The Road to Self-Determination (IT InTransit #10)


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The Road to Self-Determination.

Source: IT In Transit (EuroCatalan Newsletter)

Date: November 2012.

Published in: News & Politics
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The Road to Self-Determination (IT InTransit #10)

  1. 1. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 EDITORIAL The Road to Self-Determination Agustí Colomines and Mònica Sabata It is a historic moment for Catalan society. In two years support for the right to self-determination has increased tremendously, and the demonstration this past September 11th in Barcelona was a clear sign of this. Catalan politics have also evolved and are showing increasing support for pro-sovereignty arguments, which is the case of the moderate nationalist party led by Artur Mas. The change of mentality of a vast majority of Catalans is what has brought us to this situation, and it has caused political attitudes to change as well. What’s more, the economic crisis has made it clearer than ever that the current political framework –that of autonomy— is of no use for helping us get through such a delicate moment. Autonomy is no longer enough to if we want to preserve our identity in the face of persistent Spanish centralism and if we hope to reactivate the economy. This is especially true ever since the Constitutional Court gave its ruling in 2010 that made significant cuts to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which had already been approved by the people in a referendum in 2006. In Catalonia, the belief was that Catalan politics would make Spain change, and also bring about the political decentralization that people had been calling for for years. There was the belief, therefore, that this change would lead to more self-government for the Catalan Government. But the Spanish state’s resistance has brought many in Catalonia to the conclusion that Spain will never change because the Spanish political parties, PP and PSOE, don’t want it to. The Spanish Constitution may recognize national pluralism, at least in theory, but in practice the Spanish political parties have never respected this. The State of the Autonomies has been used to dilute the different national realities and it has become a monster that is making the current system unsustainable. Now there is no going back. Before dissolving the Catalan Parliament in order to call early elections, 84 of the 135 members of this Parliament agreed to a motion that called for the Catalans’ “right to decide” through the holding a referendum on self-determination. The Catalans are now on the road to self-determination. The results of the elections on November 25th will determine at what pace this process will move forward, but President Mas –who will most likely win a second term— is committed to holding the referendum in this legislature. The model of the autonomies has been exhausted in part because the will to try to make pacts, which was a strategy that had presided Catalan politics ever since the fall of Franco’s dictatorship three decades ago, has also been exhausted. The most recent example of this was the frustrated attempt by former Catalan President Pasqual Maragall, leader of the Catalan socialist party, to reform Spain by making changes to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which had been in force since 1979. The new Statute, which was approved in 2006 by a wide majority of members of the Catalan Parliament (almost 90%), went to the Spanish Congress and, after numerous cuts and modifications proposed by the PSOE and PP, it was validated. Then, it was put to a referendum and the people definitively chose to approve it. But the story does not stop here because the PP and Enrique Múgica, Ombudsman and member of the PSOE, lodged an appeal against the Statute with the Constitutional Court. The Court took four years to pronounce its verdict. And when it finally did, it was only to limit Catalonia’s autonomy even more. It was during these four years of waiting that many Catalans started to see that Spain was a lost cause. All the while, Catalan civil society was starting to rally itself behind initiatives and entities that defended self-government, such as the Platform for the Right to Decide (PDD), which organized numerous citizen mobilizations that called for self-determination and a better economic treatment (February 18th, 2006 and December 1st, 2007), which helped to widen the base of pro-sovereignty supporters. After the ruling of the Constitutional Court, Òmnium Cultural, another civil society platform, organized a demonstration (July 10th, 2010) that saw a large turnout and that included the participation of the presidents and former presidents of the Catalan Generalitat and the Catalan Parliament. Except for the PP, all the Catalan parties gave their support. This was when it started to become clear how –every day— more and more people were choosing to support independence. The rejection of the Spanish Government was also becoming more widespread and more evident by the day. Then the most recent episodes: the Catalan Parliament’s commitment to negotiate a new fiscal pact that would permit Catalonia and Spain to renew their economic relationship, and the massive demonstration on September 11th, 2012, this time organized by the Catalan National Assembly (which could be seen as the continuation of the PDD) that brought out 1.5 million people calling for Catalonia to be a new state in Europe. There was a before and after this September 11th, especially because the leader of the federation in power, CiU, and the president of the country, Artur Mas, listened to the clamor of the people and decided to lead the process of self-determination that the people on the streets were calling for. In the midst of all this, President Mas met with the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, to fulfill the mandate of the Parliament and negotiate a new fiscal pact for Catalonia. He received a resounding “no” for an answer, however, and the dialogue between the two sides came to a halt. The coincidence of these two events (the Spanish Government’s negative response and the demonstration in Barcelona) was enough to convince President Mas to call early elections that would allow everyone to truly see what the will of the Catalan people is regarding the self-determination proposal for the upcoming legislature. These are the most important elections since the return to democracy, and they will reveal what correlation of forces exists between those in favor and those against the right to decide. Among those in favor we find CiU, ERC, ICV-EuiA, SI and the CUP, while PP and C’s are against it. The PSC has situated itself somewhere in the
  2. 2. middle, because it supports the consultation but it does not want to force the legality of the Spanish state. Atthe time of writing this editorial we do not know what will happen. It won’t be until the day after the 25th ofNovember that we can begin to see what it looks like. Despite this, everything leads us to believe that it willbe President Artur Mas who will have the responsibility of leading Catalan politics for the next four years andbeing at the forefront of the process of self-determination. The next legislature will be defined by this will todecide our own future and, also, the need to quickly make our way out of the economic crisis. The road to self-determination will, however, be long and full of uncertainty and obstacles. The resolve of President Artur Masis the best guarantee that this process will be peaceful, democratic and transversal. Without these fundamentalconditions, there is no way that the Catalan pro-sovereignty proposal will ever triumph.
