Catalonia Through the Eyes of the International Media (IT InTransit #12)
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 EDITORIAL Catalonia through the eyes of the international media Martí Estruch Axmacher In just a few months, Catalonia has gone from begging for a small corner of the international section to making the front pages of some of the most inﬂuential international newspapers, from the Financial Times to The Washington Post. In the eyes of the world, Catalonia has gone from being just another Spanish region to a nation with serious possibilities of becoming an independent state. Let’s not forget: it was just one year ago that the only times Catalonia would appear in international news stories were in those focused on FC Barcelona and, with a bit of luck, a travel piece or two on Gaudí, the Sagrada Família and the attractiveness of the city of Barcelona. I say with a bit of luck because most of the time these articles would focus on stereotypes such as paella, bullﬁghting and ﬁesta. Catalonia has gone from being ignored by the media to being sexy and trendy. When and why did this happen? Although it is impossible to pinpoint a speciﬁc date, the massive demonstration on September 11th, 2012 (Catalan National Day) was an unmistakable turning point. It is hard to ignore the powerful, clear and unequivocal clamour of more than a million people who, in a peaceful and festive manner, ﬁlled the streets that day calling for “Catalonia, next state in Europe.” Some foreign correspondents got to experience the demonstration ﬁrsthand: their journalistic intuition didn’t fail them. The rest would arrive in a steady stream over the following weeks after the ﬁscal pact failed and the President of the Generalitat decided to call early elections with the ﬁrm promise that he would hold a referendum on self-determination if he were reelected. The strong opposition of the PP and the Spanish government has only made the issue more interesting. During the months of October and November 2012, dozens of foreign correspondents ﬂocked to Barcelona to stay for a few days, speak with key civil society ﬁgures and the people on the street, walk around, observe, ask questions and get a feel for what was happening... then they went back home and wrote. This is why more articles have been published and more news stories broadcast about Catalonia in three months than in the past three decades, and the majority of them with a clear grasp of the true situation, which is something that we aren’t used to at all. After reporting with a certain degree of reluctance and hints of sarcasm about the popular consultations on the independence of Catalonia that began in Arenys de Munt, or the prohibition of bullﬁghting, even the foreign correspondents based in Madrid (which tend to be the majority) now hop on the AVE more frequently to try to understand what is happening here in Catalonia. And many of these correspondents do so at the behest of the media outlets they work for, which have been noticing how the stories being published by special correspondents, who arrive without any ideological preconceptions, have been painting a very different picture of our country. This is a country that activists such as Col·lectiu Emma and people like the prestigious Catalan Economy Minister Andreu Mas-Colell have never tired of explaining to the outside world, patiently and with facts and clear arguments, often with quite a lot of success. This is also why the Catalan elections on November 25th generated a level of international media interest that has never been seen before, with close to one hundred accredited foreign journalists covering the elections, the Chinese and the Russians among some of the more “exotic” ones. Another example is the Taiwanese television station that, in the days leading up to the elections, desperately searched for a workshop where Catalan estelada ﬂags were being made by hand. The excellent reports of the BBC and Al Jazeera have already become classics. And the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, literally cannot attend to all of the interview requests he receives from journalists willing to hop on a plane anytime, from halfway around the globe if need be, to spend just one hour with him so that he can explain what the Catalan National Transition is all about. We need to make a continuous effort to explain Catalonia abroad: for the majority of journalists and a good part of their readership or audience, it is surprising to hear that Catalonia wants to leave Spain. The recently launched Eugeni Xammar Program is one of the ways the Catalan Government is seeking to build stronger connections with foreign correspondents and journalists and help explain Catalonia to the world. The Anglo-Saxon media tend to be more inclined to understand the Catalan pro-sovereignty positions due to their culture, democratic tradition and the fact that each country’s media are a reﬂection of their national political mentality. As we have already seen with regard to the Scottish process, Great Britain has a much easier time accepting and understanding the concept of plurinationality than states of a more centrist or Jacobin tradition. Germany is a curious case: despite being a federal republic, many Germans have a hard time understanding Catalonia’s demands. What tends to happen is that in Germany, and therefore for German journalists, it is hard not to see Catalonia as a Spanish Bavaria —a territory with distinctive regional traits but German above all— instead of a territory with its own national identity that has never been tolerated — nevermind defended— by the state it belongs to. Many foreign journalists are surprised by this conﬂict, and thus we have to help them understand that this situation hasn’t appeared overnight and that these disagreements have a long history. The international media paid scant attention to the negotiations for the Catalan Statute, only a slight bit more to the Constitutional
Court ruling and the revoking of several of the Statute’s articles, and the subsequent massive demonstration in2010 received much less attention than the most recent one on September 11th, 2012. The late Xavier Batalla,who was one of Catalonia’s great international journalists, had often explained to his students at university thatthe international media can switch the spotlight on and off unexpectedly, due to reasons that often follow norational logic. The media spotlight has been focused on Catalonia since September 2012, with periods of greaterand less intensity—let’s take advantage of this. The right to decide —to democratically excercise the right tovote on our political future— is a right that those who believe in democracy anywhere in the world understandwithout a problem, no matter if a Constitution that guarantees territorial unity through the strength of its armydeclares it to be illegal.Martí Estruch Axmacher (1968) is a journalist and director of the International Program of Communicationand Public Relations Eugeni Xammar of the Catalan Government. Previously he had been the Head of theGovernment Delegation to Germany (2008-2011), where he explained the Catalan reality to the Germanmedia, among other functions. He has worked as a journalist for several Catalan media as well as PressOfﬁcer for various institutions.Translated from Catalan by Margaret LuppinoPhoto by Margaret Luppino
