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10 d’abr. 2013

Catalan independence? Not everyone shares the same point of view

Here are three examples of different points of view as regards Catalonia's quest to regain independence from Spain.

(1) "Catalonia is a bigger timebomb than Cyprus", by Matthew Parris. The TimesApril 6 2013. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/matthewparris/article3732590.ece

(2) Thank you, X (not the author!) for that thoughtful and thought-inducing article.  There is a toxic element to these independence movements which has largely been ignored by the media - to whit, the motivation of small countries/regions' ruling establishments (politico-bureacratic class, academics, quangoists etc.) to push for independence within the context of EU membership.  This applies as much to Scotland as to Catalonia, although I agree that in other ways they are very different cases.  These élites see a great potential for furthering their careers, public emoluments and general feeling of self importance if they can break away from being a mere "province" and take their rightful role on the international stage as peers of other nation states.  They also feel that their genius collectively and individually will find greater recognition and opportunity of self-expression within the halls of supranational institutions such as the EU and the UN than it would in their own "provincial" capitals.  These élites foment independentist sentiments not so much out of a feeling of selfless patriotism as out of cynical personal and collective ambition.  The patriotism of these élites, in that it exists, is often a toxic mixture of centrifugal resentment and collective vanity and frustrated ambition.

(3) I totally agree with Parris that there is a timebomb here, both in economic/financial terms and in political terms (unfortunately I don't have access to the commentaries, though I imagine many are highly charged, on both sides!). Even without the crisis it has been audibly ticking, and all the signs have been there, unattended, for at least seven years now (the massive demonstrations in 2006 and 2007; and also the 2010 demonstration, which was even larger, had nothing to do with financial issues). The Spanish establishment has been stone deaf and it seems that the 1·5 million turnout on September 11 2012 came as a big surprise to them!

When longstanding and unresolved grievances slip into a sense of collective humiliation, then the ride can get very, very rough. The bridges get broken. And noone can deny that the Spanish government is playing as dirty as it can, leaking private documents meant for the courts, buying opinion leaders (according to the Interviú report this week), not complying even with its own organic laws in terms of investment commitments, leaking to the press purported comments about operations in Catalonia made by the secret police chief at an Official Secrets committee meeting (yes!), cutting grants to Catalan cultural institutions more than to other ones... In a word, making things even worse and making many Catalans (even of Spanish origin!) feel even less Spanish than before. What a contrast compared with Westminster/Holyrood relations!

Even since September 11, how many soothing words have been uttered from Madrid? How many powers of seduction have they displayed? It's just been one threat after another, hasn't it? The military might step in, even to physically withdraw ballot boxes if necessary, Catalonia would be thrown out of the EU "forever" (how vindictive can you get and get away with it?), out of the Eurozone, out of the Schengen space, you name it. Spanish businessmen would decide to drop their Catalan suppliers overnight (wow!) in their thousands, the Catalan economy would collapse, Catalan pensioners would lose their pensions, and so on. We can read about these things in the press every day. I'm sure you have!

Next: who can take at face value Parris' statement about the "new terminal of Barcelona's international airport. It is an absolutely beautiful building. And there is absolutely no use for it. So vast and so empty is this brilliantly lit cavern..."? The Wikipedia quotes official data: "En 2012 el tráfico total ascendió a 35.145.176 pasajeros, que supone un crecimiento del 2.2% respecto al año anterior al que se cifraron 34.399.180, y fue el único aeropuerto de los 10 aeropuertos con mayor tráfico de pasajeros en 
España que obtuvo un incremento en dicho tráfico." So what the heck is he talking about? Virtually 100,000 passengers use the airport every day (to be fair, some of them use the old terminal). Moreover, he seems to think it was built by the Catalans, which shows a serious lack of information about the highly centralised airport management system in Spain!

As to X's claims about the "the patriotism of these élites" that aim for independence, may I say that if they exist "they" are risking their bl**dy necks, that Mas himself said he would stand down once Catalonia was independent, and that it is strange that the further you go from the urban hunting grounds of this mysterious élite, into the smaller towns and villages of rural Catalonia, the denser the flags you can see flying or hanging from balconies throughout Catalonia. God moves in mysterious ways, and it would seem, if Gervas' unsubstantiated theory were to be true, that this élite moves in still more mysterious ways. Have you seen the maps of where pro-Independence parties won ourtright majorities in the November election? These maps reveal what should be evident: the independence movement in Catalonia, unlike Scotland, is bottom-up. It's a grassroots movement... and sentiment. The whole initiative oif the September 11 demonstration came from a grassroots organisation, the ANC, not controlled by these "élites" - I know for a fact, at firsthand - even though several parties got on the bandwagon in time.

This élite X has identified probably stems, if it exists at all, to the same élite (also with a toxic element? Or perhaps not then, under the dictatorship, but now is different) that made a pretty packet under Francoism and was in no way inclined to support a return to autonomy.

Returning to Parris, he clearly has no idea about what's going on when he pontificates as follows: "Mr Mas, who has (only latterly) pushed for full independence, should concede a three-choice referendum. Voters would order by preference (1) status quo; (2) greater autonomy (“devo-max”); or (3) full independence. If none received an absolute majority, second preferences would be counted". What sense does it make for Mas to be the one "conceding", in the face of the entrenchment witnessed both in the Spanish Congress of Deputies (rejecting even the ideas of negoiations) and in separate meetings he's had with the PP and the PSOE leaders? And what sense would it make to include option "(2) greater autonomy (“devo-max”)", which is both totally vague... and was shown in the whole issue of the new Statute of Autonomy to be a farse. No commitments were stuck to, and these days few in Catalonia trust the Spanish establishment to keep their word on anything. Look at the pathetic foot-dragging history of the only economically viable transport infrastructure that would give the whole peninsula a huge logistical boost, offering the whole of West Europe a much quicker access to the lucrative market in the Middle East and the Far East than the ports of Northern Europe: the Mediterranean railway corridor, linking up the ports of Algeciras, Malaga, Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona to France and beyond. In the meantime, as you know, they're STILL building TGV railway lines to the four corners of their Earth, and STILL intending to get EU money to bore vast holes through the widest part of the Pyrenees! That's the REAL patriotism of élites in Spain: "Vamos a coser España con hilos de acero", ("we're going to sew Spain with steel thread") said Magdalena Alvarez, at the time "Ministra de Fomento", in reference to the planned TGV network.

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