  3. 3. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 FURTHER READING Catalonia? Yes, here we go Víctor Terradellas In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to visit numerous countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. For the first time I have become aware that I haven’t had to introduce Catalonia, the country I come from, and I have also found for the first time that most of the people I speak to ask me the same kind of questions: ‘Is what’s going on in Catalonia, for real? Does the political commitment to independence have a good chance of bearing fruit?’ The international impact made by the demonstration comprised of over one and a half million people that took place in Barcelona on the 11th September, Catalonia’s National Day, has a lot to do with this change. In Europe one rarely finds demonstrations of such magnitude and national liberation movements rarely have such a solid social and political base that is so democratic, peaceful and determined. Nonetheless, we should be clear that this situation is not merely the result of the current economic situation or particular political circumstances. Indeed, Catalonia’s majority nationalism has facilitated the major political developments that Spain has experienced over the last quarter of a century. From the Spanish transition itself (which fell short when it came to holding to account members of the former dictatorial regime, as was the case in Germany and Italy), to decisive support for the governance of the state in key moments of political or economic crisis, to Spain signing up to the European Union and, later, the euro. The major international organisations all agree, however, that Spain has failed to evolve or adopt its own model of a standardised state, even in times of a supposed economic boom. The conversion of the Spanish Constitutional Court into a virtual third chamber, the consolidation of an unfair and unbalanced tax system, the politicisation of financial supervisory bodies and the incompetence of the decentralised management of strategic state structures are indicative of a half-baked state which is burdened by an outdated centralisation. For many years there has been widespread support in Catalonia for a form of autonomy with a wide ranging jurisdiction. It has evolved in an increasing, reasoned way in which the majority call for statehood for the simple reason that Catalonia is lacking in this respect. This statelessness, which can be defined as a lack of the infrastructures which ensure Catalonia’s future political, economic and social development, currently threatens the very existence of the welfare state. Having reached this point, the president of Catalonia has chosen a process of national transition which has as its ultimate aim the realisation of an independent state for Catalonia. The response I have offered to friends and the people I have met around the world recently is: ‘Yes, here we go’. It should be said that it is a process that is not aimed against anybody. Needless to say, we wish all the best to France, Spain and Andorra and long for good neighbourly relations with them. We are working closely with the European Union to this end in our desire to be a bulwark of stability in southern Europe, which is something we are confident we can achieve. We have the determination to succeed and the legitimacy to face up to this political challenge. Catalan independence will be a peaceful process of radical democracy, a political challenge of the first order. We are convinced it will also be a breakthrough for the whole of Europe. It will thereby confirm that Europe remains a privileged place where one can witness democracy’s role as a vital tool in the resolution of political conflicts. As the president of Catalonia solemnly announced in the general policy debate held in Parliament on the 25th of September: ‘It is time for the Catalan people to exercise their right to self-determination’. Víctor Terradellas (Reus, 1962). Entrepreneur and political and cultural activist. President and founder of Fundació CATmón. Editor of Catalan International View and ONGC, a magazine dedicated to political thought, solidarity, aid and international relations. Víctor has always been involved in political and social activism, both nationally and internationally. The driving force behind the Plataforma per la Sobirania (The Platform for Self-Determination) as well as being responsible for significant Catalan aid operations and international relations in such diverse locations as Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Pakistan and Kurdistan. Currently he is General Secretary of International Relations for the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya party. He is also a member of the Advisory Council of InTransit.
  4. 4. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 FURTHER READING The Options for Catalans on November 25 Col·lectiu Emma Last September, in what turned out to be an awful case of bad timing only days after the huge pro-independence rally in Barcelona, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy casually dismissed the latest offer to negotiate made by the representatives of the Catalan people. This prompted Artur Mas, the head of the Catalan government, to call a snap election. His party’s central electoral promise is a referendum on independence, and the key question that Catalans will in fact be answering when they cast their vote on November 25 is whether or not they want that referendum to be held. The Catalans’ right to decide is, then, the main issue on which all political parties must take a stand and the standard by which the winners and the losers will be called when ballots are counted on Sunday evening. The field is clearly split between two opposing blocs regarding not only the possibility of self-government for Catalans, but also the legality of asking them about their future. On the principle that the people should be given a chance to be heard, Mr. Mas has the support of all those parties that are not subordinate to the interests of Madrid, ranging from the Christian Democrats to the environmentalist left. As much as their projects may differ and even clash on some issues, they all recognize the Catalan people’s weariness with their lot as a Spanish province and understand the need to go beyond the present stalemate. Over in the unionist camp they are also temporarily in agreement, both against the idea of independence and in their refusal even to allow consulting the people about it. Particularly vocal in decrying both possibilities is Ciudadanos, a minor grouping without a clear project or even an explicit ideology, except crusading against everything that reminds them of the existence of a Catalan national identity. They will probably enlarge their fringe constituency by drawing discontended voters from the two major Spanish parties. These are both following the lines dictated by their parent organizations in Madrid. The Socialists find themselves in a particularly tough spot, torn as they are between the need to follow those dictates and the realization that they are doing a disservice to their few remaining followers. A split is on the horizon, possibly right after their foretold thrashing in this election. As to the Partido Popular, the obligation to follow the cues from Madrid also leads its Catalan subsidiary to uphold policies that are obviously damaging to its constituents. In spite of that, and in spite of the well-deserved loss of credibility –domestically and internationally– of its national leader, Mr. Rajoy, it will probably reap the bulk of the unionist vote in Catalonia. For the unionist parties this has become a defensive campaign. If one considers their deep ideological differences, it’s amazing how alike their pronouncements are. What all three have in common is that they are not offering a credible alternative to their opponents’ plan and that they are putting forward no specific policies. This is a strange election in which one side is not making any promises. Both the Socialists and the PP have been appealing