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 FURTHER READING Why Spain Won’t Reform Raymond Zhong - The Wall Street Journal Europe- 24-4-2012 Is Spain next to go on the Brussels dole? Not if the assurances coming out of Spanish ofﬁcials lately are to be believed. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, addressing reporters in Poland this month: “Spain will not be rescued. The alarm is unjustiﬁed. . . . It’s not possible to rescue Spain. There’s no intention of it, and we don’t need it.” Mr. Rajoy, at a conference of his People’s Party in Madrid: “[Investors] lend to you if they are conﬁdent you will pay it back. . . . There are countries near to us that couldn’t, and they are in the situation everyone knows about. This is not the case for Spain.” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, on the possibility of a Spanish bank rescue: “The government won’t create anything, neither a good bank nor a bad bank, and there won’t even be the smallest bit of public money available.” The good news is that markets don’t seem to be buying Madrid’s sanguinity. That’s also, of course, the bad news. *** Spain’s crisis isn’t of a piece with Greece’s or Portugal’s, and it won’t be resolved in the same way. The Spanish economy is much larger, but its ailments are not principally ﬁscal. Public debt was 65.8% of GDP at the end of last year. Indebtedness actually fell between 1996 and 2007 before climbing again during the ﬁnancial crisis. Rather than ﬁxating on deﬁcit targets, ofﬁcial Europe should be watching the danger lurking in Spanish banks. Like the Irish, Spaniards overinvested in property during the easy-money days, and banks’ losses on residential mortgage-backed securities will probably trigger some form of public support as the housing bubble deﬂates further. Irish property values halved between peak and trough, whereas Spanish real-estate prices have so far only fallen about a quarter from their 2007 highs. Still, the billion-euro issues are growth and structural reform. On these, too, Mr. Rajoy has assured and reassured markets and policy makers of his resolve. But here in Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain whose capital is Barcelona, few are counting on Madrid to do the right thing. For now, the evidence is on the doubters’ side. In February, the prime minister passed a major law that addressed, among the Spanish labor market’s many malignancies, Spain’s menu of around 40 types of employment contracts. As Mr. de Guindos wrote in a Journal op-ed in January, Madrid’s goal is a system with two contracts: one for full-time workers and another for temporary labor. Yet February’s reform did not reduce the number of contracts. Instead, it created a new one, for ﬁrms with fewer than 50 employees. Catalans have additional reasons to question the Spanish government’s capacity for change. Of late Mr. Rajoy has been blaming Spain’s regional governments for the country’s deﬁcit overruns, saying that wayward local spending had jeopardized the entire nation’s creditworthiness. Madrid has threatened to intervene in the regional governments’ budgets if they don’t tidy their books on their own. But according to Andreu Mas-Colell, Catalonia’s economy minister, the real story is a little different. He explains that with the exception of the Basque Country, Spain’s 17 regions enjoy spending autonomy but almost no revenue autonomy. It’s up to the central government to decide how nationwide revenue gets distributed between regions, and there’s no guarantee that what a region’s citizens pay to Madrid is returned euro-for-euro in funding to that region. That means the central government can make its own budget shortfalls look smaller—and the regional governments’ look bigger—simply by keeping more of the revenue pot to itself. The result? Catalonia is the seat of Spanish industry and one of the most important industrial districts in Europe, lagging only the likes of Italy’s Lombardy and the German Ruhr in productivity. Yet each year since 1986, an average of 9% of Catalonia’s GDP in net terms has left the region to be redistributed or spent by Madrid. In Spain, only the Balearic Islands surrender a larger share of their annual output. Nowhere else in Europe or North America do intra-national transfers of such size occur as a matter of course. “In discretionary expenses we feel we have been historically shortchanged,” Mr. Mas-Colell says. “We represent 15% of the population, and we represent close to 18% in terms of GNP. . . . In this year’s budget, the investment in Catalonia is 11% of public investment in Spain.” “There are inefﬁciencies in the autonomous communities for sure,” he adds. “But not to a larger extent than the inefﬁciencies in the central administration. . . . Spain in all its components has to gain on efﬁciency, on liberalization, on ﬂexibility.”
Seen this way, Madrid’s threats to recentralize ﬁscal policy look like a political play that distracts from reformsthat could actually help the regional governments close their budget gaps. Mr. Mas-Colell says that it’s upto Madrid, for instance, to make regulatory changes that would enable hospitals to charge for prescriptions,meals and overnight stays, as his government is trying to do.He also notes that Barcelona has cut government employees’ wages. Madrid hasn’t. It’s a little bewildering that Madrid would choose to inﬂame separatist feeling in Catalonia at a time of nationalcrisis. More than 40% of Catalans now say they’d support seceding from Spain. But Madrid’s centuries-long jiu-jitsu with the regions suggests something about the national character, according to Germà Bel, an economistat the University of Barcelona. Centralized control, Mr. Bel told me, is in “the genetics of the Spanish state.”The example Mr. Bel and others like to use is infrastructure investment, which Spain’s leaders since the 17thcentury have deployed to afﬁrm their rule and proclaim the Spanish nation. Today Spain, the ﬁfth largest EUmember state by GDP and by population, has more international airports and more miles of motorways thanany other country in Continental Europe. It has more miles of high-speed rail than any country in the worldexcept China; it also has the lowest ridership per mile of high-speed rail in the world. More miles of high-speedrail are currently under construction in Spain than in all other EU countries combined. ***Fast trains to nowhere are emblems of government folly the world over. But Spain’s centralizing impulse runsdeeper than most, Mr. Bel says. Ever since the 18th-century Bourbon kings, Spain’s leaders have sought tomake their state in France’s image: strongly uniﬁed, with power amassed at the center and all roads (or rails)extending outward from the capital.But the Iberian kingdoms’ strong cultural and historical identities meant that yoking them together has createdcontinuous unease. Spain’s rulers made “a bad copy” of France, said Ferran Requejo, a political scientist atPompeu Fabra University, when we met last week.Even a facsimile shares some characteristics with the real thing. In Spain, Mr. Bel says, “Any type of economicreforms that increase ﬂexibility and uncertainty will be heavily resisted.“This was the case, for instance, in the case of [February’s] labor reform. They didn’t signiﬁcantly change theway in which collective bargaining is conducted. Firms can decrease wages, but still the collective bargaining isat the provincial level . . . This is going to be bad two or three years from now.”Is it unfair to take Madrid’s attitude toward the regions as a weathervane for its ability to undertake structuralreforms generally? Throughout Europe, politicians are discovering the limits to governing from the centerduring a crisis. There are rigidities associated with concentrated authority, but there are also importantquestions of legitimacy and shared cause.“The fact is,” Mr. Bel says of Catalonia and Spain, “there is a sense of being different nations.” Under strain, theEU is learning that it, too, is made up of different nations. Brussels could use its own Catalonian thorn in itsside: a reminder that nations are not just vehicles for paying off their governments’ debts.Raymond Zhong is the editorial page writer for the WSJ Europe.This article was originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe and is reprinted with permission.Image credit: Alinari Archives/Corbis
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 FURTHER READING Catalans ﬂirt with independence from Spain Referendum on independence still a possibility as nationalists gain majority in parliament following elections. Andrew McFadyen - Al Jazeera - 27-11-2013 This past weekend, all eyes in Europe were on Catalonia. After voting in regional elections on Sunday in Barcelona, Catalan President Artur Mas declared, “These are the most decisive and signiﬁcant elections in Catalonia’s history”. Mas’ promise to call a referendum on independence from Spain if he won a majority made international headlines, especially because the result could pose serious challenges to both Madrid and Brussels. But with all the votes counted, it’s clear that Mas’ governing Convergència i Unió party suffered a major setback, going down from 62 to 50 parliamentary seats. The referendum could still go ahead because the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which also supports independence, enjoyed a spectacular rise by doubling its members from 10 to 21, meaning that nationalist parties now have a majority. Long-standing nationalism Nationalism has always been a part of Catalan politics - Catalonia’s “Independistas” took force during decades of oppression under the late Spanish leader General Francisco Franco, who banned national symbols and suppressed its