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.

A Catalan odyssey to vote

Just got back from the Post Office. My vote is sent. This wasn’t easy.

Spain blocked the vote of the Catalan expats through bureaucracy so that only some 16000 Catalans have been able to vote. More than 140000 Catalan expats who requested to vote will not be able to do so. The issue has been denounced by the Catalan EuroMPs to the European Institutions. (ca)

In order to get my vote I had to personally go to London and spend a whole morning (more than 3 hours) at the Spanish Embassy going from one window to another, in 3 different floors, several queues and contradicting instructions.

Then they proceeded to send the vote 1 week after the legal deadline to do so.

Finally, the instructions to vote included in the documentation were wrong, and if followed, would invalidate your vote.

That is the concept of democracy in Spain.

In spite of all this here is my vote. For independence.

Oficialitat del Castellà, i si ho parlem més endavant?

He llegit l’article de l’Oriol Junqueras garantint la oficialitat del castellà al futur Estat Català. Tots sabíem que aquest debat arribaria tard o d’hora i com a líder d’ERC la posició de l’Oriol Junqueras té un gran impacte. Jo proposo que abans d’arribar a conclusions en parlem abans.

L’idioma és un tema important perquè en el cas de Catalunya aquest, i no l’etnicitat, és el principal element de vertebració de la identitat nacional.

Primerament, m’agrada que ja estiguem debatint com serà el futur estat català. Però abans d’entrar a cap altra consideració hem de reconèixer que el català ha estat discriminat, perseguit i atacat sense treva durant els últims segles i que d’això ha creat la seva actual situació de feblesa i que per tant no ens ha de fer por actuar per que el català tingui en lloc que li correspon a la nostra societat.

També crec que no es podrà negar que una gran part de la població ha arribat a posicions independentistes per la defensa de la llengua. Per tant aquest és un tema cabdal per a molts catalans.

Estarem d’acord en que fins ara cap col·lectiu castellanoparlant no havia mostrat cap tipus de preocupació respecte del futur del castellà a l’estat català. Som els mateixos independentistes els únics preocupats amb aquest tema.

Em sembla que ningú qüestiona que a l’Estat Català:

  • la llengua pròpia és el català (i l’aranès)
  • tots els idiomes seran respectats
  • buscar escenaris de puresa lingüística no és realista ni pràctic, jo mateix vinc d’una família bilingüe i és evident que dominar més d’un idioma té grans avantatges

Malgrat i que m’agrada la gestió d’en Junqueras al capdavant d’ERC la manera com ha despatxat aquest tema assegurant que el castellà serà oficial a la República Catalana m’ha decepcionat una mica.

M’ha donat la sensació de parlar sota una certa pressió per a guanyar vots ara que s’acosten eleccions (encara que no veig gaire a quin col·lectiu s’adreça) actuant amb un cert bonisme i una mica de candidesa. En la meva opinió penso que li ha mancat una mica de sentit d’estat. Cosa que no es sorprenent, els catalans hem patit molt i tenim por de semblar autoritaris, però crec que en aquest cas ens passem de la ratlla amb nosaltres mateixos.

Abans d’arribar a conclusions suggereixo mirar al nostre voltant i veure com es gestionen certes situacions lingüístiques que tenen algunes similituds:

  • Per exemple, protegint al feble. Al Quebec l’única llengua oficial és el francès. Inclús sense ser independents saben com n’és d’important la protecció de l’idioma que els diferencia com a nació francòfona enmig d’un mar d’anglès.
  • L’argument de que tothom el parla per a fer oficial un idioma. A Dinamarca malgrat i que tothom parla l’anglès dubto que mai se’ls acudís donar-li cap tipus d’oficialitat
  • O l’argument de la immigració, dubto que a Alemanya fos rebuda amb massa entusiasme una suggerència de fer oficial el turc per a esgarrapar uns quants vots extra d’entre els 3 milions d’immigrants d’aquest país que hi resideixen.
  • Lamentablement donant l’oficialitat del castellà a l’estat català estarem incentivant que els únics bilingües continuïn sent els catalanoparlants i donant aixopluc legal a la part de la població que no volen fer servir el català, i per un país petit com Catalunya suposarà una bomba de rellotgeria contra la cohesió social

I si algú es pensa que una vegada independents tot seran flors i violes amb Espanya i que no patirem intents de desestabilització com per exemple els que encara pateixen els letons per part de Rússia vol dir que encara no sap de quin peu calcen els nostres veïns.