to the emotional ties with Spain in the name of a presumed harmony among the peninsular peoples. They bring up images of border posts and customs officers separating what are now Spanish provinces. What they fail to mention is that, as far as Catalans are concerned, there is no desire to break with anyone, neither with the European neighbors to the north nor with the Spanish neighbors to the west and south. As a matter of fact, any border posts that might be raised would be only on the Spanish side. Another bogeyman they wave at Catalans is a vision of the economic misery that would befall them if they were to leave Spain. Catalonia would be excluded from the Spanish market, they predict, and prevented from joining the EU, thus being condemned to live in an autarchic limbo for an indeterminate period of self-inflicted pain. These calamities could indeed materialize to a certain extent, but the main point is that they would not just naturally happen as a result of independence. In fact, they would only come about through hostile actions by Spain. The PP has also been resorting to some very ugly lies, like telling retirees that they would lose their pensions if Catalonia were to become independent. This is a particularly silly threat, since historically Catalonia has been a net contributor to the general Spanish pot. Also, in a pay-as-you-go system pensions can only be guaranteed by a functioning economy, and on that count Catalonia’s prospects are much better than those of present-day Spain, which, at least as far as the economy is concerned, is just this side of a failed state. The major financial concern for an independent Catalonia would be the administration’s short-term liquidity, and that problem could be solved in the medium run by a performing economy, which is more likely in an independent context. This is about the extent of the arguments that have been coming so far from the unionist parties in Catalonia. They certainly have no qualms about resorting to fear mongering and threats, and yet they know they couldn’t get away with the hostile language that is common currency elsewhere in Spain without losing the measure of support they still have in some sectors of Catalan society. But the campaign is not being played only in Barcelona. Over in Madrid, the politicians and the media have stepped in in full force. And not exactly to make things better. The Catalan people and their political representatives are being subjected to various forms of intimidation, including smear campaigns in the media. Government ministers have threatened to bring criminal charges against Mr. Mas if he dares to call a popular consultation; a boycott of Catalan products all
  5. 5. over Spain has been openly announced if that were to happen, as well as the intention of blocking membershipin the EU if Catalonia ever became an independent country. Even more alarming are the statements by high-ranking army officers –active or retired– citing their duty to mount a military intervention, a position echoedin the editorial pages of at least one major newspaper and none-too-subtly hinted in other circles.What is lacking are rational arguments for the continuity of the present political arrangement or good reasonsfor Catalans to want to be a part of it. Indeed, nobody in the unionist camp has been heard, in Madrid or inBarcelona, saying anything positive that would come to Catalans if they chose to remain in Spain. One mustconclude that Spain has nothing to offer to the Catalan people. Which is exactly what the pro-independenceparties are saying.Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made ittheir job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Their goal is to ensurethat the world’s public opinion gets a fair picture of the country’s reality today and in history.They aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalanpoint of view.
  6. 6. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 OPINION The Real Chimera Manuel Castells We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis that is the consequence of the fundamental disagreement between the Catalan and Spanish institutions about the fiscal regime and the distribution of powers. The crisis has grown much worse since King Juan Carlos made his partisan statement —aligned with the Popular Party’s position and with the same language of constitutional fundamentalism— because it undermined the monarchy’s legitimacy in the eyes of a future sovereign Catalonia. Like his Bourbon ancestors, the King chose to put Spain before Catalonia without discreetly seeking reconciliation. It’s truly a shame and a regrettable mistake that the monarchy’s role of arbitrator in the case of serious conflict and constitutional deadlock has been wasted like this, without even an attempt at serious negotiation with the two parties involved. In fact, the essential function of a constitutional monarchy —regarded as a moral authority due to its impartial perspective— is to seek a consensus (instead of demanding one). After the latest scandals protagonized by the Royal Family, including those by the King himself, this sort of positioning —that ignores the nuances of the situation and lacks proposals— was all that was needed to delegitimize the Monarchy in the eyes of many Catalans and some Spaniards. How many? Can we speak of a crisis between Catalonia and Spain by basing ourselves on a massive demonstration and using the number of participants as the defining argument? There are enough signs that can lead us to believe that right now a possible majority of Catalans —and maybe even the Parliament that will emerge from the upcoming elections—supports a national transition towards a sovereign Catalonia. Too much uncertainty to set off a constitutional crisis on such a basis. But there is a simple way of clearing this up: a popular referendum, one of a consultative nature, according to the rule of law, in which the citizens of Catalonia pronounce themselves. Or at least this way we all would know where we stand, even if it means working out the logistics of the deployment of the Spanish Legion in Catalan territory. Because what many citizens and a good part of Catalan civil society and Catalan politicians are asking for is not immediate independence, but the right to decide about the powers of their self-government institutions, negotiating a constitutional modification with the Spanish state based on this mandate. Or another option would be to hold off on a proposal for greater autonomy if those who support sovereignty end up being a minority. This was the case of Quebec where the independence option lost in two separate referendums, but Canada was smart enough and flexible enough to raise the autonomous ceiling for them. And today, in fact, the pro-independence party has just recently won the Quebec elections. If the PP is so sure about the silent majority in Catalonia [that opposes independence], let’s vote. But in reality the PP and the King don’t really believe this. Here, Spain is the accounting unit of democracy. And Spain’s fundamental text is a Constitution that was voted in under exceptional circumstances, when there was a latent threat of unpredictable armed forces (as the attempted coup of 1981 proved to be real) and a large number of pro-Franco sectors persisted among the country’s elite. All of these factors led to a number of mutual concessions that took on the shape of a constitutional commitment. In fact, just like all constitutions at the birth of democracies. It has been 34 years since then and Spanish society (and even more so Catalan society, in cultural and autonomous matters) has been profoundly transformed, yet this transformation has not been reflected in the constitutional framework. The constitutions that endure (and the post-absolutist monarchies that endure) are those that adapt to the evolution of society. Not those that turn into sacred and inviolable texts that are fiercely defended (especially) when doing so is advantageous to those in power. And afterwards, surprise surprise, it turns out that this sacred text can be amended