language and culture. During Franco’s rule, FC Barcelona, the region’s football team, became a symbol of freedom and democracy after Francoist troops arrested and executed its left-leaning President Josep Sunyol in the ﬁrst month of the Spanish Civil War. Carles Vilarrubí, the club’s current vice president, told Al Jazeera that the stadium was the only place where people could gather to express their views and speak their own language. “In some way, as well as being a football club, Barca is a way to express the will for freedom and our pride in being Catalans in front of the world,” he said. During October’s “Clasico” - the name of any match played between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona - a mosaic of 98,000 cardboard posters turned the stadium into a giant Catalan ﬂag, and the crowd shouted “In - Inde -Independència” around the Nou Camp before and during the game. That sentiment has echoed in recent times, and gained new potency when seen through the prism of Europe’s economic crisis. With 7.5 million people, Catalonia’s GDP per capita is 20 percent higher than the rest of Spain. Without it, the rest of Spain would be one of the most impoverished countries in the euro, on par with Greece and Portugal. As a result, many Catalans feel they don’t get a fair deal from the government in Madrid and that their taxes are being used to subsidise poorer regions. Tarek Mafouz, a doctor in Barcelona, told Al Jazeera, “After paying, the receiving zones have better public services than we Catalans do. Can you believe it? We even had to ask the Spanish government for economic help to pay Catalan bills, when we contribute with a lot more money.” New ground Madrid says the referendum would be unconstitutional, but the European Union would also be in new territory: It has never had a member state split up. Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has warned that if Catalonia secedes from Spain, they will have to join the queue and negotiate EU membership from scratch. His statements are based on the position formulated by Romano Prodi, his predecessor, who said: “When a part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be part of that State, for example because the territory becomes an independent state, the treaties will no longer apply.” In Barcelona, it has become a standing joke that if they declare independence, they will also be excluded from the solar system. Politicians in Scotland in particular are watching this debate very closely, as the Scottish government also has ambitions to redraw the map of Europe. It plans to hold its own referendum on independence from the United
Kingdom in 2014.Like the Catalans, Scots are being told that European citizenship is non-transferable, and that they will nolonger be part of the EU if they secede. On a recent visit to Scotland, former UK Foreign Secretary DavidMiliband warned that independence would leave the country “in limbo in Europe”.The Scottish government has retorted by saying that Scotland has been an integral part of the European Unionfor four decades, and that the people of Scotland will remain EU citizens even if they gain independence.This debate held by Scots and Catalans seems to get to the heart of what being European means, and begs thequestion of whether citizenship resides with the people or their governments.Source of stabilityFor decades, nationalists in both Catalonia and Scotland have looked to the European Union as a source ofstability, offering a safety net to voters concerned about the uncertainty created by independence.At a widely attended independence rally in Barcelona on September 11, hundreds of thousands of people cried,“Catalonia, a new European state”.Miquel Strubell, who helped to organise the demonstration, says he believes that “Europe embodies sensibility,where Spain is widely seen as irrational”.Grau Garcia, an artist from Barcelona, likewise echoed a European sentiment among Catalans.“Catalan people feel 100 percent European; we feel that we are part of European history, we feel part of theEuropean Union,” he said.Andrew McFadyen is a freelance journalist based in Glasgow.Reprinted with permission.Image credit: Al Jazeera
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 FURTHER READING Reading the Elections in Catalonia: Will This Mean the End of Spain? Separatist parties are the majority now. Ron Synovitz - The Atlantic (RFE/RL) - 27-11-12 In Catalonia, the region of Spain that includes Barcelona, parties seeking independence have won a majority of seats in the regional parliament. I spoke about the outcome with Ferran Requejo, a professor of political science at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. What do the regional election results in Catalonia mean in terms of a mandate for a referendum on independence? The referendum issue was the most important issue that was at stake in this election. The ﬁnal results show that parties which backed this process to call for a referendum are a stable majority. They have 87 MPs out of 135. That means that 64.4 percent of the Catalan MPs support [the idea] that the government must call for a referendum for a potential Catalan independent state within Europe. But the loser within this election has been the main Catalan political party, which is called Convergencia i Unio [Convergence and Union]. They have lost 12 seats -- from 62 to 50. And that means that [Catalonian President Artur Mas and] the leadership of this secessionist party has been weakened. Can the parties which favor an independence referendum put aside their differences on other issues long enough to form a government and call for an independence referendum? Now the most probable outcome is that the new government must be a coalition government of Convergencia i Unio as the ﬁrst party plus a second party -- and they can choose between three parties. Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya [Republican Left of Catalonia], which is a leftist and independent party, is the most probable coalition [partner]. That is, a coalition between the ﬁrst and second political parties. And they probably will maintain the objective to call for a referendum within the next four years. What are the legal issues in Spain that make it complicated for Catalonia’s regional parliament to call a referendum on independence? To call for a referendum, a secessionist referendum, in Spain is illegal. It is against the constitutional framework. [But] there is a way according to the Spanish rules -- the Catalan parliament and the Catalan government must ask permission from the central power -- the president of the Spanish government [Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy] -- to call for this referendum. But probably the answer will be “No, this is illegal; this is impossible.” A second way is that the Catalan parliament approves a new law calling for a referendum. But if they do that, immediately the central government in Madrid will appeal to the Constitutional Court and the Constitutional Court will say, “No. This is illegal.” Then the way the Catalan government has is to go to the international framework -- mainly to the European Union but also to the United Nations and the Council of Europe -- in order to say, “Look, there is a clear demand of the Catalan population which is peaceful, which is democratic, which is pro-European. And under the Spanish state, the way is completely closed. What should we do to demand and to claim a transnational legal framework with international observers and to implement this referendum in the next four years with this legal international framework?” Do these legal complications make a referendum on independence less likely for Catalonia? It is less likely if we look at this issue from the Spanish side. The Spanish side says, “Look, the main political leader who supported this referendum has been weakened because he has lost 12 seats.” But looking at the same issue, the Catalan side says: “Look, we have a clear majority to call for this referendum because 64 percent of our representatives are in favor of that. Only 30-something percent is against that.” Here there is tension. Probably, this issue will be permanent and with more intensive tension in the years to come. Ron Synovitz is a correspondent in the central newsroom of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Reprinted with permission. Image credit: Albert Gea/Reuters
