Sunday, 19 January 2014

The European Union, Catalonia and Internal Enlargement

Now is the time for the EU to be proactive and develop a policy for dealing with Catalonia's call for self-determination and possible independence. Its current path could well lead to chaos for Europe's grand experiment.

This is the epilogue to the article titled How the Voters of Catalonia May Change Europe, published on January 16 in the Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist blog.

It is obvious that the Spanish government's stonewalling before the Catalan citizens' demands for a broader view of a democratic so-called Right to Decide, an analogy for self-determination, leaves no leeway for any negotiated solutions and puts the European Union in the predicament of not being able to propose any, as the Commission does not wish to antagonise a member state.

But can the European Union allow itself to be sucked in by Spain's government policy of disdain towards a part of its citizens and its use of legal sophistry to reject its citizens' demands to decide where their future should lie? The EU cannot stand on the sidelines before a new regional paradigm that has become manifest with current European territorial issues such as those of Scotland, Flanders, and of course Catalonia. These will not simply go away and in any case, cannot be justifiably quashed if the EU's principles of respect for minorities and for democracy in general are to be abided by. The EU must take the initiative to find possible solutions, and one of these is Internal Enlargement.

The concept was set forth several years ago by European think tank Centre Maurits Coppieters based in Brussels. Internal Enlargement (PDF) would be an excellent solution for many internal disputes and would strengthen the European Union, not in the sense some fear, of its becoming a federal super-state, but in that of the principles which any and all member states and their citizens should be able to agree on: the EU's Fundamental Values.

The European Union is not simply a loose economic club, an association of states or an international organization. It is a uniquely flexible political construct that has constantly adapted to circumstance and should thus be able to find a way to accommodate the demands of a part of its citizens. Its Member States have relinquished part of their sovereignty to EU institutions, with many decisions made at the European level, facilitating over 60 years of peace, stability, and prosperity. This should continue.

Internal disputes are obviously a threat to this, but as history has shown, threats do not necessarily and should not lead to clashes if solutions are found. But these will not appear of their own accord, and the disputes will not simply go away, as the Spanish government seems to believe. In the case of Catalonia, the issues involved have smouldered for centuries, briefly surfacing again and again, put down by successive authoritarian or dictatorial governments. And in the democratic period, the successor to the last dictatorship of 1939-1976, these issues have obviously not been dealt with successfully.

The citizens of Catalonia —and not the regional government, which had avoided cracking the kernel of the issue until the massive pro-independence demonstration in Barcelona of upwards of 1.5 million citizens on September 11, 2012— have clearly expressed their wish to decide for themselves on how to go about solving the issues, and demand a referendum on the most prickly one, e.g. whether Catalonia should continue forming part of the Kingdom of Spain.

So, with never-ending evolution, working to adapt to each new circumstance and thus consolidating its fundamentals, the EU must find the way to nudge the nation states to accept the primordial element of democracy, the Right to Decide, without browbeating or menacing citizens, and offering peaceful outcomes.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Right to Self-Determination - A legal analysis

Analysis by the Human Rights Commission of the Barcelona Bar Association

On January 8, the Barcelona Bar Association (Il·lustre Col·legi d’Advocats de Barcelona) published an analysis by its Human Rights Commission on the legitimacy of Catalonia's claim to statehood.
In almost forty years of existence, the Human Rights Defence Commission of the Barcelona Bar Association has been present in all debates of social and legal relevance in our country, insofar as they could affect fundamental human rights, both individual and collective. At present, when the people of Catalonia are set to take decisions that may determine their future as a nation, the Defence Commission cannot be absent from the fervent, enthusiastic debate that has come about on the right to self-determination. That is why we wish to express our position on the matter, obviously within the corresponding legal framework.

