Yesterday Catalan President Artur Mas was interviewed by CNN and explained that Catalonia is not to be blamed for the Spanish crisis. That the problem in Spain is the financial sector (the banks) and that Catalonia suffers a fiscal deficit with Spain of 20 billion dollars every year and that is why it is so indebted. Enjoy.
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, apuntem.cat 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.
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- 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 Spanish government is using the Autonomous Communities as a smoke screen to hide their disastrous handling of the situation, and use the crisis as an excuse to give Catalonia the coup de grace, eliminate its self government and accomplish the old Spanish dream of a culturally uniform state.
Blaming the Autonomous Communities as the main culprit of the crisis is a ridiculous argument since Catalonia only holds 6.5% of the Spanish public debt while sustaining a fiscal deficit of 8% of its GDP every year without which its finances would be very different. The Catalan Government already did its homework and last year cut its budget down by 10% and has announced further 5% cut in civil servants’ salaries this year.
The Generalitat has raised a flag claiming that the State is planning to look for an excuse to intervene Catalonia by starving it from its resources, forcing the Generalitat’s bankruptcy and then coming to the “rescue”, to prove the Catalan government’s “incompetence”.
In the meantime international press and European governments are worryingly buying the Spanish government’s discourse. Instead on focusing on Spain’s real issues.
After last year’s elections it was time for Spain to reform their oversized state structure inherited from Franco’s regime which has the following traits:
- all power centers are in Madrid with a strong breed of privileged public servants
- economy based on former state monopolies, like Telefonica, used as employment agencies for retired politicians and their relatives with a captive market subsidizing them
- an oversized army
- irrational infrastructures spending
- oversized welfare services aimed at keeping Spanish voters happy bringing an illusion of progress
All of this subsidized by the (formerly) richer Catalan countries and the funds coming from Europe. But for the last 30 years instead investing in the modernisation of its economy Spain has created the biggest real estate bubble in the world. Catalan politicians are also partly to be blamed for allowing this to happen. Now the fountain has dried up. After the draining of resources Catalan countries are in a precarious financial situation and the European funds are not flowing anymore.
But even now the Spanish fiesta goes on. Boosting Catalonia’s economy, its most dynamic area, which represents 20% of its economy and 27% of the exports, would be the only hope for the Spanish economy to get out of the crisis Spain is instead ignoring its own laws and bringing it down.
An example, this year 925 million euros are budgeted for the high speed train to Galicia, which would not even make sense in a good economy while refusing to pay Catalonia 978 million euros pending from 2008 and 2009 and announcing a cut of 45% infrastructures budget in 2012 for Catalonia compared to last year, infringing Spanish law.
But the markets are unforgiving and don’t believe that the changes Rajoy is making will put things under control. The intervention of Spain’s government is practically a matter of time.
Why this irrational behaviour?
In practice Spain does not acknowledge Catalonia as Spanish, it is instead treated as a colony from which to extract resources until depletion. It will not hesitate to sacrifice Catalonia to protect its privileges and state structures from the cold of the crisis even at the expense dooming Catalonia’s, Spain’s (and Europe’s?) economy.
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 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.
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
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%.
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.
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.