one day, almost by stealth, when Merkel demands it and with threats of imposing an economic dictatorship that ends up being imposed anyway. It is really a clash between an uncompromising Spanish nationalism and a sensible —for the time being— Catalan nationalism, with a King who champions a Spain that does not respect the historical aspirations of its significant national minorities. So now is not the right time because there is an economic crisis? The biggest institutional crises happen precisely when there are economic and social crises that make the frustrations of peoples more acute. Row together? Yes, but on the condition that there are not those who row and others who simply follow the rhythm by beating some drums. Precisely because there is a structural economic crisis (worsened by I don’t know what kind of histrionic version of Spanish pride transformed into economic policy) we need a consensus among citizens and nationalities (whose plurality is recognized by the Spanish Constitution) so that each nationality and autonomy finds a good fit for itself instead of trying to awkwardly squeeze into Spain and losing its identity in the process. But the Spanish Central Government slammed the door on the fledgling fiscal pact even before sitting down with the Catalan President to discuss it. And the King has further stressed this by equating the legitimate debate on the “national question” with the metaphor of wasting time splitting hairs [or, in the Spanish version of the metaphor, wasting time arguing about the difference between greyhounds and hounds], which calls to mind images of the hunt. All the while, certain media outlets are predicting that President Mas will have the same [poor] luck as the former Lehendakari Ibarretxe. But the two situations are completely different. The Basque sovereignty proposal was made at a time of confrontation among the citizenry in a Basque Country undermined by ETA’s terrorism and with a strong and intelligent Socialist Party in Spain. In Catalonia there is none of this right now. Nor, in
  7. 7. fact, is this still the case in the Basque Country today, which is why in the upcoming elections*, with supportfor the legal pro-independence movement rising significantly, Catalonia’s constitutional crisis could spread tothe Basque Country. Even if Spanish nationalists close ranks, in the end negotiation is inevitable. Because inCatalonia, the sovereignty process has already begun. This is why the only true chimera is that of the Francoist‘una, grande y libre’ [one, great and free] Spain, no matter how constitutional that Spain may be.*To read more about the results of the Basque Elections, see the editorial:
  8. 8. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 OPINION An Illegal Referendum? Lluís Jou As Catalonia continues down the path to achieving its own state, one of the necessary stops will be the holding of a referendum in which the Catalan citizenry decides, freely, if it wants to be an independent state within Europe or not. Those who stigmatize this strictly democratic proposal (one that gives voice to the citizenry) have offered as proof that the referendum is unconstitutional and that those who promote it are irresponsible and will never see what they are asking for ever accomplished. They also claim that independence itself is unconstitutional and that Catalonia will never be an independent state. These claims can be overturned with two arguments that are based on principles. The first is the principle of natural law: democracy and the pre-existing reality of Catalonia must take precedence over the Spanish Constitution. The other is the principle of positive law: the law is an instrument that serves politics and society, and it loses all meaning, and all authority, when it is not longer useful. The first argument has been cited a great deal over the last few weeks. The Spanish Constitution cannot be used to deny the Catalans their right to decide, and it is also clear that in a democracy there is no way that forbidding access to the ballot box can be legitimized. In the Constitution no list of issues exists that the citizenry cannot be consulted about. And if there were, democracy and Catalonia would still come before the laws. We can set this issue to rest, because the Constitution’s fundamental principle is democracy. President Mas has said it quite clearly: the Constitution cannot act as a barrier to the aspirations of Catalonia. I want to look closer at this second argument. Is a referendum that would allow Catalans to express their opinion on the future of Catalonia unconstitutional? Those who insist on its unconstitutionality cite articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution, which state that national sovereignty resides in the Spanish people and, thus, it is a matter that all Spaniards should be consulted about. They also claim that the Constitution is based on the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation and, therefore, Catalans can only organize a referendum by way of the complicated and deterring procedure found in article 168 for constitutional modifications. Let’s break this down step by step. The Law 2/1980, of January 18th, which establishes that only the Spanish state can call a referendum, regulates referendums and their modalities. This law foresees that referendums can be held on issues that only affect one province or more. Saying that sovereignty resides in the Spanish people does not mean, in any instance, that every decision must be put to a State-wide referendum. Referendums on the statutes of autonomy are a clear example of this. The law of 1980 foresees three kinds of qualified referendums: those of article 92 of the Constitution, which put to referendum political decisions of particular significance, those of article 167, which refer to constitutional modifications, and those of article 168 that are related to statutes of autonomy. If on behalf of the Spanish government there is a political decision to permit a referendum that would ask Catalans if they want to form an independent State, I don’t see the Spanish Constitution or the law to be an impediment. The referendum Catalans are asking for deals with a political decision of particular significance, but it is clear that the referendum, in and of itself, and the question that would be included in it, would not involve a modification of the Constitution. If the pro-independence option loses, it would leave things as they stand and no constitutional modification would be necessary. Only a result favorable to independence would bring changes to the structure of the State, and it is not yet clear that these would be changes to the Constitution. They would be changes of another sort. On one hand, modifying the structure of the Spanish territory and its population could be construed as a constitutional modification, but on the other hand if Catalonia were to leave Spain the Constitution could remain in force throughout the rest of the Spanish state without having to modify a single word, because the Constitution does not even mention Catalonia. Only if there is a result in favor of independence should we begin discussions about a political solution. Therefore this is not a legal issue, but a political one. According to article 92 of the Constitution and article 6 of the Law 2/1980, if the political will exists to authorize the holding of a referendum in Catalonia, then it would be enough if the President of the Spanish Government, at the urging of the Catalan Generalitat, were to ask for authorization from the Spanish Congress. This authorization would have to be granted by absolute majority because the question Catalans wish to ask does not, at the outset, modify the Constitution. Thus, to ask for a referendum to be held so that Catalans can decide whether they want a state of their own is constitutional, legal and democratic. Authorizing the referendum is too. To deny this authorization may be legal, but it is anti-democratic and it would be yet another example that illustrates how little the Spanish state structures value Catalonia.