Firstly, it is manifest that the right to self-determination is a basic, universal right of all peoples, as per international law in force since the establishment of the United Nations Charter (Articles 1 & 55) of 1945, and expressly proclaimed in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 16, 1966 and in force since 1976. In practice however, the right to self-determination had been internationally recognised much earlier. Consider the United States Declaration of Independence or the creation of new states upon the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires at the end of the First World War. The exercise of the right to self-determination has resulted in the number of sovereign states quadrupling since 1900. Twenty of these new states are the result of secession of a part of one state to establish a new one. Specifically, in Europe there have been 14 cases of secession since 1900: Norway from Sweden (1905), Finland from
Russia (1917); Ireland from the UK (1922), Iceland from Denmark (1944), Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the USSR (1990-1991), Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia from Yugoslavia (1991), Slovakia from Czechoslovakia (1992), Montenegro from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro (2006), and Kosovo from Serbia (2008). The process of self-determination and the creation of a new sovereign state was different in each case – contemplated in the constitution, agreement or unilateral declaration of independence – but all with the ultimate legitimation of the process through the majority decision of the people, expressed freely and democratically in referendum.

One particular doctrinal school in international law has defended a restrictive interpretation of the right to self-determination, considering this applicable only to processes of decolonisation. There is certainly a clear legal framework consisting of a number of United Nations resolutions establishing conditions and procedures to apply this right to colonised peoples. This framework, however, has not been sufficiently developed for the case of non-colonial situations. But notwithstanding the lack of regulation of a right in a specific situation, this does not mean denial of the right, since the right has been formulated in general terms without establishing any exceptions, as is the case of the right to self-determination. Additionally, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in favour of self-determination as a universal right to be respected by all states, erga omnes, in an advisory opinion on the Wall in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2004. Likewise, the ICJ replied in its significant Resolution of July 22, 2010 to a request from the General Assembly of the United Nations on whether the unilateral declaration of independence of the territory of Kosovo proclaimed on February 17, 2008 was in accordance to international law, ruling that there is no regulation in international law prohibiting unilateral declarations of independence and should therefore be considered to be in conformity with international law.

In the case of Catalonia, the exercise of the right of self-determination is being denied by the government and most state institutions in Spain, even opposing putting the question to the people in consultation. This outright opposition is essentially based on two arguments. First, the affirmation that the sovereignty lies collectively in the whole people of Spain. The right to decide on the separation of Catalonia from the rest of the state does not thus correspond to the people of Catalonia separately as it is not a sovereign political subject. The second argument consists of saying that even if this condition were attributable to the Catalan people, the secession of Catalonia from the Spanish state would in any case be illegal as it would collide with current legislation, specifically with the Spanish constitution, which does not recognise the right to self-determination of any territory of the state, and which proclaims in Article 2 “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, common and indivisible home to all Spaniards.


Regarding the first argument, this is what is known in basic logic as “Petitio principii” (begging the question). It is self evident that if the Catalan people were the subject of sovereignty, it would already be independent. What is at issue is whether the Catalan people meet the required conditions for its right to self-determination to to be recognised, i.e. the condition as a people with the capacity to decide for itself whether to constitute a sovereign state. It should be remembered that the United Nations Charter and the aforementioned international treaties attribute the right to decide to the peoples, not to the states. Thus, the condition of the Catalan community as a political subject with the right to decide cannot be disputed: a one-thousand-year history, its own language, its own civil code, a distinct social and economic structure, its own political institutions, and a manifest will to maintain its own identity expressed over centuries, fully endorse the national purport of Catalonia, likewise recognised in the preamble of its Statute of Autonomy, even in the version curtailed by the sentence of the Constitutional Tribunal.

It is true the current Spanish constitutional framework does not allow for the self-determination of Catalonia. We thus find ourselves before a possible discrepancy between two legitimacies: that of the current constitution and the democratically expressed will of a national community. But it should not be neglected that in a democratic society the law is nothing other than the expression of the will of the people expressed through its political representatives duly constituted as its legislative power. This intrinsically democratic concept cannot assent to the sequestration of the will of the people –in this case represented by the Parliament of Catalonia– in the name of a coercively imposed legality. That is why we consider the Spanish government would have no legitimacy if opposing the decision of the Parliament of Catalonia to give voice to the citizens so as to freely express its majority will –whether affirmatively or negatively– concerning the creation of a sovereign Catalan state. If the outcome were affirmative, the Spanish government would have no legitimacy in opposing a process of negotiation in order to establish conditions of secession and to reach a common agreement on its complex consequences. It would likewise have to make such constitutional and legal amendments as necessary to make the process orderly and equitable. This was the criterion established by the Supreme Court of Canada on the validity of the secessionist referendum in the province of Quebec in 1995. In its advisory opinion of 1998, the Court recognised that a clear majority vote on a clear question would democratically legitimise an initiative in favour of secession and would compel the government of Canada to negotiate the conditions of separation.