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 FURTHER READING Spain’s Growing Catalan Conundrum Nicholas Siegel - The German Marshall Fund of the United States - 6-12-12 WASHINGTON—On September 11, 2012, a tsunami hit Spanish politics. Months of independence marches through small Catalan towns and villages culminated in the heart of Barcelona, when as many as 1.5 million people —over 22 percent of Catalonia’s population — took to the streets under the banner “Catalonia: A New European State.” The march came just as some polls recorded that, for the ﬁrst time since the 1970s, the majority of Catalans would vote for independence from Spain. The reasons for this shift within Spain’s most economically prosperous region have been accumulating for years: the crippling ﬁnancial crisis, resentment over transfers of roughly 8 to 9 percent of Catalonia’s GDP to poorer regions of Spain, the 2010 evisceration by the Spanish Constitutional Court of an enhanced Catalan statute of autonomy, and a lingering concern that Madrid is unable or unwilling to sufﬁciently appreciate the richness of Spain’s plurality. Yet if the Barcelona march rattled Madrid, it had seismic effects on Catalan politics. First, it helped persuade the ruling center-right Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition — which has governed Catalonia for 25 of the last 33 years on a moderately nationalist platform, preferring always to push for greater autonomy rather than outright independence — to do an about face. In late September, when denied his request for a new ﬁscal pact with Madrid by embattled Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Catalan President Artur Mas stunned the country, and Catalan nationalists, by dissolving the regional legislature. He called for new polls, asking the Catalan people to give CiU an “indestructible majority” to hold a referendum on Catalonia’s future within four years. It was a two-fold lurch into uncharted waters. Suddenly CiU had appeared to become a secessionist party, and the Catalan nationalist movement had been offered an actual referendum on splitting from Spain. Catalan elections, expected in 2014, were moved to November 2012, and Mas’ visibility in Spain, as well as Europe, began a sudden, meteoric rise. However, on November 25 CiU dropped from 62 seats in the 135 seat Catalan Parliament to 50, its worst showing since 1980. Instead of earning an absolute majority, Mas was granted at best four shaky years of minority rule. In Madrid, Rajoy broadsided the Catalan premier, saying that he had never seen as ruinous a political operation as Mas’. Spanish pundits explained the outcome by pointing to the success of the pro- unionist Citizens Party, which tripled its representation from 3 seats to 9, and the modest gains for Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP), which rose from 18 seats to 19. It is true that Mas miscalculated in thinking he could appropriate the cresting wave of Catalan patriotism for CiU. But Rajoy also risks missing the bigger picture. Almost two-thirds of the votes in the election went to nationalist parties in favor of a referendum, with the largest gains going to the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), a ﬁercely pro-independence party. Catalan nationalists viewed Mas’ abrupt and still murky pro-independence turn with suspicion, and many voters in favor of independence ﬂocked instead to ERC. The fear among many was that Mas viewed the proposed referendum as a bargaining chip for his real goal, ﬁscal autonomy. And while Mas, despite his shift, still hesitates in using the actual term “independence,” ERC has had no such reservations. Alfred Bosch, leader of ERC in the Spanish Parliament, displayed the Catalan secessionist ﬂag with combative ﬂair during a recent parliamentary speech in Madrid. So while Catalan nationalists have temporarily been denied a clear ﬁgurehead to drive their cause boldly forward, the wind is not entirely out of their sails. ERC will continue to oppose CiU on economic grounds — it was a vociferous opponent of the three recent austerity packages pushed through by the Mas government, with close support of the PP. But it will unwaveringly push for a referendum process that is no longer controlled by Mas. The plebiscite, and a potential constitutional crisis in Spain, will if anything come sooner now than had Mas and the CiU triumphed. In a recent interview, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said “People talk about Catalonia as if it was a limb that could be amputated and the rest of Spain would survive….But what the independence of Catalonia really means is the disappearance of Spain as a nation.” Rajoy, along with many other leaders in pluralistic European states, will hope that CiU’s slide signiﬁes the beginning of a nationalist decline in Catalonia. And perhaps the region will follow the path of Quebec, where a landmark referendum in 1995, in which the pro-independence vote fell just short of a majority, deﬂated the Quebecois independence movement. Yet the reconﬁguring of Catalan politics could just as likely mark the deeper entrenchment of secessionist sentiments, with leaders less willing to compromise now gaining ascendancy. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic would do well to keep a close eye on the swirling politics of Catalonia. Nicholas Siegel is Senior Program Ofﬁcer with the Transatlantic Academy, an initiative of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington DC. Reprinted with permission. Image by Ivan McClellan
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 FURTHER READING How to lose regions and alienate peoples The Catalan bid for independence has been handled shockingly by Madrid. Spain could learn a lot from the UK. Matthew Parris - The Times - 22-12-12 It’s a fair bet that Alex Salmond, a man who believes in Celtic tigers and the Arc of Prosperity, believes in Father Christmas too. The Scottish First Minister’s letter to Santa this weekend could be short and heartfelt. “Dear Mr Claus, Please send me the Government of Spain to handle my bid for Scottish independence. I’m getting desperate. Love, Alex XXX” We British run down our politics and politicians, but take some seasonal cheer from a worse mess. Come here to Catalonia to see in all its horror the horlicks our European partners can make of democracy. The Kingdom of Spain, under a ﬁscally prudent, free-market, anti-big-government administration that I ought to support, is in the process of wrecking the delicate internal balances on which this fragile union of peoples and languages depends. The nation’s devolutionary settlement is edging towards a cliff. This could destroy Spain. They are making every mistake in the book. Laugh if you like, but David Cameron, Alistair Darling, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband could sit down together and within an afternoon begin solving what the entire political class in Madrid seems incapable of sorting out. And the reverse is true. If Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his bull-necked Partido Popular henchmen were put in charge of maintaining the unity of our own United Kingdom then within days we’d have the Armed Forces mobilised to storm the Scottish Parliament, Whitehall departments countermanding devolved legislation, Mr Salmond carried shoulder-high to cheers down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, and soaring Scottish support for full independence. Blimey, do it like Madrid and you could even revive Plaid Cymru. Let me put my cards on the table. I sympathise with but do not support Catalonia’s desire to break away. I doubt it would be good for Catalonia, and know it would be terrible for the rest of Spain. The Basque country would follow, inward investment would dry up and, with Portugal already in trouble, an impoverished, squabbling Iberia could Balkanise into less than the sum of its parts. Small nationalisms leave me personally cold. Catalans have played a tremendous part in Spain’s history, and to turn in upon themselves now strikes me as self-diminishing, as do the equivalent tendencies in Scotland and Wales. So don’t classify me as some kind of Catalan liberationist, though many of my Anglo-Catalan family are becoming so. Catalan secession could damage the whole continent. France would face invigorated Corsican insurgency. Flemish separatists would take heart. Scottish secessionism would be galvanised. Lombardists in Italy would rejoice. There would be an almighty row about who could stay in the EU and who should reapply to join it. Which would be Belgium if Wallonia and Flanders split? Why wouldn’t the United Kingdom of Northern Ireland, Wales and England