been an issue. They were amongst the first nations to oppose feudalism. They opposed absolute monarchy in the War of Spanish Succession. They were amonst the first to face Fascism in the mid-19 thirties. There were more Catalan victims at Auschwitz and Mauthausen than there were of many other European Union countries and it was a Catalan photographer, Francesc Boix, who made known to the world the horrors of the latter camp. Catalans have always seen humanitarian causes and their national freedom as one cause.

Last Monday, popular Catalan journalist Joan Barril wrote in his El Periódico column: “We are happy that the (Berlín) wall fell, but the Valle de los Caídos –the State tomb of Franco– still stands” with all its honours. “We are emoted by the heroic stories of fugitive German escaping from East Berlin” wrote Barril “but Spanish judges still fail to do justice to the Historic Memory. We love to proclaim our hate for Hitler, but in many Spanish cities there continue to be avenues bearing the name of Francisco Franco, a dictator who had no qualms about sending his troops to fight on the Russian front”. Some even have the doubtful distinction of having street names dedicated to military units that fought against the Allies in World War II.

Some may say this is accidental and anecdotic. They may point to a Law has just been passed, allegedly to correct this. But this is no accident. The Law they are referring to fails to make any real enforcement for democratic regeneration as was conducted in Germany, Argentina or South Africa once democracy returned. To start with, this Law does not annul, albeit symbolically, the death and prison penalties applied against hundreds of thousands of Republicans after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Incredible though it may seem to any democrat, the State Attorney in whose hands the decision to annul these laws was put, is actually the grandson of one of the most cruel Military Attorneys of Franco’s bloodiest reprisal period. Even more worrying is the fact that Spanish president Zapatero should have publicly stated that to annul these sentences would be tantamount to questioning the foundation on which Constitutional Spain is now built. Amongst the thousands of death sentences that are still in force – sixty-nine years later- is that of Catalan President Lluís Companys. For him and others, the afore-mentioned Law forsees that his “rehabilitation” must be based on the issue of a humiliating good conduct certificate for those presenting “exonerating proof” for their relatives. Can anyone imagine Angela Merkel stooping to such connivence with the heirs of Hitler and Mussolini in enacting the pseudo-rehabilitation of their German or Italian democratic opponents today? This is only possible in Spain where Franco’s granddaughter appears on TV chat shows and where negationism is not a crime but a regular media practice as has recently been reported by Alex Rietman on Holand’s Radio1.

No. This is no accident. This is the very stuff Spain’s democratic deficit is made of. The world should know that the only individual facing charges associated with the mass graves of Franco -the vast majority of which, including Valencia’s, with over 26,000 known victims, are still uninvestigated- is the one judge who took steps to enable their possible investigation. Europe should know this. Why is Spain so absolutely unable to overcome its authoritarian past? And why does Europe turn a blind eye to this in contrast with the recommendations of the Committee for Human Rights of the United Nations, which in October 2008 brought out a document urging Spain to do justice to Franco’s victims, denouncing the fact that a law of 1977 should have granted amnesty for all crimes committed during the Dictatorship? …”

Read Toni Strubell’s full article

Catalonia will soon vote to ban bullfighting

It seems that finally December the 15th might be the date chosen for the Catalan Parliament for the first round of voting for the law that will finally ban bullfighting in Catalonia. Citizens can request a law to be voted by the Parliament by popular demand by collecting signatures. In this case the Prou! (Catalan for Enough!) platform collected 180.000 signatures in Catalonia, three times more than required.

Bullfighting is considered the Spanish national sport and inherent part of their culture and even though in the beginning of the 20th century it was also popular in Catalonia since Franco promoted it as a symbol of fascist Spain most Catalans found it offensive and progressively lost interest in it. Catalonia has always been more progressive than Spain and therefore popular rejection to this cruel and violent show has been a fact for decades.

However, there are still two bullfighting rings in Barcelona, Las Arenas hasn’t hosted a “corrida” since 1990 and is currently being turned into a shopping center and La Monumental, which occasionally hosts shows attended mostly by drunk and disoriented tourists who believe they are in Spain and therefore attending a bullfighting show is what you do here.