I com que la política lingüística és un dels instruments més decisius per a la cohesió dels estats penso que per a fer aquest tipus de debat el millor és que primer ens dotem d’un estat. Personalment penso que és una mala idea donar oficialitat al castellà però el millor és que una vegada independents els catalans parlin i votem si se li dóna cap tipus de reconeixement legal en referèndum. Segurament des de l’altra banda veurem algunes coses més clares.

(actualització a 9 d’Octubre – penso que és important llegir aquesta editorial d’en Vicent Partal – La Catalunya ucraïnesa: un perill)

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.

#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.

European Commission hints at the way to handle Catalonia’s independence

Catalan independentist association Reagrupament submitted back in April an ICE requesting the European Commission to create a procedure for the internal enlargement of the EU of which we already spoke about here. In reponse to this the European Commission replied that the way to handle this situation would have to be found within the rules of international law.

Again last week European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso replied, in response to eurodeputy Mara Bizzotto query on whether Catalan citizens would lose their European citizenship status should Catalonia declare independence (CA), that “the solution would have to be found within the frame of international law”.

This means that the EU will not create a special process for the internal enlargement and, according to international law, states resulting from a secession process will automatically inherit the treaties that the from the state they are seceding from. Amongst them the membership to the European Union.

It also is good news because for the first time a European Institution has openly discussed about Catalonia’s independence.

Spanish Military threatens: “Catalonia’s independence? Over my dead body”

Spanish Army Colonel Francisco Alamán Castro has declared on an interview to a Spanish website that “Catalonia’s independence will be over my dead body and many others’ too. The military made a sacred vow to carry out the constitutional command which consecrates the unity of Spain as a inalienable right. We also vowed to defend its territorial integrity with our lifes if necessary. But we have something those people will never have: sense of honor and duty”

Catalan deputy Joan Tardà has already requested the Spanish Miniter of Defence appearance to give explanations about the military threats to Catalonia and to publicly disavow Francisco Alamán Castro.

Mas fails to defend Catalonia’s interests

The perversity of the Spanish tax system is that Catalonia, while is being plundered every year 40% of taxes collected in Catalonia which never come back, has just been forced by Spain to a humiliating bailout.

The yearly fiscal deficit of Catalonia with Spain amounts to 18 billion euros for a population of 7.5 million.

How can the system be such that the net contributor to the finances of a state, Catalonia, needs to be bailed out with their own money? How can Spain blame Catalonia for the state of their dire finances when most services are provided by Catalonia but most debt is caused by the Spanish government spending?

Catalan President Mas and its government have failed today to defend Catalonia’s interests and has opened the possibility for Spain to suppress Catalonia’s institutions. In the terms that Mas’ party voted for in Madrid.

Mas promised he would achieve fiscal independence for Catalonia during this term but instead his government has surrendered what was left of Catalonia’s self government to Spain in a silver platter for a mere 5 billion euros. Mas has failed to stand for its country.

Because essentially after the bailout, any deviation from the deficit targets by Catalonia, which it will not meet because of the general state of the economy, will mean that the Spanish Government will be able to decide exactly how every euro cent will be spent in Catalonia (CA). So it will be almost impossible to stop things like this or this from happening.

Not to speak of the public and international humiliation at having Catalonia be seen as an irresponsible country and the damage to its image and credibility because the Catalan Government has failed to explain the situation.

Mas should resign immediately and call for elections.