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Compte enrere

3 de març 2014

The “La Pedrera” Declaration

In English

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(provisional translation)
Barcelona, 28 February 2014

On February 23, the Commissioner for Justice, Human Rights and Citizenship and Vice-President of the European Commission, Madame Viviane Reding, was kind enough to visit Barcelona to personally present some of the main concerns and priorities of the European Union, at a particularly sensitive time in its history. In this paper we wish to submit some points for your reflection and that of the general public, thoughts raised thanks to various interventions made by the audience during the debate.

1. The Catalans' willingness to engage in dialogue

• Since the Middle Ages the Catalans have been what Napoleon was to say of the English, "a nation of shopkeepers." We have always been willing to sit down to negotiate, to thrash out agreements, far from maximalist positions. Recent decades have offered many examples of a “bird-in-the-hand” approach to politics, the will to achieve specific parts of a global project. But in order to reach agreements, both parties must be willing to do so.

• As regards our future, the Parliaments of Catalonia and Spain have adopted completely opposite positions. In the Spanish Parliament, on 26 February 2013, a motion calling on the Spanish government "to start a dialogue with the Government of Catalonia with a view to making the holding of a referendum possible so that the citizens of Catalonia can decide their future" ended up (leaving out votes by the Catalan MPs) with 274 votes against it, out of 303 members: 90%. On 27 February 2014, a similar motion was voted down by 187 votes, while 43 voted in favour and there were 103 abstentions (the Spanish Socialist party).

• In a more constructive vein, on 13 March 2013 the Parliament of Catalonia voted in favor of an identical motion, which received 104 out of 135 votes. 

• The Spanish response to the political aspirations of the majority of the country has not only been to reject them. This fact, that has lasted for decades, persistently and accumulatively reduces the competitiveness and growth of companies in Catalonia, and explains the decline of Catalonia in the ranking of regions in terms of per capita income. Moreover, Catalonia suffers from a serious dirth of modern infrastructure (such as delays in the Mediterranean railway corridor and the main road running into France).

• It is also clear as regards the legislative, legal and political offensive against the Catalan language on all fronts and in all territories, culminating in an organic Education Act imposed against the whole of the rest of the parliamentary spectrum and also the sectors directly involved. All this can have only one reading: an obstinate refusal to talk.

• This attack can also be seen currently in central government legislative initiatives to reduce regional powers in fields as diverse as local government, commerce, telecommunications, and even to protect bullfighting (banned by an Act of Parliament of Catalonia).

• And it is also reflected in the wide range of actions taken by central government to the Constitutional Court against Catalan legislation in many areas, including critical ones such as education and immigration.

2. The energy expended

• The Catalans have expended great energy, with laboured political consensuses and unfulfilled promises by Spanish leaders, to get a more modern Statute of Autonomy, in an attempt to achieve due recognition and accommodation of Catalonia's personality within Spain. These have been largely useless on account of the content slashed out by the Congress of Deputies, and what to many was the offensive Constitutional Court ruling of 27 June 2010, which brought about the largest demonstration in the history of Catalonia to date. The breach of a number of provisions of this Statute cut back by the state, as well as the disappearance of exclusive powers of the regions, and recentralizing policies in many areas, have increased the sense of frustration.

• Important sectors of Spanish society have also devoted great energy against the express will of the Catalans, for example, by collecting millions of signatures against a Statute of Autonomy that that had to to be processed in the Spanish Parliament. Right now rivers of ink are being expended to make us believe that "social fracture" is being caused because of an issue which, for the first time in modern history, is again being debated, formally and informally, throughout the country. The only detectable "breaks" are some violent actions underaktne by Spanish ultranationalist groups that we want to believe are uncontrolled. Catalan society is mature and democratic, much to the chagrin of some.

• Right now, despite an economic depression unparalleled in modern history, nowhere outside Catalonia are there so many thousands of specialized professionals, designing from scratch what will be our own, new State. Within the Advisory Council for National Transition, of Omnium Cultural and of the Catalan National Assembly, this energy, voluntarily offered without compensation, is the result of the same energy that amassed in Barcelona city centre, on 11 September 2012, a demonstration - this time clearly in favor of independence - even bigger than the previous one (2010 ). It is the same energy that brought together more than one and a half million Catalans from all backgrounds, along 400 km of the Via Catalana, on 11 September 2013, again in favor of the democratic way to independence. These energies are not in vain: the Catalan people, that all regimes have made sure they would be fully aware of the many defeats they have suffered throughout history, have finally recovered their self-esteem.

