Upcoming elections in Spain and Catalonia’s invisibility

Next November the 20th, on the anniversary of Franco’s death, there will be elections to the Spanish Parliament. Nobody has any doubt that right wing PP will win by an overwhelming majority of the votes since the current crisis and Zapatero’s frivolous policies have payed too high a toll on PSOE’s credibility. However, nobody knows what PP will do once they win, probably not even themselves.

Even though some Catalans claim that there’s no reason for Catalans to vote on those elections I disagree. Representation at the Spanish Parliament is very important since, while we are not independent, many things affecting Catalonia are decided there and therefore we need to defend our interests. Plus it is also a good way of publicizing Catalonia’s independence since many Catalans read Spanish centric media and all foreign correspondents are based in Madrid and only see what goes on there.

Last tuesday there was a face to face debate on the Spanish public TV between PSOE’s candidate Rubalcaba and PP’s Rajoy. Ignoring the fact that there are 10 different parties in the Congreso de los Diputados and therefore no reason to invite only 2 of them to a debate. During the debate Catalonia was not mentioned once. Not a single word regarding the Catalan fiscal deficit, the Constitutional Court amendment of the Catalan Statute, the dismantling of the the language immersion in schools or the mediterranian freight railway line or even their opinion how 75.7% of voters think Catalonia needs a new fiscal deal that guarantees collection of all taxes or that 65% of votes would go to independence. Nothing.

To illuatrate this, when the show started and the presenter greeted the Portuguese and Italian audiences (since the debate was being broadcasted by TV channels from those countries) in their languages but did not say a word in their languages to the Catalan, Basque or Galician speaking audiences (even though ignoring all other languages that are not Spanish is the norm in Spanish public TV)

On wednesday there was another debate on the Spanish public TV where out of the 10 parties only 5 were allowed to take part and ERC, with 3 deputies, was left out while IU (Spanish left wing), with only 2 deputies, was included. They claimed IU is a “nation wide” (meaning Spanish State-wide ) party as opposed to ERC which only available in Catalan countries. Therefore IU is more relevant. This left out a party that represents more than 200000 voters when the easiest would have been to bring extra chairs.

To me, all this, aside from the lack of democratic culture. Shows how scared the Spanish are of any actual debate about Catalonia (or Catalonia’s independence).

And finally some self criticism. I guess Spanish politicians don’t really feel that they need to say much about Catalonia since PP and PSOE are going to be two of the 3 most voted parties in Catalonia. They probably feel they have more to lose than to gain from doing so.

However, it is worrying that at the time when independentism is as its height voters don’t feel any of the available Catalan parties will be able to defend their interests in Madrid. This has been studied before. Voters change their vote depending of the elections. For the Catalan elections they’ll vote the party the party they want at the Generalitat but for the Spanish elections they’ll vote with a Spanish frame of mind.

Only a referendum of independence will show actual support of independence. One cannot infer that ERC’s 3 deputies at the Spanish Parliament reflect the social support to Catalonia’s independence. It would be like saying that only people who vote ecologist parties are concerned with the environment.

Also, some good news, it seems that, as I pointed out before, the change in the leaderships in ERC is already improving the expected results, which initially predicted ERC would lose their 3 deputies. Now it seems they may be able to keep them. I’m also happy about how the integration with Reagrupament and Catalunya Sí brings us closer to a broad Catalan independentist coalition for the next Catalan elections in 2014.

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!

Peces Barba on bombing Barcelona

Gregorio Peces Barba is one of the fathers of the Spanish Constitution and on October 27th he made some remarks about the relationship between Spain and Catalonia talking about the possible independence of Catalonia and how he believes this time it won’t be necessary to bomb Barcelona to stop it.

Col·lectiu Emma already wrote a post about this issue that summarizes the situation very well. So I just put the bits together (from here and here) (only the audio part is available for the bits on bombing Barcelona) and made the subtitles.

However, a few points on what Peces Barba said are inaccurate:

  • Peces Barba must have skipped a chapter on his history book since Spain didn’t make the decision to let Portugal go. The Spanish lost the battles of lvas, Ameixal, Villa Viçosa i Castel Rodrigo against the Portuguese.
  • Maybe Spain would have been better with Portugal but there’s no arguing that Catalonia would have done much better alone
  • Catalans do not celebrate a defeat on September the 11th, it is a reminder that we lost our state in 1714 and have to keep working to get it back

Even though it is of very poor taste (and possible criminal responsibility) to joke about the bombings of Barcelona and killings of civilians over the centuries (the last ones took place from 1936 until 1939, in which 2700 people were killed and 7000 were injured (link in Catalan)) we should thank Peces Barba that a father of the Spanish Constitution has clarified for the public opinion the true nature of the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.

Peces Barba started this topic with regards to the results of latest poll by the Catalan Centre Estudis d’Opinió (link in Catalan), the Catalan public polls institute, which in its latest issue in October showed an increase in the support to Catalonia’s independence since June. 45.4% of Catalans would vote for independence with only 24.7% would vote no and 23.8% would abstain. This would mean 64.7% of the votes for independence with a turnout of 70%.