A unilateral declaration of independence, proclaimed by the Parliament of Catalonia, would be justified under international law if the Spanish government were to prevent a ballot to consult the citizens on the creation of a new state or if it refused to accept an affirmative result. In the latter case, the declaration of independence by Parliament would have immediate effect to bestow the new state with political existence. Indeed, this would meet the minimum criteria of permanent population, defined territory and inherent political authority, which define a state as was established by the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, adopted on December 26, 1933. The Convention provides that the political existence of a state is independent of recognition by other states. This principle, known as constitutive theory of the state, was ratified by the opinion of the Badinter Arbitration Committee created by the then European Economic Community on September 27, 1991, to provide answers to legal issues raised by the split of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In its opinions, the Badinter Committee asserts that the existence of states is a matter of fact, without recognition by the international community as a determining condition of statehood.

The crucial issue of the juridical legitimacy of a unilateral declaration of independence in conflict with legislation was settled by the aforementioned resolution on Kosovo by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The resolution states that upon proclaiming Kosovo an independent and sovereign state, the Kosovo Assembly was not operating as an institution of self-government in the pre-existing administration and within the limits of existing law, but rather that it stood outside its scope and acted exclusively by virtue of the powers conferred by democratic representation of the people's will. The declaration of independence was not intended, therefore, to produce its effect within the existing legal order, but created a new legal entity. In conclusion, the Court considered that as there was no rule in international law that prohibited it, and once it was confirmed it would be impossible to negotiate with Serbia, the unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovo Assembly was not contrary to the international legal order.

On the basis of the above legal arguments, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights of the Barcelona Bar Association holds that the power to decide on its future, either within the State where it is integrated, or separately to form a new sovereign state, depends on the will of the majority of its citizens expressed democratically and peacefully, is an inalienable right of Catalonia as a national community.

Barcelona, January 2013

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Why has Blogger changed the URL for my blog?

The URL for my blog has suddenly changed. For some reason unbeknown to me, Blogger has decided I should have a .es at the end. But .es corresponds to Spanish sites. I personally may be located in Spain, but does that mean my blog is obliged to be identified as Spanish if it is written in English and means to address an international English-speaking audience?

In any case, Blogger (Google) might have had the courtesy to ask if I would like to be identified as Spanish, or at a bare minimum, to have had the decency to forewarn me of this change!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Why I Support Independence for Catalonia

First published in Help Catalonia on 24/8/2011

Born and brought up in London, England, of a Swedish mother and a Catalan father born in Paris, France, I think it might be fair to say that I am a citizen of Europe. I have imbibed of several different cultures, with an education at British, French and Spanish schools. I speak five languages, with a smattering of a further two or three. I am thus what might be termed multicultural, with influences from many different points of view, though admittedly “Western”. This world-view, with a clear liberal, democratic bent, means I give cultures that tend to restrict others' freedoms, political or otherwise, very short shrift.

One such culture is Spain's. It has a long history of nationalism whose prime characteristic is a constant obstinacy in imposing its unitary national identity, understood as cultural and political uniformity. Worst of all is that this unitary nationalism does not originally spring from modern nation building, but from an atavistic Castilian trait of a closed, self-sufficient, typically feudal society which survived well into the 19th Century. One has but to read the Spanish literary classics to realise this. Notice, by way of example, that in the Spanish Wikipedia's entry for Literature of Spain there is but one single Catalan language author. Catalan authors are set apart as a footnote.

This Spain that has for centuries been unable to consolidate as a nation beyond the regions of Castilian culture (i.e. Spain not including Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia), even “by whichever means necessary”, be these outright war, attempted cultural and linguistic obliteration, or economic and fiscal seizure, is still today attempting to secure its uniform identity. Thus, the modern Spanish political mainstream, whether Socialist or PP, (never mind the old Francoists) has always been politically conservative and culturally unitary, opposing today's politically liberal and culturally diverse, multifarious milieu.