3. Catalonia's European calling

• Few places can boast a pro-European tradition as great as that of Catalonia. There are a number of events that could have justified a reluctant position of our country in relation to Europe. Indeed, Britain abandoned to its fate Catalonia in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), thus breaking the Pact of Genoa (1705). The destruction of our heritage at the hands of French troops, a century later during the Napoleonic war, is still remembered. A further century later, the allies' policy of "nonintervention" during the 1936-1939 Spanish War, which was not respected by the totalitarian regimes of the day, and in the postwar war years, allowed a long and fierce dictatorship that inherited the old aspiration of assimilating Catalonia to the Spanish nation. A few years earlier the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset had stated categorically that "Spain is something made by Castile and there are reasons for sustpecting that, in general, only Castilian heads have adequate organs to be able to perceive the big problem for the integrated Spain." Sad to say, this assimilationist spirit still persists.

• As does the exclusion of Catalans from the top military and civilian posts. To find a Catalan prime minister of Spain we have to look back 141 years (Francesc Pi i Maragall, a federalist), unlike the active participation of the Scots and the Quebeckers, as Canadian and British prime ministers.

• So maybe it is for this reason, and despite what might seem, Catalans have always looked to Europe - starting in Perpignan and beyond that, Paris - as the most natural setting for our free development. Thousands of Catalan volunteers enlisted to fight alongside the allies in both world wars, and a large majority of us have always been supportive of the European Union and the European integration process. At least until now.

4. The principles of the European Union

• Catalans know full well that only in times of democratic freedom are our people respected, even if only partially. We therefore fully share the values that underpin the European Union, and we celebrate as much as anyone the long period of peace that has allowed us - except for woeful local conflicts – to share project of progress based on mutual respect and cooperation.

• The history-long pragmatism of the Catalans openly recognizes the value of integration and cooperation to meet the challenges of a globalized economy. At the same time, many would like to play an active role in the major decisions of the continent; we want to have our modest say in the decision making processes, decisions made at Council tables where we have no seat, and in a Parliament where we have no representation of our own because we are not even a European constituency.

• Many Catalans are scandalized by the instrumental use being made as a threat of membership of the European Union, if our people vote and decide, peacefully and democratically, to join the international community with a state of our own. We are outraged that a decision – Catalonia's immediate expulsion from the EU – which has no basis in the Treaties, is taken for granted. We refuse to believe that it is in the Union's interest to pay any attention to those who scornfully – as if they were colonizers (as you, Madame Reding, saw for yourself at the session, when the person who "came to control you” took the floor) defended sweeping aside, on this occasion, the pragmatism that has hitherto been a feature of European integration.

• And many Catalans are concerned about the impunity with which certain (but numerous) media, not all private, and from various political podia, brand us as selfish and even Nazis. And appeals to the European Commission and the European Parliament have not had, until now, any effect in reducing these constant vexing, unjust and unworthy acusations.

5. The aspiration of the Catalans

• In a globalized context, many Catalans firmly believe that only by having the proper tools of a State can we continue to generate wealth, create jobs for our young people, and further the welfare and happiness of our people. It has often been said that it is not that Catalonia does not have its own State; it has a State against it, and only because our project looks to the future, is an aspiration, do we prefer not to mention the plentiful evidence of this assertion.

• For over one and a helf centuries, Catalonia has tried to modernize and federalise Spain. The failure of the federalist movement has been due, several times, to the absence of other partners inside the State: peoples can only federate by means of agreements between equals. But it is quite evident that Spain is still a country of civil servants, with a speculative economy culture, a judicial system - always slow and inefficient - often mediated by other powers, with a secular ruling caste that has always managed to adapt to the system of the day, and to take good care of their own interests and those of their friends, as any overview of the cases of corruption currently open shows.