be a new country? Just because Scotland’s smaller? So, no: we’re talking about a gigantic apple cart here. The ﬁrst rock in the road could begin a catastrophic slow-motion topple. Catalonia’s referendum may come before Scotland’s. Catalonia has recently landed itself in a political soup, under an unlikely coalition of nationalist Centre and nationalist Left, both determined to organise a referendum on independence within the next two years, which Madrid says will be illegal. Modern Catalonia is among the richest regions in Spain, and its largest city, Barcelona, a mainspring of the Spanish economy. Half as big again as Wales, with a population more than twice that of Wales, Catalonia has its own distinct Latinate language, literature and (to some degree) culture. It was one of the constituent kingdoms that were knocked together into what we now call Spain, in whose embrace it keeps unhappily wriggling. General Franco criminalised the speaking of Catalan. But since his death there has been a huge public resurgence in Catalans’ self-identiﬁcation and in the public use of their beloved and almost universally spoken language. Catalans have wheeler-dealed their way to a big dollop of devolution but without ﬁscal autonomy, which (unlike the Basques) they have been persistently refused. And they strive without success for constitutional recognition as a nation. The answer’s obvious. “Devo-max” plus the vocabulary of nationhood. In their present inﬂamed mood Catalans say this would not be enough, but if calm can be restored I believe it would. To refuse to recognise Catalonia’s national identity (as do traditionalists on the Spanish Right) is just bonkers. Seldom can something so dear to the receiver have been so cheap to the giver. As to devo-max, Madrid says Catalans simply resent the redistribution to the poorer parts of Spain of their wealth (some 8 per cent of Catalonia’s GDP, Catalans say) — but it goes deeper. For both sides the ruinous state of the Spanish economy and of Madrid’s and Barcelona’s debts add edge and anger to the debate, but the demand pre-dates the present economic crisis. Plainly (to outsiders such as me) it’s time for Madrid to start a negotiation, hard-bargained on both sides, for ﬁscal devolution. Instead, Madrid has begun a hot-headed bout of sabre-rattling. Central government wants to end Catalan’s status as the medium of instruction in schools — and demands that the language be ranked behind English in
the curriculum. This is insulting, and meant to be.And the latest insult is outlandish: Madrid is threatening that if devolved authorities do not agree to nationallydirected spending cuts, autonomy could be abolished. “Devolution was created to solve the Basque and Catalanproblem,” says an unnamed senior PP ofﬁcial, “but those problems are actually getting worse and the cost ofall this is no longer affordable.” Substitute “Scottish and Welsh” for “Basque and Catalan”, put the sentenceinto the mouth of a senior Tory, light the blue touchpaper and retire. There has even been wild talk aboutmobilising the army.I could easily list mistakes made on the Catalan side. Small-scale nationalist politics can be shrill and silly. Butin the broader sweep, Catalonia can hardly be called the aggressor, and much Catalan vexatiousness can besquarely blamed on an irritable contempt displayed by Madrid.Barking at Catalans that the army’s ready, their Parliament may be abolished, and anyway the EU will kickthem out, can only make things worse. Catalonia will have its referendum, whatever Madrid commands; andthough it could just be within Madrid’s power to scare and harry so that enough Catalans lose their nerve forthe “no” vote to gain the edge, this would be no way to bring unity.Reconciliation is needed. The PP leadership must understand (as Tories led by David Cameron understand)that small, brave, talented, chippy peoples do know the risks and do worry about them. Adding to their anxietydoesn’t help.It’s Madrid that must now rise above this stupid impasse; Madrid that must ﬁnd some generosity of spirit andretreat half a pace. Otherwise opinions will polarise as this Christmas I observe them to be polarising — fast —and the centre will crack. The shock waves could spread right across Europe.Matthew Parris writes regular Notebook and Opinion columns in The Times. His autobiography, ChanceWitness, won the Orwell Prize in 2004.Reprinted with permission.
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 OPINION New diplomatic credentials for Catalonia Marc Gafarot - Catalan International View The ability to conduct diplomacy is one of the deﬁning features of a state. Diplomacy has been practiced for thousands of years since the formation of the ﬁrst city-states in Greece. It is a tool that continues to dictate the future of political relations between different countries and territories and if it is used effectively it can tip the balance of political inﬂuence one way or another. Economic and technological globalisation represent a new stage in the foreign affairs of the constituent or sub-state entities of democracies and micro, small and medium-sized states. Globalisation encourages territories endowed with self-government to seek out positions in defence and promotion of their interests, values and identities. It also encourages them to support global objectives such as the creation of wealth and solidarity, the promotion of peace and development and the defence of cultural pluralism. We in Catalonia have to take advantage of the development of multilateralism as a characteristic of our times that provides new opportunities for diplomatic action whether it be of a formal (bilateral or multilateral) or an informal (paradiplomacy) kind. The current economic crisis has shown how small states are better equipped to deal with these challenges by responding with proximity and ﬂexibility, and are thereby more effective. The art of diplomacy remains a vital tool for a small state (as it is for a medium-sized or large one) to bring about changes in political relations with their immediate neighbours or on the global stage. The expertise and competitive advantage of small states rests on the fact that they have always depended on the exercise of diplomacy, since due to their size they have suffered more from coercive power than they have been able to exercise it themselves. As mentioned earlier, the development of multilateralism is a characteristic of our times that opens new arenas for diplomatic action. Catalonia should follow this path because of its historical tradition of dialogue, consensus and respect for harmony, which should be viewed by the government as an asset rather than as a liability, and used to promote a genuine foreign policy. Meanwhile, ﬁrst-class international relations require specialists and high-level ofﬁcials. This entails the creation of a Catalan school of diplomacy. This would be accompanied by think tanks as well as a journal of security and international affairs. An independent Catalonia will maintain and respect all of the international agreements in which it participated as part of the Kingdom of Spain, at least initially. Nevertheless, when the Catalan people come to make a carefully thought out decision as to their sovereignty, certain alliances could change. This would naturally occur in strict accordance with international law and only after carefully weighing the pros and cons of different options. The current framework: limits on the external activities of the autonomous regions Article 149.1.3 of the Spanish Constitution categorizes ‘international relations’ as the exclusive responsibility of the state. Therefore subsection III gives parliament the sole right to authorise the signing of treaties and international agreements. Nevertheless, these provisions, as ratiﬁed by the Constitutional Court (165/1994) in the mid-nineties, do not deny the autonomous communities the right to conduct institutional activity beyond their borders. It therefore seems highly unlikely that an alleged increase in self-rule promotes a more genuine and effective presence in European and other institutions. Spain has rejected federalism and in the Spain of autonomous communities the state maintains control of foreign policy. One should not forget the total lack of ofﬁcial recognition for Catalan at the European level, while thanks to the tiny state of Andorra, Catalan is an ofﬁcial language at the UN. Against such a backdrop, the Spanish government employs all manner of underhand tactics (advertising government tenders late, delaying the