Madrid’s “No” is Catalonia’s ladder of escape

The Catalan Parliament shifted visibly on wednesday from left-right blocks to Catalonia-Spain blocks. CiU, ERC and ICV, the Catalan parties, voted in majority on one side to demand Spain for Catalonia to collect all its taxes. PSC and PP were on the other side.

Catalonia is being deliberately starved of its own resources by the Spanish Government to force a bankruptcy and intervene. While this struggle may seem from the outside as purely an internal Spanish problem it is not. The starvation of resources is deliberate to force Catalonia to ask for a bailout to continue with Spain’s nationalistic agenda.

Even though from Catalonia things could certainly have been done better it would not be in this dire situation if it wasn’t for the 16 billion euros, or around 8-10% of its GDP (that’s about 40% of all taxes collected in Catalonia) which is plundered every year by Spain. Catalonia is only asking to dispose of its own resources in this time of crisis.

On wednesday a clear shift has taken place and the Catalan Parliament shows now a Catalonia-Spain dicotomy. While many independentists don’t believe this intermediate station is required (to ask Spain for Catalonia to collect all its taxes) Spain’s predictable reaction may be and eye opener for many to join the pro independence ranks. Currently 51% of Catalans would vote yes to independence and only 21% would vote no. With a 8% growth of the yes option only in the last year.

Immediately after the Catalan Parliament resolved to demand Spain to collect all taxes (currently Spain collects >95% of the taxes in Catalonia) Spanish Miniter Montoro completely discarded the possibility. The Basque Country already enjoys the tax collection system that Catalonia is demanding and it has proven effective since unemployment figures are half of those in Catalonia and it’s economy much more sheltered from the Spanish crisis.

After the summer Catalonia will need financing from Spain to pay its debts, but in exchange Spain will demand political changes that will be targeted against Catalan culture and interests. Spain has been using the legal system to this end in the last 3 decades.

And then at that point Catalonia will be at the crossroads. To let Spain take control and disappear or to become a State. President Mas will have to take control of the situation justified on Spain’s disloyalty against Catalonia and eventually let Catalan people speak. Events are accelerating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fascist demonstration in Madrid before the Spanish King’s Cup Final

Spain has authorised a fascist demonstration in Madrid before the Spanish King’s Cup Final in response (I quote) “to the expected provocations from the Basque and Catalan separatists.” This is extremely irresponsible since within the Catalan and Basque supporters there’ll be families and children. From here we want to denounce this irresponsible act and hope that the demonstration is eventually cancelled to avoid possible violent actions against the visiting supporters.

In the meantime the King himself, the Spanish President and the President of the Madrid Autonomous Community have declined attending the game.

Thanks for your support.

I already made a post about previous whistling here.

Practical guide for Spanish governments on how to increase Catalan independentism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They deserve my applause. Way to go Mr Rajoy!

The Catalan National Assembly

Last April after the last round of popular referendums for independence there was a question floating in the air: “and now what?” What should we do with the network of thousands of volunteers who had worked to achieve those amazing results? A few days after the last round in Barcelona took place a first meeting of the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and after a lot of work almost one year later has resulted in its constitution on March the 10th in Barcelona at Palau Sant Jordi filled with almost 7000 independentists from all over the country.

The meeting was closed by the popular actor Sergi López and the main result was the voting of the ANC’s structure and the approval of an ambitious route plan towards Catalonia’s independence.

The actions start this year and aim to raise the awareness towards the need for independence with a March for Independence all over the country. During 2013 together with the Associació de Municipis per la Independència (which as of yesterday hit 324 member municipalities) will organize referendums of independence in every municipality in Catalonia. After that it’ll be the turn of the Catalan government to take the lead towards organizing a referendum of independence on 2014 and, if this was refused by the Spanish State, to declare independence.

During the meeting a manifesto was approved to denounce the “continuous Spanish attempts to assimilate Catalonia” and “the Spanish refusal to recognize Catalonia as a nation”.

What in my opinion makes the ANC different from other independentist initiatives are the following reasons:

  • Not tied to any political party and has voted never to become one
  • It’s a mature movement which puts independence before itself
  • It comes from serious people who work anonymously for Catalonia’s independence
  • It aims to concentrate and add visibility to Catalan society’s demand for a Catalan State from outside the political establishment

which is why it can become a very effective tool to achieve this target.