Building a New State – 1st Catalonia’s Self-determination conference

Yesterday the 1st conference on Catalonia’s self determination took place and it was a success. Organised by Sobirania i Justícia, the same people behind the excellent documentary “Spain’s secret conflict”.

The conference took place throughout the day in Palau Robert in Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona and included speeches by international experts Charles E. Ehrlich, responsible for the constitutional comission of the U.N. in Kosovo; Ana Stanic, who negotiated Slovenia’s secession with the serbians; Patrick Dunberry, Canadian expert and Carles Boix, from Princeton University who specifically analysed the Catalan case.

In my opinion, this is one of the best initiatives I have seen recently to help people visualize how to create the independent Catalonia and this is the type we need to let people realise that not only it is not so difficult but that most of the conditions for independence already exist.

The easy bits are that Catalonia would be perfectly financially viable as an independent state. That it already is part of the European Union and has a democratically elected government which represents its people. The harder part will be the international negotiations to recognise the new state and also splitting the assets and the passive with Spain, which will not collaborate. But these parts will be easier with the legitimacy of a referendum with a clear majority of pro independence votes.

Unfortunately I couldn’t be there but a collaborator was able to attend so we’ll soon publish a post about it here. I personally would have loved to see a live broadcast or youtube channel with the videos of the speeches. Those would have been extremely powerful tools to spread the message. However, Vilaweb has posted an excellent video with interviews to the experts, it’s trilingual in Catalan, English and French with Catalan subtitles. In case anyone is interested.

Picture by Sobirania i Justícia.

The Municipalities lobby for Catalonia’s independence

Vic’s Town Hall approved last month creating the “Associació de municipis per la independència” (Association of Municipalities for the Independence) led by the mayor of Vic, Josep Maria Vila d’Abadal. I’ve been following this initiative for a while but haven’t mentioned it so far but that it’s starting to take shape it’s worth talking about it.

This is the first time that an initiative explicitly created to advance towards Catalonia’s independence comes from an official institution and the target is to create a network of municipalities to lobby for the independence of Catalonia with the aim at organising a referendum of independence in the future.

Through Nació Digital I learn that Vila d’abadal is planning to hold an assembly with representatives of all the members at the end of November. They calculate by then about 100 municipalities will have joined the initiative by then. They expect around 300 municipalities to join eventually (Catalonia has 946 municipalities)

Vila d’Abadal is one of the potential candidates to substitute Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida in the future as the leader of Unió Democràtica de Catalunya. Duran i Lleida has a very marked pro Spanish and anti Independence profile which in the light of a pro independence majority in Catalonia fails to represent a central position in Catalan politics.

We’ll keep track of this initiative that I believe has a lot of potential to contribute to exercise Catalonia’s right of selfdetermination.

Below, the map of Municipalities which have already joined this initiative.

Mostra Municipis per la Independència en un mapa més gran

Photo by Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya

Former Scottish Minister, Jim Mather, in Barcelona

Very interesting initiative by the Cercle Català de Negocis, a lobby of Catalan Businesspeople for the independence of Catalonia. They invited Jim Mather, the former Scottish Minister of Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, to give a conference named: “Why “small” means “more” in the wealth of nations” especially aimed at Catalan Businesspeople at the Universitat de Barcelona.

Out of the main concepts he spoke about (link in Catalan) and from an interview to online newspaper Nació Digital (link in Catalan), I’d highlight three concepts that apply to both countries:

  1. For small countries like Scotland and Catalonia the best way to take advantage of the opportunities globalisation brings is to have their own state. In fact, out of the 20 richest countries in the world, 11 are small.
  2. Both in Scotland and in Catalonia the unionist points of view are based in negative (based on fear) or emotional reasons. There are no solid arguments for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom or for Catalonia in Spain
  3. Convincing the businesspeople is a key factor to advance towards independence. In Catalonia’s case the middle classes are already favourable to independence. But not so much the businesspeople, who are still scared of a negative reaction in the Spanish market when independence arrives. Luckily, this trend seems to be slowly changing, and the CCN are doing a great job in demistifying those fears by analysing the actual economical impact independence would have and its advantages

This is a great initiative and it is extremely important that the pro independence movements both in Scotland and Catalonia cooperate since we’ll have to go down similar roads to become states inside the European Union sooner rather than later.

However, I’m quite envious since in Scotland the SNP are taking the lead and working from the institutions openly for independence while in Catalonia CiU are slowly being pushed by society towards more pro independence positions.

photo by twak

Catalan wins. Major disobedience against Spanish law triggered

Catalan school and government have frontally rejected the imposition of the end of Catalan immersion and the schools have already warned they will disobbey any imposition from Spanish law in this respect. Disobedience has been encouraged by the platform somescola.cat, plataforma per la llengua, Òmnium Cultural, the Federation of Association of Mothers and Fathers of Students and the major teachers’ union, USTEC, amongst many others. The Facebook page setup to support disobedience has already more than 40000 likes in little more than one day and the hastags #jonoacato and #somescola reached were trending topics in Twitter on friday.