issuing of documents, employing arbitrary rules as to the use of Catalan in committees, undermining coordination between different autonomous regions and so on) in order to hinder the external activities of the ‘ﬁrst class’ autonomies, namely Catalonia and Euskadi. Until now, the range of activities the autonomous regions conduct that have an international dimension has been extremely broad, with actions of a wide variety, especially when one takes into account the limited extent of their devolved powers. These include everything from trips abroad by regional authorities, receiving visits by international representatives to our country, industrial, commercial or tourist initiatives, cultural and linguistic promotion, cross-border collaborations, participation in international forums and regional associations, contacts between regional leaders and senior ofﬁcials and so on. Our (only) consideration should be to ensure we do not put the interests of international bodies or other countries before the Spanish state or compromise it in any way. With this guiding principle we can go beyond what is merely allowed by our Statute of Autonomy. Thanks to our persuasive abilities, we should be able to build truly international policies based on knowledge, efﬁciency and excellence. All our activities should serve to seek recognition for Catalonia as an independent state in an increasingly interconnected world. The work of Catalonia’s ‘embassies’ must be in line with the Catalan government’s increasing willingness to expand the scope and objectives of our diplomacy. While appreciating that due to its size Catalonia is unable to be present in every country, it is clear that Catalonia cannot afford to be absent from certain contexts and certain nations of global signiﬁcance, thanks to their political and/or economic strength. The Government of Catalonia’s foreign affairs The Government of Catalonia should participate in international affairs like any other nation, taking on full responsibility in all areas, such as the information society, aid, the environment, the economy and linguistic diversity. It must unapologetically consider the global dimension of each and every policy, taking its share of
responsibility for the world’s problems and participating more actively in international programs. As formerPresident Jordi Pujol said, we must never forget that ‘our world is the world’. In this sense, President Artur Mas’strategic decision to support the right to decide, which will lead to a referendum on independence during thecurrent term, will have clear implications for the Government of Catalonia’s new foreign policy. Catalonia hasto set its own agenda, which in many cases will no longer coincide with that of Spain. This holds for priorities,geographical areas, multilateral ties, changes in alliances, international associations and so on.Simultaneously we should consider, in a thoughtful and measured way, the possibility of our entry intoorganisations such as Francophonie (OIF). This political platform brings together 70 countries from aroundthe world (many of them in Africa) in addition to Quebec and the French-speaking Community of Belgium.Catalonia could enjoy the status of a ‘participating government,’ which would allow us to have a say in certainsituations and international issues and develop common positions and alliances which strengthen our abilityto act.Consequently the political construction of Catalonia has an external dimension as well as an internal one,which can be seen as increasingly important. Thus, we have to articulate and construct our own foreign policy,reﬂecting our uniqueness. In this respect, we need to develop a comprehensive, holistic Catalan foreign policythat can include all governmnet institutions and the different areas of responsibility with the aim of achieving atrue international recognition for Catalonia. Without doubt our government’s foreign policies must be effective,relying on a high degree of consensus and cooperation among all of the institutions in the country. Right now,every department of the Government of Catalonia should be an active player in the international arena to agreater or a lesser extent.While it will be necessary to promote external actions, it will be equally necessary to achieve an internal consensusfavouring a national transition. This will necessary in order to generate external understanding and supportwhich presages future strategic alliances for the free and sovereign Catalonia to which we aspire, largely in aEuropean framework. As a consequence we need the commitment of everyone who can play an internationalrole. We must ensure that they all act as virtual ambassadors of Catalonia in their respective ﬁelds. We willthereby increasingly occupy more areas of inﬂuence (the pillars of the state) that ultimately must lead us tonational liberation. We should be clear that it is highly unlikely that this will come from outside. We cannotexpect decisive outside involvement. On the contrary, if independence comes, it will be thanks to an exclusivedecision by the Catalans, which will be respected and supported by the international community, so long aswe are able to offer the world an image of a prestigious, innovative society that is respectful of human rights,democracy and with a dynamic economy and commerce. Our job is to attempt to make our image a positiveone and ‘sell’ it around the world, equipping ourselves with a coherent foreign policy based on competitive andstrategic excellence and (as far as possible) ambitious in every area considered to be of interest. Our job is tomake information available and at the service of international actors with the ability to overrule those voicesthat are biased in favour of fear, falsehood and the supposedly insurmountable obstacle of our demands.It is worth stressing that, in keeping with the Catalan tradition, our performance in foreign policy must always bebased on established law and follow ethical principles such as peace, democratic values, social justice, solidaritybetween peoples, equality and respect for diversity and collective rights. We must also commit ourselves tosustainable development, linked to human progress and welfare. It is likewise important we integrate the newrealities brought by foreign immigrants to our country. The reality of the ‘new Catalans’ and their associationsand networks of contacts (both inside and outside our borders) could become a real asset when it comes toopening doors to the outside world and publicising our uniqueness where our budding diplomacy is unable toreach.Last but not least, a key element of our foreign policy has much to do with the internationalisation of oureconomy. We should be clear that we need to encourage Catalan businesses to look beyond Spain and Europe.The government should lead the way by having a presence and a vision in those areas where our entrepreneursare unable to go. At this time of uncertainty and also of opportunity, there are many business challenges innew arenas for those with clear ideas, precise objectives and an open mind. Likewise, the world of developmentaid, which until now has been dominated by a singular, dogmatic, anti-capitalist vision needs to be able toappreciate opportunities based on new paradigms of thought and activity. The world’s leading developednations have two things clear: aid, based on ethical prerogatives, is a key element in foreign policy and itmust generate sustainable wealth for those who give and receive it. It is therefore imperative we implement abidirectional rationality and an ethical framework in each and every one of our actions on foreign policy.Marc Gafarot i Monjó is a journalist, consultant and political commentator. He has worked in Londonfor Bloomberg LP, in Latin America and Europe for Summit Communications and served as ParliamentaryAdviser at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. Currently he works for the Fundació CATmónas Head of International Relations. He has recently published a book on Flanders and Federalism in Belgiumcalled “La mort de Bèlgica: La gradual i pacíﬁca emancipació ﬂamenca” (The death of Belgium: the gradualand peaceful Flemish emancipation) and co-authored “The Student’s Guide to European Integration.” Heholds a Degree in Humanities (Liberal Arts) from the Universitad de Navarra, a MSc in European Studiesfrom the London School of Economics, an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Liverpool anda Diploma in Sports journalism from the Universidad de Navarra. He is a member of the InTransit EditorialBoard.