  9. 9. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 OPINION Backfire Xavier Sala-i-Martín As was expected, the mega-demonstration in Barcelona on September 11th has brought with it an avalanche of anti-independence analysis designed to instill fear in the Catalan people. What was not expected, however, was that the intellectual level of said analysis would be so low: not only are the anti-independence articles full of errors, but in addition, when carefully analyzed, they end up supporting independence. Let’s look at the three most repeated arguments. “Independence would be bad for Catalonia because they would have to take on a proportional part of the Spanish debt and that would be disastrous.” The error in this argument is that it doesn’t explain what will happen to Catalonia if it remains within Spain. Who will pay off the Spanish debt in that case, extraterrestrials? No! The Spanish! And who will pay the proportional part that corresponds to the Catalans? The answer to that now, is of course, yes, the Catalans! That is what has always occurred and that is what will continue to happen as long as Catalonia forms part of Spain. Therefore, if the Catalans have to pay a proportional part of the debt whether they stay or whether they go, the debt argument doesn’t make any sense at all. In fact, if we were going to take this argument seriously, and if independence were to be decided solely on the criteria of the amount of debt to be paid by the Catalans, the rational decision would be to leave: since there is no law that regulates independence, it’s not 100% sure that Catalonia would have to take on a part of a debt that was incurred by the Government of Spain. Therefore, by declaring independence, it might save itself from that load. Conversely, what is 100% sure is that if they stay, they will have to pay their part of the debt. One variant on this theme is “if Catalonia becomes independent, its risk premium will go sky high, and it won’t be able to get loans in the international markets and the Generalitat’s rating will have junk bond status. The fallacy consists in not realizing that this already reflects the current situation in Catalonia. If by virtue of being an autonomous region of the Spain of ruinous solidarity, Catalonia cannot get any loans and its bonds have junk status, the threat of sinking to junk bond levels is rather ridiculous. In fact, if we took this theory seriously and independence were only to be decided by the criteria of having access to the international markets, the rational decision would be to leave: There is the possibility that the markets would see that in the case of independence, the 16 billion euros on average that annually go to Spain to finance other regions if Catalonia stays in Spain but that wouldn’t go if it were independent, are sufficient so that the Generalitat can pay its debts and its bonds would no longer be junk. We don’t know what will happen if there is independence. What we do know is what’s happening right now with a dependent Catalonia: junk bonds. Another repeated threat is that “if Catalonia leaves, Catalan retirees who have paid into the system all their lives will lose their pensions because the Spanish government won’t pay them.” Besides the fact that if it were true that the Government of Spain were capable of depriving older people of their pensions out of vengeance that that would be another reason to leave the country sooner rather than later, the argument contains another important mistake: the Spanish government doesn’t have the money for the Catalan retirees’ pensions. Everyone knows that the pensions of today’s retirees are paid with money that comes from today’s workers, and that the money that the retirees paid when they were working disappeared when the pensions of that time were being paid. The money that will go to the Catalan retirees, then, is not held by the Spanish government, but rather by Catalan workers. And since there will be Catalan workers in an independent Catalonia, there will be money paid in, and the pensions will be guaranteed. In fact, if we took this argument seriously, and independence were only to be decided solely on the criteria of the pensions, the rational decision would be to leave: between 1995 and 2010, Catalans paid an extra 24.774 billion euros into the Spanish Social Security system. If that money had stayed in Catalonia, there would have been an additional 3300 euros per person. From the point of view of the pensions, therefore, Spain is also a bad business for Catalonia.