Opposing this conservatism has been Catalan politics' historical endeavour to change the political culture and structure of Spain. Catalonia, with its distinct singularity, has long been at the forefront of social, cultural and economic advancement, not only in Spain, but also in Europe. It is the most open society in Spain, with 13.5% of its population coming from abroad. Catalonia has long welcomed migrations: between the 16th and the 18th centuries, many French migrated there, escaping from religious strife and civil disturbances, and as of the late 1950s, while southern Europe, including Spain, was 'exporting' labour to the north, Catalonia was a net 'importer', like the UK or Germany.

But any proposals for a more liberal, federal Spain emerging from Catalonia have lasted but moments in the history of an absolutely illiberal, uniform state. Federalism has been the last stand of those who still hope for a more open Spain, one that should be ready to accept its cultural and political diversity. But there is little hope for federalism, which is, in my opinion and that of many Catalans, what should have been legislated after the Franco dictatorship, but which was not for fear of the centuries-old demands of unitary uniformity by Spanish reactionary conservatives and the military.

The latest Catalan initiative attempting to lay the foundations of a federalising state, the 2006 Statute for Catalonia, was approved by 90% of its parliament's members and was approved in referendum by the citizens with a clear majority in favour. It is obvious that most Catalan citizens are unhappy with Spain as it stands. In a recent poll, a majority of Catalans would vote for independence.

But still today the Spanish government procrastinates with the application and, most importantly, the budget assignations the last Statute requires. It is clear that Spain is unwilling to make any changes, to recognise its own diversity, cultural or political. If the Spanish powers-that-be are not yet ready to accept change, after more than thirty years of democracy and three hundred years of imposition, there isn't much point in carrying on any further with their ground rules.

Independentists like myself move, therefore, that solution for both Spain and the citizens of Catalonia is Catalan independence.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Catalonia: in search of an exit

I found Julian Glover's article, Prosperous Catalans may beat rebellious Basques to the exit, in The Guardian on Friday fairly equitable. At least he had made an attempt at speaking to as broadly representative a choice of interviewees as possible.

There was, however, a tinge of distasteful subterfuge: He says that “the Catalan parliament – tellingly – faces the city zoo.” Would it be fair, nay, would it be acceptable, to say that the London Business School or the Central Mosque lie – tellingly – opposite Regent's Park, home to London Zoo?

He also likens the Catalan Parliament to a London gentleman's club because of its red velvet carpets and uniformed retainers. Perhaps much alike the carpeting and the attending staff and doorkeepers at the Parliament in Westminster? Mr. Glover says it “feels no place for a revolution”. But then, does Westminster? Besides, is anyone actually advocating revolution? Besides one or two hotheads, all those who favour independence for Catalonia propose differing strategies for absolutely democratic and properly legitimate process, and that includes those Mr. Glover finds most radical, like Antoni Strubell or Josep Huget.

Besides these objectionable points, there are many other significant issues to be taken up. However, I will take a look at infrastructure, for the time being: Mr. Glover mentions an abundance of “fast roads, new railways and oversized airports”.

First off, the oversized airports. Well, I would say that after several decades of squeezing more that 30m passengers per year into an airport designed to take half that amount, it was about time the capacity of Barcelona airport were enlarged. The new terminal, which started operations in June 2009, has allowed the airport to grow to 55m passengers per year.

As to those “fast roads”, is Catalonia really “awash” with motorways? Well, perhaps they are fast in the eyes of those used to the M25, even though we also have serious traffic problems with our own orbital roads. And if we look at the decades they take to plan, tender and build, I would say they are anything but fast! Besides, most of our truly “fast roads” are toll roads, often with no feasible toll-free alternatives.

One symptomatic example Catalans have particular issue with is the building of a motorway northbound from Barcelona to France to substitute the N-II highway for which the only alternative is a toll road. This has been a stop and go affair for the last 20 years, long before the current economic crisis and consequent budget shortfall. The works have been suspended again and again, and last month the Spanish Minister of Public Works announced there would be no tender for further work in the foreseeable future. The last inauguration was in 2007 (rushed to come before Spanish General Elections) for a 5-mile stretch near Girona. Nothing further has been done since.

