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.

Man on hunger strike in Mallorca to defend Catalan language

Jaume Bonet, a retired 64 year old man from Mallorca has now lost 22 kilograms and his health has seriously deteriorated since he went on a hunger strike on March the 1st as a protest for the campaign against Catalan culture (the local culture in the Balearic Islands since the 13th century) started by PP’s Spanish nationalist government at the Balearic Islands.

The measures taken against Catalan since 2010 include closing down the only public TV which broadcasted Catalan content in the islands, a law which allows civil servants to not need to prove knowledge of Catalan to be eligible for a position and the plan to change the names of Balearic towns to Spanish.

These measures are even causing division within the Balearic PP franchise as they obey not the feeling of the locals but the dictate from Madrid from where the relentless offensive against Catalan culture on its weaker sides (the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Country) is orchestrated.

The Facebook page “Jubilats per Mallorca!” is the official source of information on Mr Bonet’s hunger strike.

And you can join an initiative started by Quim Torra to plea Ms Irina Bokova, the UNESCO general director, for an international mediation on this conflict. You can send a copy of this letter to

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.

We take your money, then we blame you for being broke (part 1)

We already knew that the PP was going to do exactly what they are doing. Which is more or less the same that the PSOE did, just more “in your face”. Blaming the autonomous communities for the excessive Spanish public debt, even though they only account for 20% of the Spanish debt and manage the most expensive responsibilities, like education, healthcare or police forces. As we already mentioned here.

On December 2011 the Spanish Government failed to pay Catalonia 759 million euros which were committed on the 2011 Spanish budget and put the Catalan finances on a dire situation. For a few days it was unclear whether the Generalitat would be able to pay its workers (police, doctors, teachers, etc.). The Generalitat solved this by borrowing money. This situation hasn’t replicated anywhere in Spain. To this we should add another pending payment of 1450 million euros from the “competitivity fund” which Spain failed to pay Catalonia also on 2011.

This had the twofold effect of transferring the public deficit from Spain to Catalonia making their numbers look better, and simultaneously putting Catalonia on the verge of insolvency. Then in a display of hipocrisy Spain told off the Generalitat for its excessive deficit and threatened an intervention.

Now the Spanish Government has announced that they are preparing a law according to which the Spanish Government will have to supervise and approve the Autonomous Communities’ budgets. This would essentially mean the end of Catalonia’s self-government since the budget would have to be approved by the Spanish PP then Catalonia would effectively cease to be governed by CiU, the elected party. In fact it remains unclear whether that would even allowed by the Spanish Constitution. Even though that would probably not stop them since the Spanish Judiciary system is systematically being used to attack Catalonia’s self-government (like here or here)

While the PP has a point in pointing out that the Spanish Autonomous Communities have spent too much money it is also true that the PP governs in most Spanish Autonomous Communities which puts the blame right back on themselves for the mess.

This all goes back to the late seventies. In the post Franco period Spain never liked the idea of giving Catalonia a differentiated status and so as to dilute Catalonia’s personality gave the same status to any Spanish region that requested it. Thus creating a new set of Autonomous Communities with their Parliaments, flags, anthems, governments in regions where there was never a claim for self-government. This created a new layer of bureocracy and a regional political subsystem which has proved to be a source of money wasting and corruption.

Now, behind all these so called economic measures is the aim to achieve political targets against Catalonia while at the same time Spain fails to tackle the root of the problem problem which is a bloated state structure which wastes its resources on a things like an army which costs 16500 million euros a year or building high speed trains to rural areas (in the midst of a severe crisis Spain is the second country in the world after China in amount of high speed train kilometers under construction), to name just a few.

Using Catalonia as a scapegoat and stir xenophobia is irresponsible and the Catalan Government should take immediate action to stop this situation for once and forever.

Spanish elections analysis

Yesterday’s Spanish elections showed a predictable result in Spain with the absolute majority of right wing Spanish nationalists PP and the also predictable collapse of PSOE due to their mistakes in managing the crisis. This shows a uniform blue painted Spain for the first time.

In the midst of the blue tide in the Spanish State only Catalonia and the Basque Country appear clearly politically differentiated. Catalan CiU have for the first time been the most voted party in Catalonia at the Spanish elections with 16 deputies. The most noticeable change has been PSOEs collapse going from 25 deputies to 14. PP with 11 hasn’t even achieded their best results from 1993.

On the other hand we have ERC-RCat. With 3 deputies (maybe 4) Bosch has done remarkably well in stopping the downwards spiral that had started in the last two elections and was threatening to leave them without any deputies according to polls from only two months ago. Instead, they have increased their representation and could even achieve one deputy for Girona, depending on the expat votes. This shows it was a mistake to not have Reagrupament’s Quim Torra be the candidate for Girona, as Junqueras wanted.

However, these results validate Junqueras’ change of direction and shows that ERC+RCat have the potential to become the core of a broad Catalan independentist coalition for the 2014 Catalan elections. An important date since it will be the 300 anniversary of the Spanish occupation in Catalonia.

Also good news is that Catalan left wing ecologists ICV have trebled their representation and now have 3 deputies. Meaning that Spanish parties, which traditionally dominated the Spanish elections in Catalonia, with 25 deputies are quickly losing ground to Catalan parties with 21 deputies.

In the Valencian Country for the first time Coalició Compromís has managed to break the dominance of the Spanish parties and the Valencian voice will be heard in the Spanish Congreso.

In Euskadi the abertzale coalition Amaiur have achieved historical results and have become the most voted party. This hints the possibility that in the next Basque elections Basque parties could concentrate the great majority of the votes which could potentially trigger serious political changes in that country.

The clear differences in the results in Catalonia and the Basque Country with Spain question the legitimacy of any of Spain’s predictable future attacks to Catalonia’s self government, culture and institutions. A desperate Spanish State with undermined political and economic independence by the severe measures that Europe will impose will turn to Catalonia’s self-government as a scapegoat. Hopefully, with a lot of work and a bit of luck these may be the last Spanish elections for Catalonia.

In the meantime, even though they are two very different situations in Catalonia we have some lessons to learn from the Basques. Until April it was them who looked towards Catalonia because of the popular referendums of independence but after the successes of Bildu in May and now Amaiur they seem to have found a way to translate the popular demand for independence into a political representation in a way that Catalan parties have failed to do.

Update: Syniadau have written an excellent analysis of the Spanish elections results. I recommend it.

Pictures by El Punt Avui

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.

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