  10. 10. The third most common threat is that of international trade: “Catalonia’s most important trading partner isSpain and if we put a barrier between Catalonia and Spain, the trade between the two areas will be reduced by70%, resulting in a fall of 9% of Catalan GDP.” Where did the 70% come from? Answer: from Portugal and theCzech Republic. Since there is a border between Spain and Portugal, say the analysts, when there is a borderbetween Catalonia and Spain, their trade will fall to the level of Portugal’s. What they don’t take into accountis that it’s not the same to start from a situation in which there were trade barriers (like there were betweenPortugal and Spain before joining the EU) as it is to start from a situation that has no such barriers, as wouldbe the case of Catalonia and Spain (see also Pol Antràs en Nada es Gratis). They use the example of the CzechRepublic because, when it became indendent from Slovakia, the trade between the two countries fell 70% andthat’s the same number they apply to Catalonia without taking into account the fact that the Czech Republic andSlovakia were two communist countries controlled remotely by a government who told each one what it hadto produce and where it could sell. Logically, when communism fell, this entire commercial farce disappeared,but none of that has to happen in Catalonia and thus saying that trade will fall 70% is pretty stupid.In fact, if we took that theory seriously and independence were only to be decided by following this tradecriteria, the rational decision would be to leave: because the analysts only talk about how trade fell between theCzech Republic and Slovakia but they don’t mention the trade with Germany, Europe and the rest of the worldthat rose so much that the entire trade exports figure (adding Slovakia’s as well as the rest of the world) hasgone from 49% of the Czech GDP in 1993 (the year it became independent) to 75% currently.Far from falling the 9% predicted by Spanish doomsayers, the Czech Republic’s GDP went from 13 billiondollars in 1993 to $23.4 billion today. Thus, the Czech example also bolsters the independent cause.In summary: up til now, all of the arguments that have been used to “demonstrate” that the economic situationof an independent Catalonia would be catastrophic are so fallacious that once they are carefully analyzed, eachand every one of them ends up saying the same thing: if we took the theories seriously and independence wereto be decided solely on that criteria, the most rational response would be to leave. Indeed, the fear mongeringstrategies remind us more and more of Wile E. Coyote, whose unhealthy fixation on hunting the Roadrunnermakes him commit monumental blunders that end up, in each case, backfiring on him disastrously.Xavier Sala-i-Martín is the J. and M. Grossman Professor of Economic Development at Columbia Universityin the city of New York. He earned his PhD in Economics at Harvard University in 1990. He previouslytaught at Yale University, Harvard University and UPF in Barcelona. He is a research associate at theNational Bureau of Economic Research and Chief Economic Advisor to the Centre for Global Competitivenessat the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. His research interests include Economic Growth andDevelopment and Macroeconomics.Website URL: http://www.salaimartin.comTranslated by: Elisabeth Castro (
  11. 11. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 IN DEPTH Calls for independence in Catalonia are part of an evolution of Spain’s democracy that the country’s constitution may have to come to accommodate Montserrat Guibernau Elections are due to be held in Catalonia in November, with President Artur Mas also promising to hold a referendum on Catalan self-determination. Montserrat Guibernau assesses the prospects for the referendum, noting that the Spanish constitution currently prevents any direct vote on the issue. Despite this, she asks whether the EU could ignore the results of such a referendum given its commitment to promoting democracy in Europe. Artur Mas, president of Catalonia, has called an early election for November 25th and promised to hold a referendum on self- determination. His initiative is a response to last month’s 1.5 million strong peaceful demonstration on the streets of Barcelona calling for independence. Citizens are profoundly dissatisfied with the way in which they are being treated by Spain; they resent long-lasting limitations to Catalan demands for greater political autonomy allowing them to redress the accumulating annual deficit of 8 per cent of Catalan GDP due to the financial arrangement imposed by the Spanish state. They also lament the lack of recognition of Catalonia as a nation within Spain. Cultural and identity issues feature strongly among their demands. In a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held in Madrid on 20 September, Mas requested an independent treasury for Catalonia with its own tax base akin to the model already enjoyed in the Basque Country and Navarra. Rajoy’s response was ‘no’ and this triggered the Catalan President’s decision to call a snap election. Mas’ initiative has the support of the majority of the Catalan Parliament, which includes the following political parties: Convergence and Union, the Catalan Republican Left, Initiative for Catalonia – Greens, and Catalan Solidarity for Independence. The latest Feedback opinion poll has coincided with the announcement of a fresh Catalan election. It registers 44.7 per cent support for Artur Mas ‘as the leader that best represents Catalan interests’, miles away from the other leaders who are rated between 1.7 and 5 per cent. Support for pro-sovereignty parties has increased and they are expected to obtain over 2/3 of the seats in the Catalan Parliament at the election. In a June poll, 68 per cent of those surveyed felt that Catalonia has thus far achieved an insufficient degree of autonomy, and 51 per cent said that they would vote in favour of independence in the coming referendum, as shown in Figure 1. Figure 1 – Voting intentions in referendum on Catalan self-determination Source: Feedback Poll – 27 June 2012 A clear majority in favour of Catalan sovereignty would grant legitimacy to Mas’ commitment to hold a referendum on self-determination after the election. This is a crucial issue, because the Spanish Constitution does not allow the holding of such referendums, as the Spanish government has stated. According to the Constitution, Spain is a single ‘demos’ formed by ‘all Spaniards’; the Catalans are regarded as a part of that single ‘demos’ and this automatically deems any attempts to hold a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia illegal. In turn, Article 2 of the Constitution argues that ‘the Constitution is based upon the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, common and indivisible patria of all Spaniards’, and Article 8 states that ‘the Army’s mission is to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional set up’. In his most recent speech to the Catalan Parliament, Mas has argued that he seeks the creation of a Catalan state within the European Union, one which should emerge out of a ‘peaceful and democratic process’ in which the Catalans are granted the right to decide upon their political future. He insists in using the word ‘self- determination’ instead of ‘independence’, arguing that the latter is no longer viable in an interdependent world. He insists that his proposal does not represent a ‘break up’ or a ‘goodbye’ to Spain since a Catalan state would not turn its back to the Spanish state, instead it could address it as an ‘equal’ within the EU framework. In