Some people expect the leaders which will finally lead the process towards a Catalan state within the European Union will emerge from the ANC. However, the ANC has until now remained an association with no visible leaders.

Representatives from the Catalan parties, from the main cultural associations, like Òmnium Cultural, the Association of Municipalities for Independence and a representation of Catalan intellectual activists also attended the meeting.

The video of the full event is available here.

Per què el PP no pot, encara que vulgui, donar el concert econòmic a Catalunya

És impossible que cap govern espanyol accepti concedir a Catalunya res remotament semblant a un concert econòmic. Per què?

  • Per a justificar el concert econòmic per a Catalunya el govern espanyol hauria de reconèixer davant l’opinió pública espanyola que en realitat el que volen els catalans és just i que Catalunya ha estat qui més ha contribuït a l’estat espanyol des de fa una pila d’anys. Que és just que Catalunya deixi de contribuïr a la solidaritat amb altres territoris ara que Espanya és un país equiparable als més rics del món. Això després de 30 anys d’atiar l’odi contra Catalunya és impossible.
  • Donar a Catalunya el mateix tracte fiscal que el País Basc causaria a curt termini un ajust dels serveis públics de què gaudeixen els espanyols mentre que la situació a Catalunya milloraria. Per als partits de govern espanyols és preferible la independència de Catalunya que pagar el cost polític d’aquesta operació. Després de la independència l’ajust a curt plaç arribaria igualment però ja s’inventarien alguna cosa per a no reconèixer que fins aleshores els serveis els pagava Catalunya. això sí, a mig i llarg termini Espanya se’n beneficiaria econòmicament i social tant del concert econòmic com de la independència de Catalunya.
  • El concert econòmic per a Catalunya impulsaria ràpidament demandes similars dels altres territoris espoliats, el País Valencià i les Illes Balears.
  • Per al PP la independència de Catalunya seria beneficiosa ja que significaria escombrar el PSOE durant molt de temps. Per al PSOE és impossible tonar a governar Espanya sense els vots catalans.
  • Una advertència sobre el “pacte fiscal” que proposa CiU. Qualsevol tipus de finançament que no sigui exactament el mateix de què gaudeixen les comunitats forals serà immediatament neutralitzat per alguna altra via per a continuar amb l’espoliació fiscal. Com ja s’ha demostrat amb els successius pactes fiscals dels últims 30 anys. Fa només uns dies l’economista Sala-i-Martín ens ho explicava. No importa quins canvis es facin al finançament de Catalunya, al final l’espoliació segueix constant any rere any.
  • La independència de Catalunya és preferible a mantenir-la dins l’estat espanyol sense poder-ne extreure recursos ja que Catalunya és increïblement molesta com a entitat nacional diferenciada per a un estat que vol ser homogeni culturalment.
  • Suposem que d’alguna manera Espanya concedeix a Catalunya el concert econòmic. A no ser que es fessin les coses molt malament aquesta esdevindria una altra vegada en pocs anys el principal pol econòmic de la península ibèrica en detriment de Madrid i això és un escenari intolerable per als espanyols, els quals s’ha passat 30 anys afavorint Madrid com a pol econòmic en detriment de Catalunya. A més, l’increment en qualitat de vida no faria sinó incrementar el desig d’independència de Catalunya i finalment el resultat seria el mateix.
  • Ara mateix ja tenim una majoria social àmpliament a favor de la independència. L’estratègia que segueix Espanya és contenir les aspiracions catalanes a través de l’estructura de l’estat, els jutges i les elits polítiques catalanes que fins ara estan fent el paper de contenció del moviment sobiranista (conscientment o no, això ho sabran ells) i utilitzar la immigració fins que Catalunya s’hagi empobrit tant i s’hagi assimilat tant que esdevingui una província castellana més i ja no hi hagi reivindicació identitària ni existeixi l’espoliació fiscal. Aquesta estratègia ja ens la va explicar fa uns mesos el President Pujol. Una vegada Catalunya estigui completament assimilada Espanya ja no podrà extreure’n més recursos però tampoc no hi haurà cap tipus de reivindicació identitària. En aquest escenari els espanyols hauran aconseguit un empobriment de l’estat espanyol però mantenen el territori conquerit. És trist però és la seva estratègia i objectiu, encara que comporti un empobriment general d’Espanya per sempre més.

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!

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.