For many this is also an identity struggle, the Spanish parties in the Catalan Parliament: PSOE of Catalonia, PP and Ciutadans have delayed the voting as much as they’ve been legally able to by presenting amendments (link in catalan). This shows how the Spanish parties in Catalonia even without any kind of popular support try to boycott this popular initiative as they know this voting will make more clear the differences between Catalonia and Spain to the international community.

Whereas ERC, ICV will vote for the ban as a block the Spanish PP and Ciutadans will vote against it. The two major parties, PSOE of Catalonia and CiU will allow their deputies freedom of voting according to their own beliefs but CiU’s votes might be enough to pass the law.

The second and final round of voting will probably be next spring or summer. Let’s hope that next year bullfighting in Catalonia will be a thing of the past.

Here’s a link to an article on the subject by Time magazine.

Joan Laporta, the president of Barça, the most famous catalan independentist


Joan Laporta is the most famous catalan independentist. His position as president of Barça makes him without a doubt the catalan person with the greatest international projection.

Joan Carreteto, leader of Reagrupament, recently declared that “being the president of Barça is a thousand times more important position than the Catalan President” (link in catalan). Meaning that everyone in the world knows what Barça is but it is very difficult to explain abroad the exact description of the Generalitat which is currently nothing more than a Spanish regional institution. This didn’t sit well with the political establishment either. Admitting the truth always hurts.

While Spanish football club presidents don’t have any problem in reaffirming their Spanish nationalism those same people find it inappropiate that a person with the public display and responsibility of Joan Laporta declares himself openly Catalan independentist. Laporta been lately invited to several public acts related with the Catalan independence and everywhere he’s gathered great media attention. Like the protest on the Catalan National Day, september the 11th or the memorial to Lluís Companys, the Catalan President whom Franco had executed by firing squad after the Spanish Civil War.

Today he’s declared that “He’ll go into politics if Catalonia wants a leader, not a martyr” (link in Spanish) and that while he was very confident that he knew all there was to know to do an excellent job for Barça he’s not so sure about jumping into politics but he also has declared that Catalonia has gone backwards in the last few years and needs a change. Xavier Sala-i-Martín, one of the most important economists in the world and member of the Barça management, recently declared that “if Joan Laporta goes into politics he’ll do an excellent job”. (link in Catalan)

A recent poll has revealed that as of now approximately 12% of voters would give him their support (link in Catalan) even before he’s even said what he’s going to do. This hasn’t sit well with the Catalan political establishment since he would certainly be a disruptive force. There’s one certainty, whatever he does he’ll attract the media attention and he’ll keep supporting Catalonia’s independence.

Perpinyà on the 350 anniversary of the Treaty of the Pyrenees

Perpinyà, La Catalana

Today it’s the 350 anniversary of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (link in Catalan) and the French occupation of the Catalan northern territories. With this treaty France and Spain, after a succession war, split Catalonia in two by separating the northern counties of Rosselló and half of Cerdanya from the rest of the Catalan nation. The treaty specified that the Catalan institutions had to be respected but this wasn’t the case and France dissolved them. Over the centuries this has resulted in an impoverishment of the region which passed from being a rich manufacturing center to a rural area with 20% chronic unemployment thanks to the French efforts towards destroying its identity and converting Northern Catalonia into another French province.

However, the bonds between the northern and southern Catalonia were strong and the culture has been preserved until nowadays. The biggest city of the area is Perpinyà, La Catalana. Which hosts USAP, one of the best rugby clubs in europe and champions of the 2009 french rugby league.

Today there’s a demonstration in Perpinyà (link in Catalan) and several other acts and cultural activities organized in favour of the Catalan culture and the unity of the Catalan nation. The demonstration slogans are “350 years of resistance” and “Let’s erase the Treaty of the Pyrenees”.

USAP rugby fans
USAP rugby fans

A high speed train will soon connect Perpinyà with downtown Barcelona making the commute a 45 minutes trip. The construction is expected to finish in two years therefore strengthening the bonds between the Northern and Southern Catalonia.