  12. 12. the current economic and socio-political environment, Mas presents self-determination as the only availableoption for Catalonia to fulfil its own potential as a democratic, modern European nation.In Spain, hostility against Catalan demands has been accompanied by threats to suspend Catalonia’s autonomyamid accusations of sedition against Mas and his government. Suggestions that the Spanish Civil Guard (theGuardia Civil) should be ready to take over and run the Catalan police (Mossos) have been expressed bySpanish Popular Party MEP Vidal-Quadras, while Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, leader of the Catalan branch of thePopular Party, has firmly distanced herself from such assertions. The Popular Party’s speaker in the SpanishConstitutional Commission, Pedro Gomez de la Serna, has stressed that ‘the State will guarantee article 2 ofour Constitution, which is based upon the indissoluble unity of Spain’; an assertion reminding citizens that theArmy is the guarantor of the territorial integrity of Spain.Three main issues emerge from the current situation. First, in terms of the role of the Constitution, the Spanishgovernment is treating the Constitution as static and unable to adapt to different political environments when,for example, the American Constitution has been changed on numerous occasions to redress some situationsoriginally considered ‘normal’ and later recognized as ‘unjust’: among them the prohibition of female voting,the practice of slavery - particularly in the South - and voting rights for Blacks and Native Americans.Second, democracy is not achieved once and for all; it requires a constant dialogic process based upon popularsovereignty. Referendums are instruments to bring democracy closer to the citizens. Legitimacy emanates fromthem. Last, the European Union is a democratic intergovernmental institution committed to the protection ofdiversity. It is also an institution funded and run by nation-states. Could the EU ignore Catalan aspirations ifthey were expressed democratically? Would it turn its back to an eventual use of force against the Catalans?In response to an important article by Karlo Basta on this blog, I consider it a mistake to speak of ‘balkanization,Iberian Style’ for four main reasons. First, balkanization was instrumental to the disintegration of the formerUSSR and, as such, partly encouraged/allowed by Western powers. Second, powerful geopolitical interestswere at stake in the Balkans; this is not the case in Catalonia.Third, war in the Balkans took place at a time when there was a power vacuum and before some of the formerSoviet republics applied for EU membership. In contrast Spain is an EU member, which initiated its peacefultransition to democracy in 1976. However, its initial impetus to accommodate national minorities was partlyweakened by the attempted coup d’état in 1981 -followed by a second failed attempt in 1982- and the subsequentresurgence of neocentralism associated with the second mandate of Prime Minister J.M. Aznar (2000-2004).At present Spain is expecting an imminent bail out from the EU.Last, it is striking that not once is the word ‘democracy’ mentioned in Basta’s article, when democratic argumentshave been a constant in the Barcelona demonstration and feature prominently in the Catalan political debate.Some knowledge of the Spanish dictatorship and the transition to democracy is indispensable to comprehendsome of the arguments, threats and fears expressed today.Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics andPolicy, nor of the London School of Economics.Montserrat Guibernauis Professor of Politics at Queen Mary College, University of London. She holds a PhD and an MA in Socialand Political Theory from the University of Cambridge and a degree in Philosophy from the Universitatde Barcelona. She has taught at the universities of Warwick, Cambridge, Barcelona, the London Schoolof Economics and the Open University. Guibernau has held visiting professorships at the universities ofEdinburgh, Tampere, Pompeu Fabra, the UQAM (Quebec) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Currentlyshe holds a visiting fellowship at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics.Montserrat Guibernau is the author of numerous books and articles on nationalism, the nation-state, nationalidentity, and national and ethnic minorities in the West from the perspective of global governance.)She is also on the Advisory Council of InTransit.
  13. 13. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterThe road to self-determination issue #1o november 2012 OUR CULTURE, OUR HISTORY The eighteenth century. Economic growth and political absolutism Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya Philip V was an absolutist monarch who imposed the Nueva Planta Decree and practised a repressive political policy after the Catalan defeat in 1714. However, the absolutist tendency had already been developed during the previous reigns of the house of Austria. In spite of everything, Catalonia experimented with social and economical improvements. Absolutism, as a form of government, had its most paradigmatic example in the France of Louis XIV. During the eighteenth century, he moved towards a system which based the wealth of the state on the tax possibilities of its subjects. To make this system possible, however, they had to create and reform the necessary organisms and apply administrative and economical changes. It is in this context that the Nueva Planta Decree and the new Bourbon regime were implemented. In spite of the strong repression that Philip V exercised on the Catalans and the dismantling of the region’s representative institutions, Catalonia managed to carry out a series of social and economical transformations which enabled an improvement in commerce, agriculture and manufacturing. The basis of this growth derived from the previous century and was rooted in the favourable juncture of the period falling between the end of the fifteenth century and the outbreak of the Reapers’ War in 1640. These were decades in which Catalonia had already experienced a change in demographical tendency motivated by the drip of French immigration and the increase in population which followed the disappearance of the plague at the end of the seventeenth century. The basic elements of this economic drive were the modernization of crops, an improvement in their commercialization, urban growth of the middle size and prosperous cities like Mataró and, after 1778, the official opening of the American market. The accumulation of benefits obtained from commerce favoured an incipient industrialization, which was principally concentrated in the textile sector. These economical transformations also affected the social circle because, especially in the case of the underprivileged classes, there was an economic diversity and a certain social mobility whose driving force was the money of the commercial and industrial benefits. Thus, the basis of a