As to the new railways we apparently seem to be drowning under, the only new lines built in Catalonia in the past 30 years are for the AVE high-speed trains. The idea behind planning for these arose in the late 1980s and was for a high-speed standard gauge connection northward with Europe (Spanish gauge is broader and rolling stock from other networks cannot travel on the Spanish network, and vice versa). However, the priority was totally twisted! The first line was opened in 1992 between Madrid, the capital of Spain, and Seville in the south. The AVE lines did not reach Catalonia (Lleida) until 2003 and only reached Barcelona in 2008.

There is still no connection with Europe, which was the whole point of standard gauge. Mr. Glover was no doubt confused by the new trains he probably saw when in Figueres, as the high-speed line there only goes north to France. The trains he saw there were in fact French TGVs, and not the Spanish AVEs! After well over 30 years, Catalonia is yet to be connected to standard-gauge Europe!

One can imagine how Catalans feel about Spain, when the Spanish state obviously does not hold Catalonia and its citizens' interests among its priorities, whether for infrastructure or for a host of other issues such as culture (Catalan, that is), the Catalan language, or the acceptance of Catalonia's role in history (the Castillian bias is unavoidably patent). Spain refuses to accept Catalonia as a nation within a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-national state. As I pointed out in my How Much is Enough?, “the Spanish political mainstream ... has always been ... politically conservative and culturally unitary, opposing today's politically liberal and culturally diverse, multifarious milieu, whether local or global.

Should it therefore be such a surprise if Catalonia is in search of an exit from Spain in order to manage herself and decide how and where to go from now on?