The Catalan Minister of Education, Irene Rigau, has said that “if she must leave politics because of the language issue, so be it” with regards to possible legal fines and penalties that would disqualify her from public service. Catalan society is with the government and expects it to defend the language to the last consequences.

The consensus about Catalan language immersion is absolute throughout society and a lawsuit made by 3 families cannot change the system of a whole country, especially if this law is imposed from the legal system of a foreign country.

Now we’ll have to see what excuse Madrid makes up to justify their backing off when they realise they can’t enforce it.

I personally know that my mother, who was a secondary school teacher, would have been horrified by this imposition and embarrassed, since she taught in Catalan language for 25 years and understood how important Catalan is as an integration tool in Catalonia. She was born is Spain and couldn’t learn Catalan in school because of Franco’s era ban on the language.

Madrid’s efforts to expel Catalonia from the Spanish State are accelerating. This has proven that Catalan society cannot be stopped if it acts united against aggression from Spain. Way to go.

Photo by Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya

Spain attacks Catalonia’s core, the language immersion

Spain gives Catalonia 2 months to dismantle the Catalan language immersion. As a consequence of last year’s Spanish Constitutional Ruling, which made 1 million Catalans take the streets in protest now the Spanish Judiciary system has given the Catalan Government 2 months to dismantle the Catalan immersion system and give Spanish the same weight as Catalan (Spanish is currently taught as a subject in Catalan public schools).

The immersion system has guaranteed during the last 30 years that the children who live in Catalonia finish their compulsory education being fluent in both Catalan and Spanish and has been praised internationally as a model of integration. Catalan is the language of Catalonia. Spanish media and Spanish speaking immigration (both from Spain and latin american countries) exert great pressure over Catalan and the Spanish Constitution theoretically should grant the language diversity protection.

But this not new, this is just yet another attack against Catalan language from Spain during the last 300 years. Not long ago it was banned during 40 years from public life during Franco’s dictatorship. This new initiative would have the results of creating two separated societies where the newcomers would not be able to speak the language of the country and would of course minoritize over time the usage of Catalan until making it residual.

Incidentally, it is completely impossible to find a school in the Spanish State outside of the Catalan speaking countries where Catalan education is an option. And Catalan is not an official language in Spain or in Europe, despite being with 10 million speakers the language number 13 in a European Union with 27 official languages.

Right now the internet is burstling with protests against this measure and calls to civil disobedience are made from all sectors of Catalan society and the hashtags #jonoacato and #somescola are trending topics both in Catalan and in the Spanish twitter rankings .

I am losing count of the primary and secondary teachers who have already already replied in twitter that they will not stop teaching in Catalan no matter what.

The Catalan government hasn’t yet officially replied to this.

Spanish Constitutional amendment aimed against Catalonia’s self-government

Spanish parties PP and PSOE have agreed, practically overnight and in secrecy, to do what they had fiercely opposed for 30 years every time anyone suggested: to amend the Spanish Constitution.

The current Spanish Constitution was written after 40 years of a fascist dictatorship and with the army overlooking the whole process it contains many totalitarian articles (like article 8, which allows military action against secession attempts) and intentionally overlooks the national diversity inside the Spanish state.

Every time is was suggested that it should be updated to acknowledge the different nations inside the Spanish State, the right of self determination, or the reorganization of the Spain as a federal state the Spanish replied that their Constitution is sacred and can’t be changed. To illustrate this, Spanish parties call themselves “Constitutionalists” instead of simply Spanish nationalists.

But now the PP and PSOE have decided to make a change to it to limit the public deficit. They have done this without a previous debate, leaving aside all other parties in the Spanish Parliament (the Catalan and Basque ones, for instance) and without the mandatory referendum with the excuse that they need to do it urgently to inspire confidence to the markets following France and Germany’s advice.

The problem with this amendment is the way it will limit the Catalan Government. In countries like Germany where similar laws exist there is also a fiscal deficit limitation, which limits also the transfer of wealth from richer to poorer areas. Not so in Spain, effectively limiting the indebtment that Catalonia can take but not limiting consequently its fiscal deficit with other Autonomous Communities (which is now a whopping 10%) therefore adding an unsustainable pressure to Catalan finances. The Generalitat already has to take care with the most expensive public services of the state like healthcare, education or police. PP and PSOE have of course ignored CiU’s requests to include a clause to limit the fiscal deficit. To this, even CiU, still shocked, has warned of a clash of unforeseeable consequences. I am quite skeptical.

So this reform has proven a few points:

  1. that the Spanish Constitution can be modified, it is not as sacred as the Spanish had made us believe
  2. in any changes to the Spanish Constitution the Spanish nationalists will use their majority to impose their decision over the other nations in the state
  3. any changes will be aimed at weakening Catalan self government
  4. skipping the referendum and blatantly ignoring the society is the latest display lack of democratic culture in Spain

By refusing to debate this reform and by pushing it without the support of the other parties PP and PSOE have broken whatever was left of the Spanish Constitutional “deal” therefore morally freeing Catalan parties, like CiU, which had originally agreed to it, to act outside of it. Catalonia must recover its Constitution.

Picture by Gustavo Bravo