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 OPINION Showing their hand Mònica Sabata- El Singular Digital - 25-1-2013 This week I had to go to Brussels on business. It was a very quick and intense trip. And I will tell you why. When I travel abroad I always like to explain my country’s situation and get a sense of the impression outsiders have of Catalonia. And this trip was no different because, as you can imagine, the European capital is a privileged space for this particular exercise. And I did not come away disappointed. One conversation left me feeling particularly concerned and made it clear to me –even more than before— that in Europe we still have a lot of work to do [to explain Catalonia’s situation]. While I was in a meeting a Portuguese man sitting at the same table declared that Europe had a problem, and that problem was called Catalonia. As you might imagine, he was referring the right to decide, and more speciﬁcally the self-determination process Catalonia is going through today. And it was clear that he disapproved. According to him and his view that all nationalisms are right-wing, populist, xenophobic and Euro-skeptic by nature, if Catalonia were to decide in favor of independence, then this would torpedo the European Union’s federalist project. So in other words, my interlocutor believed that the pro- sovereignty will of a people puts the economic, ﬁnancial and political survival of the Union in serious jeopardy. Not everyone who works and lives in Brussels shares this opinion, of course, but nonetheless it’s important to keep it in mind and reﬂect on it. My interlocutor’s opinion is far from the reality, and it is important to carefully explain why, especially after the approval of the declaration of sovereignty in the Parliament of Catalonia. The time has come to move towards holding the referendum, and it is important to have public opinion in our favor as much as possible. Europe will also play a key role in the process, especially because quite likely a possible international legality will be necessary as it is quite likely that the Spanish state will deny us this legality. This is why we need Europe’s leaders to be able to understand that our demand is a democratic one and that, in addition, it wouldn’t make any sense to us if Catalonia were kicked out of the European Union and the political project that the European continent represents. Nonetheless, we are making this call for democracy in quite a curious context. This is because everything seems to indicate that within the European Union territories such as Catalonia and Scotland will hold self- determination referendums at around the same time, while David Cameron, the British conservative leader, is proposing to hold another referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom remains within the EU or not. Without a doubt it is a situation that will generate perplexity, curiosity and misunderstandings. One thing is clear however: there are no misgivings about Europe in Scotland or Catalonia. Quite the contrary! In exchange, surveys show that 63% of voters of Cameron’s conservative party want to leave the EU. So then, who is it that has more capacity to torpedo European unity? Who are the actors that are playing with ﬁre and subscribing to the disintegration of Europe? Who should European leaders be more afraid of? I believe that those states and leaders who opt for Euro-skepticism and really do torpedo the European project are the ones to fear. Ultimately, the EU should to be wary of all those who for years have not been clear and decisive supporters of European integration. We need to build a new Europe now, one that is capable of ﬁnding a balance for the various identities, political and economic realities and cultures within a federal union that will endow the old continent with the strength and viability that it deserves. It is time for everyone to show their hand. Here and in Europe! Mònica Sabata is a psychologist. She worked for more than ten years at CIEMEN (the Escarré International Center for Ethnic Minorities and Nations), and has also been Director of Linguapax, a non-governmental organization that works towards the preservation and promotion of the world’s linguistic diversity. She is President of the FOCIR (Federation of Internationally Recognized Catalan Organizations). She regularly collaborates with various news media. She is a member of the Editorial Board of InTransit. Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino.
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 OPINION The Catalan case is once again a topic of international debate Joan Rusiñol - Diari ARA - 25-1-2013 In Brussels the Catalan dossier already exists. Europe has still not formally opened it, but since the demonstration on the Diada [Catalan National Day, September 11th, 2012] the international media have been focusing on it more and more. The declaration of sovereignty has put the Catalan case back on the table, and this case will have growing protagonism in this ﬁnal stage of the European legislature. In fact, there are those who are even contemplating the possibility of having the consultation coincincide with the European elections next year. The EU institutions are remaining silent for various reasons. To start, there are issues on their agenda that they consider to be more pressing for EU political stability, such as the worrisome case of the United Kingdom. In addition, Spain has more leverage in a Europe that is built on states. As explained by Parliament sources, Brussels’ complex and fragile administrative framework could end up perceiving the possibility of having to share positions of power with yet another member as a problem. In addition, there is the fear of a contagion effect to other nations. The German press has brought up the Ibarretxe case and has warned that the Basque Country will surely want to follow in the footsteps of Catalonia. Nonetheless, Catalonia’s right to decide has found a way to make —as of today, still somewhat discreet— headlines around the world. “Europe needs to be ready for the prospect of Catalan independence. The European Commission cannot pretend that this isn’t happening nor can they ignore the democratic will of the Catalan people.” This warning comes from the European Free Alliance, the party that includes ERC in the European Parliament, and it was picked up by Euractiv, a website that specializes in news about the European community. As the MEP Ramon Tremosa (CiU) pointed out on his blog in December, the international media “have done the math” and they know that the “pro-referendum” parties are a majority in the Catalan Parliament that emerged from the elections of November 25th. Europe will have to pronounce itself Newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Guardian speak about how the Catalan population would be “divided” when the time came to vote. Both pointed out that the percentages of Catalans who choose to agree or disagree would be highly affected by whether or not Catalonia would become an EU member or not. The German Der Spiegel was quick to state that the Commission, supposedly, has already barred entry to an independent Catalonia. It is no surprise, therefore, that various media have cited how the Catalan Government will attempt all possible means of dialogue with Madrid and Brussels, but that, sooner or later, we will need some answers. For now, according to Parliament sources, Europe does not feel it has received a formal appeal and it will not make a move until Mariano Rajoy asks it to. The conversations —and they are going on already— are being held in the background, discreetly, on behalf of both sides. The possibility of continuing within Europe or not is an issue that the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, one of members of the Spanish executive that has carefully studied the Catalan scenario and who on Wednesday gave the ﬁrst response in the name of the Moncloa, has been working on the most. The PP already made the debate one of the principal arguments of their electoral campaign for Parliament. The other key factor when it comes to shifting the balance in an eventual consultation is the economic mistreatment argument. The CNN, the principal reference point in television news, reminded its viewers that Catalonia makes up 19% of Spanish GDP and that the Catalans are denouncing that they are not receiving a balanced treatment. In fact, Spain’s “deep economic crisis” can be found in the background of many news reports, which also stress the “symbolic” nature of the declaration. Without directly citing this debate, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times warned that “the political crisis” in Italy —which has key elections coming up in a month— and Spain would generate further “doubts about the future of the Eurozone” and set off the “panic” of investors. The City’s principal reference point for journalism still keeps a close eye on the southern states, and doesn’t completely rule out the need for a bailout of Spanish ﬁnances. The declaration has coincided with the announcement of abominable economic ﬁgures from the Spanish state, such as unemployment, and with a new explosion of cases of supposed corruption that have only further degraded Rajoy’s image in Europe. To those on the outside, this context weighs heavily on their minds. “Can Spain in these conditions allow itself the luxury of starting an institutional crisis and a war of secession?” questioned the French L’Express. The debate has begun and it is clear to the press that the declaration is the ﬁrst step in the direction of a Catalan state. The challenge for the Generalitat, the Catalan political parties and the future delegate of the Catalan Government in Brussels will be to create a favorable climate of opinion for the consultation, especially in a year marked by German elections. Angela Merkel does not want any surprises. And in Europe, José Manuel Durao Barroso hardly wants confront the member states with this issue. The political evolution of Scotland also could