Friday, 5 November 2010

A History of Spanish anti-Catalan Opinions

There is a long history of leading representatives of Spanish political opinion that have constantly dished out anti-Catalan sentiment. Is it such a surprise that many Catalans feel very hard done by? And this is how Catalonia is meant to integrate quietly?
  • 1625 – Conde Duque de Olivares, PM to King Philip IV: “Now we have assimilated you and you won't have to spend your money on fighting us, it seems reasonable you pay us in taxes.”
    (“Ahora que os hemos asimilado y no tendréis de gastaros dinero en lucha contra nosotros, parece razonable que nos paguéis con impuestos.”)
  • 1725 – José Patiño, governor in charge of administration after the invasion of Catalonia by Spanish and French troops: “... the obstinacy and barbarity of this criminal people (Catalonia) is quite notorious...”
    (“… es bien notoria la obstinación y barbaridad de este pueblo criminal…”)
  • 1906 – Revista “Ejercito y Armada” (“Army & Navy” magazine): “Catalonia must be made Castilian ... Think Spanish, speak Spanish and behave as a Spaniard, be it willingly or by force.”
    (“Hay que castellanizar a Cataluña … Hay que pensar en español, hablar en español y conducirse como español, y esto de grado o por fuerza.”)
  • 1907 – La revista militar (The Military Review): “The Catalan problem will thus not be solved with freedom, but with restriction; not by palliatives and pacts, but by iron and fire.”
    (“El problema catalán no se resuelve, pues, por la libertad, sino con la restricción; no con paliativos y pactos, sino por el hierro y por el fuego.”)
  • 1927 – La revista militar (The Military Review): “Think Spanish, speak Spanish and behave as a Spaniard, be it willingly or by force.”
    (“Hay que pensar en español, hablar en español y conducirse como español, y esto de grado o por fuerza.”)
  • 1927 – Writer Juan Llarch: Imposing the use of Spanish in Catalonia is doing them a paternal favour, like making a short-sighted, rebellious child wear glasses”
    (“Obligar a usar el castellano en Cataluña es hacerles un favor paternal, como lo es obligar a un niño corto de vista y revoltoso, a ponerse unas gafas.”)
  • 1934 – Spanish PM Manuel Azaña: “someone I know assures me that, as a rule of the history of Spain, Barcelona should be shelled once every fifty years”
    (“una persona de mi conocimiento asegura que es una ley de la historia de España, la necesidad de bombardear Barcelona cada cinquenta años.”)
  • 1938 – Spanish army general Queipo de Llano: “We will transform Madrid into a garden, Bilbao into a large factory and Barcelona into one huge plot of land”
    (“Transformaremos Madrid en un vergel, Bilbao en una gran fábrica y Barcelona en un inmenso solar.”)
  • 1939 – Military Governor Aymat: “Catalan dogs! You are not worthy of the sun that shines on you!”
    (“¡Perros catalanes! ¡No sois dignos del sol que os alumbra!”)
  • 1968 – La Vanguardia editor Luis de Galinsonga imposed by the Franco dictatorship authorities: “All Catalans are shit.”
    (“Todos los catalanes son una mierda.”)
  • 1968 – Spanish minister for Information and Tourism under the Franco dictatorship, Manuel Fraga Iribarne: “Catalonia was occupied by Philip IV, it was occupied by Philip V, who vanquished it, it was shelled by General Espartero, who was a revolutionary general, and we occupied it in 1939 and we are ready to bear our rifles again. So, you know what to expect, and here is my musket ready to be used again”
    (“Cataluña fué ocupada por Felipe IV, fué ocupada por Felipe V, que la venció, fué bombardeada por el general Espartero, que era un general revolucionario, y la ocupamos en 1939 y estamos dispuestos a coger de nuevo el fusil. Por consiguiente, ya saben ustedes a que atenerse, y aquí tengo el mosquete para volverlo a utilizar.”)
  • 1977 – Lawyer Jorge Carreras Llansana: “There is nothing other than Spaniards who live and work in Catalonia. A Spaniard who comes here, comes to a Spanish region and cannot ever be considered an immigrant.”
    (“En Cataluña no hay más que españoles que viven y trabajan. Un español que viene aquí, viene a una región española y jamás puede ser considerado como inmigrante.”)
  • 1981 – Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabéu: “I like Catalonia, despite the Catalans”
    (“Me gusta Cataluña a pesar de los catalanes.”)
  • 1984 – Spanish PM Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo: “Emigration of Spanish-speaking people to Catalonia and Valencia is to be encouraged, so as to ensure the implicit feeling of Spanish sentiment is maintained.”
    (“Hay que fomentar la emigración de gentes de habla castellana a Cataluña y Valencia para así asegurar el mantenimiento del sentimiento español que comporta.”)
  • 1984 – Spanish lawyer and politician José Prat: “Catalans are only important when they write in Spanish”
    (“Los catalanes sólo son importantes cuando escriben en castellano”.
  • 1984 – Spanish PM Felipe González: “Terrorism in the Basque Country is an issue of law and order, but the real threat is the distinctiveness of the Catalans.”
    (“El terrorismo en el País Vasco es una cuestión de orden público, pero el verdadero peligro es el hecho diferencial catalán.”)
  • 1986 – Spanish lawyer and politician José Rodríguez de la Borbolla: “Andalusians are intelligent enough not to trust the Catalans.”
    (“Los andaluces son bastante inteligentes para no confiar en los catalanes.”)
  • 1992 – Spanish politician Alejo Vidal Quadras: “Only an infirm mind can conceive of the segregation of Catalonia”
    (“Només una ment malaltissa pot concebre la segregació de Catalunya.”)
  • 1993 – Jerez mayor Pedro Pacheco: “Basques and Catalans are vultures ready to pick on the carrion.”
    (“Vascos y catalanes son buitres prestos a recoger la carroña.”)
  • 1994 – Spanish politician Mercedes de la Merced: “I am worried about the Guardia Civil (Spanish Gendarmes) coming under Jordi Pujol, today the President of the Generalitat (Catalan government), and tomorrow under any lunatic that might preside.”
    (“Me preocupa que la Guardia Civil pueda llegar a depender de Jordi Pujol, hoy Presidente de la Generalitat, y mañana de cualquier loco que la pueda presidir.”)
  • 2001 – Spanish politician Txiki Benegas: “For me, being a nationalist and being cultured and intelligent is incompatible.”
    (“Para mi, ser nacionalista y ser culto e inteligente, es incompatible.”)
  • 2001 – King of Spain, Juan Carlos I: “... nobody has ever been forced to speak Spanish; it was the several peoples who, of their own free will, made Cervantes' language theirs.”
    (“… a nadie se le obligó nunca a hablar en castellano; fueron los pueblos más diversos quienes hicieron suyo por voluntad libérrima, el idioma de Cervantes.”)
  • 2005 – Spanish politician J. C. Rodríguez Ibarra: “Don't you feel any shame? Can you be such cretins? (…) Not enough money for health? Well, you shouldn't have spent it on having an autonomous police force, on three television channels. Everyone spends on what they want, but then don't come wailing, my friends. (…) I don't know of any budget assignation that says: transfer from one region to this one. And if it does exist, please exclude me. They can stick their money where the sun doesn't shine.”
    (“No les da vergüenza? ¿Se puede ser tan cretino? (…) ¿Falta dinero para la sanidad? Pues no se lo hubieran gastado ustedes en tener una policía autonómica, no se lo hubieran gastado ustedes en tener tres televisiones. Cada uno se lo gasta en lo que quiere, pero después no vengan ustedes llorando, amigos. (…) No conozco ninguna partida presupuestaria que diga: transferencia de renta de esta región a ésta. Y si existiera, que por favor me borren. Que se metan los cuartos donde les quepan”.)
  • 2006 – Spanish radio host César Vidal: “A Valencian who considers himself Catalan is like a Jew who admires Hitler.”
    (“Un valenciano que se considere catalán es como un judio que admirara a Hitler.”)
  • 2006 – Spanish politician Alfonso Guerra: “We have scrubbed down the [Catalan] Statute”
    (“Nos hemos cepillado el Estatut.”)
  • 2008 – The mayor of the village of Agón in the neighbouring autonomous community of Aragon: “Let the Catalans die of thirst, the youth are sick of Catalan oppression”, “The village is likely to take justice in its own hands and destroy the transfer pipes and other facilities if they don't get proper compensation for the bother the Generalitat (Catalan government) has caused them”
    (“¡Que los catalanes se mueran de sed, los jóvenes estan hartos de la opresión catalana”, ”Es muy probable que el pueblo se tome la justicia por su mano y destruyan las tuberías del trasvase y otras instalaciones, si no reciben justa recompensa por las molestias que la Generalitat ha causado.”)
  • 2009 – Spanish lawyer and politician Alicia Sánchez-Camacho: “We cannot allow Catalan to be the vehicular language in [Catalan] schools”
    (“No podem permetre que el català sigui la llengua vehicular a les escoles.”)
From historian Joaquim Ullan's Cathalonia blog.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Spain: Fascism's last refuge in Europe

