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 Reagrupament.cat (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.

The 13th-December Catalan Independence Referendum Campaign has started

13-D campaign starts in Barcelona

The campaign for the independence referendums in Catalonia that will take place on december the 13th has started. Yesterday more than 3500 people filled the “Fòrum de Barcelona” auditorium (link in Catalan) in what was a public presentation of the referendums organisation.

Amongst other people celebrities like Miquel Calçada, aka Mikimoto, a Catalan TV presenter or Carles Móra, the Mayor of Arenys de Munt, the little village that hosted the first referendum back in september spoke and said that: “We have gone past many stages with this initiative and the next one is the independence” he also said that “last week’s joint editorial is nothing but a desperate plea because they know the Statute is the last stop and that Catalonia’s dignity only has one name: Independence”.

A great amount of catalan intellectuals and celebrities like the catalan international actor Sergi López and catalan actor Joel Joan actively support the referendums.

At the meeting it was also announced that the collection of 500.000 signatures to force the Catalan Parliament deputies to discuss the independence.

Last week the Catalan press published a joint editorial pleading the Spanish Constitutional Court not to further cut the Catalan Statute since rumours were that after three years of deliberation the Court was finally ready to give a very restrictive sentence. This was an attempt of Catalan unionist media to stop the Catalan independentist movement by pleasing the public Catalan opinion but the Spanish media interpreted this as an attack and responded with extreme aggressivity.

Seems like December will be an interesting month for Catalonia. On December the 13th 161 villages and cities across Catalonia will host referendums of independence organised without any support of the political parties following the initiative started by Arenys de Munt and more than 700000 Catalans will have the right to vote. In December the 15th the first voting towards banning bullfighting in Catalonia will take place following a popular initiative that collected 180000 signatures.

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

Reagrupament accuses the PSOE of Catalonia of boycott to their political meetings

Palau Sant Jordi

Reagrupament (link in catalan), the independentist political party, have denounced that PSOE of Catalonia (link in Spanish) have denied them the rental of the stadium for a public act on Sant Jordi’s day, the saint patron of Catalonia, next April. The Spanish party PSC currently holds the Barcelona city council. Apparently Reagrupament made a prebooking (link in catalan) for that date through a management company but after they filled the required forms and revealed it was Reagrupament that the booking was for they were denied the rental of the stadium without any feasible explanation. Reagrupament denounce that this is a constant problem every time they try to organise activities in a city or village controlled by the PSOE of Catalonia.

Reagrupament is a political party that has been recently formed which has only two points in their political program. Firstly, to make a unilateral declaration of independence of Catalonia from the Catalan Parliament once there’s an independentist majority of deputies and secondly to regenerate the Catalan political system to increase its credibility and accountability.

Since they are a new political party still have no representation in the parliament although in a very short time they have gained great popularity within the hundreds of thousands of Catalan independentist voters that had stopped voting since there’s currently no party in the Catalan Parliament that actively works towards the independence.

Reagrupament has gathered more than 3000 affiliates in less than 6 months gaining more than 1300 in the last month and a half quickly bringing it close to become the 3rd or 4th party with the most affiliates in Catalonia. Since there’s still almost one year until the next Catalan elections are held it is likely they will be a disruptive force that will bring the independence to the first page of the Catalan political agenda and therefore it is under constant attack by the Spanish parties and even Catalan parties that fear they’ll lose a great share of power to Reagrupament.

Their attempt to rent Palau Sant Jordi, which can host up to 24.000 people, shows how much growth the independentist party is expecting to gain in the next few months.