mercantile bourgeoisie was established which, with more or less resources, would work hard to maintain and increase its businesses. These transformations became more evident in the urban settings: the dynamism of this society was also visible in the promotion of new initiatives and in the infrastructures which backed the new economical necessities. One of the most representative examples was the ‘Junta de Comerç de Barcelona’ [Barcelona Commerce Board] which was promoted by traders and industrialists in 1758. An agricultural and manufacturing specialization also occurred in the interior districts, like those of wool spinning and weaving in the Osona, Lluçanès, Berguedà and Moianès regions, and of silk and calico printing in Manresa and Barcelona. We also find other specializations like that of paper in Capellades, or iron in the Pyrenees. In the coastal districts, principally the Maresme, vineyards and the industries which elaborated wine and brandy were implemented. Also in Reus, and on the Camp de Tarragona where, since the end of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century, the cultivation of vines had substituted that of cereals, until specialised nuclei of industrialization were created, becoming dominant. The reason for the growth of the wine industry was tied to the important increase in the demand for wine and, especially for brandy, in the markets of northern Europe, where the consumption of these liquors was traditionally very high. The exportations to the American colonies also progressively increased. Catalan society had become used to adapting to new events, in spite of the political as well as cultural repression. The standardising and absolutist Bourbon policy implemented Spanish as the official language and in teaching from 1716 onwards. A single, new university was inaugurated in Cervera which was controlled by the state which, in spite of everything, obtained a good level in classical knowledge, law and humanities. Moreover, the Catalan language subsisted as the villagers’ common tongue, although not so much amongst the leading and more accommodated classes, which were partly replaced after the exile and oppression by individuals related to the new regime. In spite of the ‘castilianization’ of the administration, the persistent tensions between the Junta de Comerç and the Bourbon institutions, the predominant agrarianism between the reformist ministers and the superficiality of the economical proposals which reached the government, the economy prospered in Catalonia and, with it, society. Other reforming measures were also pivotal, like the new single property register tax and the free commerce decree. In spite of the universal insecurity, the enlightened ideas and some modernising projects reached the Catalonia of the end of the eighteenth century. These ideas and projects came mainly from abroad due to the dynamism and the needs of the emerging social groups, such as traders and industrialists, who inspired the activities of the Junta de Comerç and who had to respond to market competition. For this reason they created their own institutions, founding the ‘Escola de Nàutica’ [Nautical School] in 1770, that of ‘Nobles Arts’ [Noble Arts] in 1775 and of ‘Comerç’ [Commerce] in 1786. The Enlightenment in Catalonia, thus, had an eminently functional character. Behind these institutions there was the business bourgeoisie, who were well represented by the
  14. 14. Junta de Comerç.The Spanish Enlightened Despotism of the end of the eighteenth century had a quite disperse promotion inCatalonia and its proposals were less valid because there was already a consolidated agriculture in the regionwhich was more commercial, and some manufacturing in transformation, which were combined with a growingurban framework that was very favourable to commerce.This ‘applied’ Enlightenment to Catalonia had intellectual influences such as Jaume Caresmar and Antonide Capmany, who defended an economical project built upon commercial development. With this objective,Capmany wrote ‘Memorias históricas sobre la marina, comercio y artes de la antigua sociedad de Barcelona’[Historical memoirs about marine, commerce and arts of the old society of Barcelona]. This intellectualresearched the economical development of medieval Catalonia, in which manufacturing and commerce playedvital roles, in order to be able to extract the optimum applications for the present day.A perfect example of the results of the combination of absolutism and Bourbon reformism was the episodeof the ‘Memorial de greuges’ [Memorial of grievances] which the deputies of Barcelona, Valencia, Saragossaand Palma de Majorca presented to Charles III during the only Courts that the monarch held in 1760. Thememorial related the complaints about the discrimination the Catalan subjects suffered in contrast with theSpanish ones’ and that bias was observed when going forward to posts, as well as exposing the problem of thelinguistic and cultural oppression, to finally re-vindicate the old political structures which had been abolishedin 1714.The reference to the institutions lost in 1714, and the attempt to recuperate portions of collective freedom werea constant theme of all these projects. The idea that one’s own institutions, which were more representative,were socially convenient for the economical development of the country, could be found in the ideas of theAustrian leaders who, at the beginning of the century, were opposed to the reign of Philip V.Thus, the measures of the Bourbon reform of the eighteenth century, which were based upon some apparentlymore modern applications, combined with the political absolutism, managed to halt a trajectory of economicdevelopment which Catalonia had initiated at the end of the fifteenth century and which remained stalled bytwo wars, that of the Reapers’ and that of Succession.Another relevant text which reflected the social and economical restlessness of the Principality was the‘Discurso sobre la agricultura, comercio e industria del Principado de Cataluña de la Real Junta de Comerciode Barcelona’ [Dissertation about the agriculture, commerce and industry of the Principality of Catalonia bythe Royal Board of Commerce of Barcelona] from 1780, which was put together by Jaume Caresmar, amongstother authors, who contributed decentralising proposals for the application of a free commerce which wasmore allied to the territorial and local institutions than to the stately ones.These examples showed how, since the middle of the eighteenth century, the Catalan society mobilised itselfin all directions with projects of an academic nature, industrial application and economic proposals, contraryto a government that did not offer adequate solutions to their needs, in spite of the propaganda that, later on,implied they had followed the economically reforming measures of the Bourbon ministers.The economic improvement of eighteenth century Catalonia, more than being sustained on the supposedimpulse of Bourbon reformism, was built upon the economic impulse of the previous century which wascharacterised by the innovation of crops and commercial and industrial vitality to which, in some sectors, therewas added the re-vindication of some lost liberties and institutions which, although belonging to the classes,interacted more dynamically with the region’s civil society.