Toni Strubell, the Coordinator of the Dignity Commission, has sent the following letter to the international media condemning Spain's refusal to eradicate the remains still present in many villages and towns of the dictatorship of General Franco, Europe's last fascist government and ally of Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy. He also decries Spain's obstacles to inquests into crimes committed during the dictatorship and it's opposition to any kind of official inquiry or truth commission.

Dear Sir,

I would very much like to call your attention to worrying events coming from today's Spain. Last February 4th, Spanish newspapers reported that a National Audience judge, Baltasar Garzón, is to be put on trial and possibly suspended. What was his crime? Having dared to try and open up an investigation into the mass graves and other crimes perpetrated by the Franco regime (in Valencia alone, mass graves holding over 26,300 post-war Franco victims have recently been discovered). That very day the newspapers also informed that the huge fascist monument honouring the cruiser Baleares in Palma bay (the pride of Franco's fleet sunk by the Republicans after having shelled thousands of fleeing refugees on the coastal roads of Andalusia) is not to be demolished. It is to be conserved. What must Spanish democrats and relatives of the victims make of this? Can anyone imagine the same occurring with a monument dedicated to a Fascist-manned warship in any other part of the democratic world? Furthermore, on February 5th newspapers informed that the Basque Parliament, where Spanish Constitutional parties at present hold a majority (due to the illegalization of the Basque left party) voted against instating a Truth Commission (such as the one established by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in the early nineties) to discover the truth about the crimes of Franco. What in heaven's name is happening in Spain? I think it is high time democrats all over the world be informed about the huge democratic deficit that exists today in Spain. Europe largely ridded itself of Fascism in 1945. The one place it lives on is in Spain, where 56 streets in Madrid still bear the names of Franco generals. The sooner the whole world knows the truth about Spain, the sooner we can start to put an end to so much iniquity and disgrace.

Toni Strubell i Trueta
Coordinator of the Dignity Commission


The former head of State, General Franco (left), with his successor to be, the then Prince Juan Carlos of Spain, at his side at a Fascist rally in Madrid in September 1975