Catalonia: time for firmness, time for common sense

Posted on diciembre 19, 2014 
Filed under Artículo de prensa, Publicado en Dnevnik (Macedonia)

Estatut

Three hundred years ago, on September 11, 1714, the city of Barcelona fell into the hands of the Bourbon troops commanded by the Duke of Berwick. Having supported the claim of Archduke Charles of Habsburg in his dispute for the Spanish throne, the triumph of the French candidate Philippe de Bourbon meant for Catalonia the loss its own legal system and its institutions of self-government, and for the entire Spain the establishment of a strong centralist regime whose consequences lasted until the very beginning of the Spanish transition to democracy, only four decades ago.

Although the War of Spanish Succession was essentially a dispute over continental hegemony between the major European powers of the time, and in no way a war between Catalonia and Spain, the myth of September 11 –declared the “National Day of Catalonia” already in 1980, and dotted with mass demonstrations of an increasingly reivindicative tone ever since–, has become the symbol of the loss of Catalan liberties at the hands of the Castilian invaders. And therefore, the conmemoration of his tercentenary throughout this whole year, the triggering factor of a supposedly irreversible process leading to the final emancipation of Catalonia.

For sure, the construction of a fictional story plagued by episodes that should demonstrate the centuries-old struggle of the Catalan people for their indepencence had to be supplemented in order to be fully effective with the construction of a memorial of equally fictitious grievances, intended to demonstrate the impossibility of Catalonia remaining  a part of a country that is systematically appropriating the taxes of its citizens in order to have them squandered in other parts of its territory, despising its culture and language, and trimming up to unbearable extremes its much cherished capacity for self-government.

Nothing, however, could be further from reality. Even after the cuts made by the Constitutional Court in the 2006 Catalan Statute in order to bring it to compliance with the Spanish Constitution, Catalonia enjoys today more autonomy than ever before in its history, and more powers and wider institutional arrangements that most of the territories of the federations that exist in Europe –let alone, other parts of the world–. Catalan cultural peculiarities and language are fully respected and promoted as never before had been –even if the Spanish language, felt as something of their own by many Catalans, is marginalized in education, media and institutions under the control of the Catalan government–. And if Catalonia is a net contributor to the state budget, it is widely benefitted from the investment carried out in the national territory, while also enjoying the advantages associated with being a part of a market of nearly fifty million.

So the problem of Catalonia is by no means Spain. If only because it is Spain who ensures Catalonia’s safety –does anyone believe that an independent Catalonia would be able to afford a serious army?–; Catalonia’s integration in Europe –since it has become abundantly clear that the secession of Catalonia would automatically mean leaving the European Union–; Catalonia’s financial stability –since it is Spain who is actually ensuring the solvency of an almost bankrupt Catalan Government before the international financial markets– and even the full enjoyment in the territory of Catalonia of many individual rights, permanently threatened by the obsessive nationalist policies developed by the authorities in St. James Square.

That despite all this, the relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain have arrived so dangerously close to the point of no return –with a referendum called for November 9 and maintained in a blatant law fraud, despite the express prohibition of the Government of Spain, supported by the Constitutional Court–, has a complex explanation, in which too many factors are intertwined. But certainly some deserve to be underlined: an educational system run for their benefit by the nationalist parties in power, that for no less than three and a half decades has been filling with myths and prejudices the mentality of the younger generations of Catalans; a public television system fully at the service of nationalism, in which linguistic and even political pluralism is conspicuously absent; an intelligentsia domesticated and purchased by a permanent flow of public subsidies; and especially, a second-class political “elite” that has seen in the achievement of independence the best way to fill their biggest ambitions, and in the long route towards it the perfect excuse to conceal their inefficiency and hide their corruption. Although in no way is it exempt from blame a central government, both when it was in the hands of the Socialist Party and when in those of the Popular Party, who has always followed the maxim that nationalism can only be appeased with concessions, though it was proved long ago that the concessions given one day ended up being the departing point for tomorrow’s claims, and the door to new dissatisfactions and increasingly unsustainable demands.

So, that this point of no return is exceeded or not in the coming days will depend equally on the firmness of the government in preventing any breach in the law in the coming days, and on its imagination when looking for consensual solutions in the near future. And, of course, on the Catalan people’s common sense. Or, as they like to say, on their “seny”.

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