• In this context, the definition of Catalans as "whoever lives and works in Catalonia and wants to be Catalan" and "We are a nation" have bbenm civic and political slogans for many years, as a reaction and an affirmation of the Catalan people's will to exist. Moreover, on several occasions (in 1989, 1998 and 2010), the Parliament of Catalonia has stated that it does not waive our right to self-determination. For a very clear majority, the time has come to exercise that right. Even sensible, respected people who have had high political responsibilities in Catalonia say the country is facing a historic dilemma: independence or ultimate assimilation. And they openly opt for survival, for independence.

• The day Catalonia proclaims her political emancipation in the context of a world in which interdependence is the norm, she will not not want to break the centuries-old family and many other kinds of bonds with the rest of the peninsula. Independence is not a gesture against any of the peoples of Spain. Catalonia will be to be able to decide, just like any state, all matters affecting the Catalan people and not freely agreed to grant to international bodies such as the European Union.

• It will not be us who, following independence, will raise tariffs or create borders. On the contrary, we hope that our sovereignty will allow greater cooperation, especially with our neighbours with whom we share language and culture. We hope that our trans-European roads and highways will be exploited for the benefit of all.

• We do not want to impose nationality on anyone. Catalans do not want any citizen to be deprived of his Spanish citizenship against his or her will. History has shown us many times that impositions ended up turning against those who promote them. We want to build a tolerant, open society, in which the welfare of all citizens is a primary objective. Those who oppose our independence base much of their reasoning in favour of Catalonia staying inside Spain on emotional and identity issues, which are very respectable and legitimate, but do nothing to solve any of the problems that Catalan society has and will have.

6. The chronic lack of confidence

• We hear voices – as you well know, Mrs. Commissioner – calling for our problems to be solved through dialogue and negotiation. It is logical and normal. But negotiations (as already mentioned) require the willingness of both parties. Do we Catalans still have this willingness? The "red lines" that Spain has crossed so often in recent years (taking - for the very first time in history - a Statute of Autonomy, validated by referendum though haveing been previously cut back, to the Constitutional Court; doing the same, also for the first time, with a political parliamentary Declaration; invading powers of our Parliament with utter disdain, and many, many promises not kept by the State) account why much of the population of Catalonia has reached the point of no return. Not even if the State were to promise a "third way" would it be credible to the majority, due to the mistrust based on an accumulation of incontestable facts. And it is plain for all to see that in the close to 18 months that have passed since the great demonstration of 11 September 2012, Spain has not made a single step, a single gesture, other than of stubborn entrenchment against the Catalan claims. Quite the contrary, recentralization is advancing ever faster.

• What is more, all the polls in Spain show that if in response to some Catalan voices that still believe there is a solution to the conflict by reforming the Spanish Constitution, the most likely outcome would be a recentralization of the state and the removal of powers currently held, nominally, by Catalonia and other regions. We firmly believe that only the independence of our country offers the opportunity for us to continue to exist and be successful as a people.

7. In conclusion

• For all these reasons, therefore, the people listed below, who attended the above-mentioned debate, call on the European Union and the international community as a whole to ensure the effective realization of what the seven million Europeans that live and coexist in Catalonia have asked our political representatives: to be able to decide freely and democratically, and without further apocalyptic threats or delays - as hundreds of other peoples in the world have done before us -, our future as a people and the recovery of our independence..

The following, who attended the debate, subscribe to this document:

• Anna Balcells
• Lluís Bonet i Coll
• Muriel Casals
• Angels Folch
• Richard Gené
• Elena Jimenez
• Miquel Lopez
• Isabel-Helena Martí
• Sergi Mir
• Carmen Miralda
• Richard Olivella
• Xavier Olivella
• Xesca Oliver
• Albert Poblet
• Conxa Puig
• Robert Sabata

 Joan Sànchez
• Simona Skrabec
• Miquel Strubell

Other versions:

Original (Catalan): http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2014/02/pedrera.html 
English: http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2014/03/la-pedrera-declaration.html
Deutsch: http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2014/03/erklarung.html
Français: http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2014/03/appel.html
Español: http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2014/03/declaracion.html

We are grateful to the Sectorial de Traductors, Intèrprets, Correctors i Transcriptors de l'Assemblea Nacional Catalana for mtheir cooperation.

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