end up having a determining inﬂuence on the internationalization of the Catalan right to decide. Only yesterday,surveys indicated that the citizenry’s support for Scottish independence had dropped to 23% in the case of areferendum, which at least in this particular case has been agreed upon in a pact between both sides, at least,has been agreed upon in a pact with the other side.Joan Rusiñol is a journalist.Image Credit: Diari ARA
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 IN DEPTH The Catalan High Performance Center Joan Fontseré- Catalan International View - Issue 13 - Autumn 2012 The Generalitat de Catalunya (the Catalan government) created the High Performance Sports Centre in 1987 at the behest of D. Juan Antonio Samaranch, in preparation for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. The High Performance Centre is an organisation with 25 years experience, which gives support to sportsmen and women in order that they can be competitive at an international level, optimizing resources of the highest technical and scientiﬁc quality. The aim of the centre is to provide athletes with everything they need for their complete training so that they can share knowledge as to their activities. Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine and low rainfall, which is ideal for training outdoors. Our team uses our facilities to work with athletes who are preparing to compete. Their success motivates and encourages us to improve every day and try our best to make their dreams come true. CAR The CAR (High Performance Centre) of Sant Cugat provides support to sportsmen and women in order that they can compete at an international level, being a pioneer in the comprehensive training of its athletes. Twenty-ﬁve years ago, the Barcelona Olympic Games enabled us to design an infrastructure to support both athletes and trainers and help them improve their sports performance. This spirit of overcoming adversity has encouraged and allowed us to transform the CAR of Sant Cugat into one of Europe’s centres of excellence and motivates us to continue working in order to become one of the most prestigious sports centres in the world. Training (commitment) The CAR residence is one of the nerve centres of the centre. There are 325 places available where athletes can enjoy a pleasant stay with a mentor who guides them in both their studies and the personal enrichment of living together. Moreover, it is also a basic tool to help athletes coming from Catalonia and abroad, including training camps. The high school achieves perfect harmony by combining sports training with secondary education: the international baccalaureate and professional sports training. For twenty-ﬁve years we have been committed to creating a comprehensive training regime for athletes. This makes us the ﬁrst high school in the world with comprehensive sports training in a high performance centre. The Athletes’ Care Service (SAE) was formed in 2004 and is a pioneering project in Spain. It takes care of the comprehensive training of the athletes and offers them personalized, individual guidance in their academic training, job counselling and support when ﬁnishing their sports career. We therefore take all the necessary steps in establishing and maintaining their comprehensive training. The SAE provides instrumental competence, both speciﬁc and cross-discipline. Moreover, it offers guidance on personal, academic and professional projects, as well as facilitating the transition period until retirement, in diverse ﬁelds of development. We believe in comprehensive training which responds to the different needs of a sports career and an athletes’ development. For this reason, we are working together with high performance athletes, both today and in the future. Facilities (excellence) The CAR sports centre covers an area of 148,000 m2 in which high level sport can be practised. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most important centres in Europe due to its facilities and its infrastructure of the highest scientiﬁc technical quality for sport in general, and for high level sport in particular. The swimming pools, athletics track, tennis courts, gymnasiums and many other facilities cover all Olympic sports. The recent addition to the CAR of a 25,000m2 sports building opens a new vision for the concept of a high performance centre. Sports like swimming, diving, artistic gymnastics, taekwondo, wrestling, judo, table tennis and weightlifting can now beneﬁt from one of the best equipped buildings that are in existence, to practise sport at the highest level. Services (innovation) The CAR’s Science, Medical and Technology services improve our athletes’ performance thanks to the joint work carried out by trainers with professionals in the different scientiﬁc disciplines. This collaboration is based on a precise combination of knowledge and experience in order to achieve the desired outcome.
The CAR of Sant Cugat’s sports physicians attend to athletes with injuries or illnesses on a daily basis. Apartfrom treating injuries, the medical and physiotherapy services advise athletes on the prevention of injuries andgeneral health education.At the CAR of Sant Cugat we are committed to technical innovation. It is especially important for us to givetrainers and scientists the most up–to-date tools in order to facilitate the evaluation of their work and trainingcontrol.The new sports building is a deﬁnitive move in the attainment of excellence. In this facility the trainers’experience, scientiﬁc knowledge and the latest technology combine in order to attain success. We also considerit important that we have an energetic, responsible and efﬁcient management team in tune with the sportingspirit.Joan Fontseré is the director of CAR Sant Cugat (The High Performance Sports Center in Sant Cugat).
seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletterCatalonia in the International Spotlight issue #12 january 2013 OUR CULTURE, OUR HISTORY A million corks a day - A short story from history - The Palafrugell Cork Museum- Catalan International View - Issue 13 - Autumn 2012 The history of wine corks is closely linked to the discovery of a new type of glass in early eighteenth century England. This new, much stronger glass allowed for wine to be transported with a greater degree of security. Subsequently, Dom Perignon, a French Benedictine monk who was the ﬁrst to standardise the production of champagne, adopted the new form of glass as the best container for transporting his product when tightly sealed with a cork. From that moment on, the Western world needed corks. Millions of corks. The ﬁrst corks to be produced were French, though soon production moved to Catalonia in search of raw materials, eventually leading to the manufacture of the corks themselves. The industry became more widespread from the mid-eighteenth century, becoming consolidated during the nineteenth century, when it brought about major changes in the social fabric of the north-eastern region of Catalonia. The ﬁrst Catalan company to specialize in the cork business was founded in 1785. The cork industry was crucial to the development of transport networks in the counties of north-eastern Catalonia. In the nineteenth century, horse-drawn carts owned by Josep Corredor and Artigas were responsible for transporting cork from Palafrugell to Sant Feliu de Guíxols. The transport of cork by sea was mainly carried out by coastal shipping. With the ports of Sant Feliu, Palamós and Roses being essential to the export trade. The brisk trade opened up important business contacts with the French Mediterranean ports. The creation of railways to and from the ports was spurred on by limitations in road transportation due to the poor state of the highways and the limited carrying capacity of carts. Another factor was the increasing demands of a growing market. Thus the Palamòs to Flaçà railway was inaugurated, in 1887, becoming the ﬁrst narrow-gauge railway in the northern counties of Catalonia. In 1900, Joan Miquel Avellí and Enric Vincke founded the Miquel i Vincke society dedicated to the cork industry. They were joined shortly after by Pau Meyer. The fact that two of the partners were German nationals meant they were able to obtain ﬁnancial backing from banks in Hamburg. The Palafrugell cork factories became the symbol of the power of the Catalan cork industry. At Can Mario, for example, the number of workers doubled in a few short years (from 500 in 1905 to a thousand in 1907). It was a modern enterprise which produced all manner of objects made from cork. Besides making wine corks (over a million a day) it produced signiﬁcant quantities of ﬁbreboard, paper, wool, buoys, ﬂoats, shoe soles and pith helmets. The Catalan cork industry extended its production to Spain and France, and eventually opened sales ofﬁces in England and the United States. On the 1st January 1930 the Armstrong Cork Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, took over the majority of the Catalan cork industry. It goes by the name of Armstrong to this day. Source: The Palafrugell Cork Museum, publications of the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia. ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013