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24 d’abr. 2017

Westminster



Westminster, April 20 2017

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’ve been asked to explain what the present state of affairs is as regards the claim of a very large part of the Catalan people to the full sovereignty of their country.

*** CLICK ON "Més informació" BELOW TO READ THE WHOLE PAPER ***


Before I do that, however, let me first say what an honour and privilege it is for me to have been invited to speak here today, firstly as a Londoner (for the first eight years of my life), and secondly as a voter – though only once, in February 1974, and my candidate was not returned, much to the delight of my landlady! -, shortly before I went to work in Spain. I have been living in Catalonia since 1980: more than half my life.
There is a family connection here. My mother was a Catalan girl whose family had had to flee into exile, and was to meet my English father here. Her father, a surgeon, knew about the devastating effects of the Fascist air raids on Barcelona.
In this very House, Winston Churchill referred to them in his "HYPERLINK "http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/233-1940-the-finest-hour/122-their-finest-hour"Their Finest HourHYPERLINK "http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/233-1940-the-finest-hour/122-their-finest-hour""HYPERLINK "http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/233-1940-the-finest-hour/122-their-finest-hour" speech, on 18 June 1940:
«I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us; but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona...»
Sadly, the brave men (and women) of Barcelona lost that war… and the Allies’ Non-Intervention policy probably contributed to that outcome.
Another parliamentary link: in 1715 the Rt. Hon. Robert Walpole, after the end of the War of Spanish Succession, wrote a “Report to Papers concerning the Catalans” (see http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2016/09/history_6.html). Let me just read four short extracts:
“No Want of Fidelity or Zeal for the Common Cause ... was ever objected to [the Catalan] People; ... they received to the last the Applauses of the Allies, and Assurances repeated to them by every General and Minister that was sent from Great Britain to that Country, that they should never be abandon'd….”
“The First fatal Step to the Ruin of the Catalans, was the orders sent Lord Lexington...”
“...this Artifice to induce the Catalans to abandon their Defence... had no Effect upon Men determined to die for the Liberty of their Country”.

“It is hoped... that the Calamities of the Catalans will not be imputed to Great Britain in general…”


Though explaining the Road Map towards Independence is a daunting task, because many factors are beyond our control, I’ll do my best… and try and make it short.



1.
Catalonia’s position has always been to prioritise an agreed Referendum with the Spanish authorities. Given their obstinate refusal even to allow the Catalans to give their opinion on the issue - which they had done in a massive display of defiance on November 9 2014, despite Spanish government threats) - the next option was a plebiscitary election.
2.
The snap election on 27 September 2015 was formally just a regional election, but the main pro-independence coalitions publicly regarded it as a plebiscite. The turnout was a historic high: 77·44%.
3.
Though the Unionist options were clearly defeated by over eight points, the pro-independence options did not get half the votes.[1] 





4.
Nonetheless, their 47·7% of the vote gave the pro-independence camp, for the first time ever, a clear outright majority in Parliament: 72 seats out of 135.
5.
It became clear (and Western diplomats may have helped) that the original road map[2] would have to be amended. It had foreseen an initial declaration, or statement, on the final stage of the Independence process, leading to the Proclamation of independence. After that, Constituent elections would have led to the drafting of a Constitution, to be ratified by the people.
5.
However, on not reaching 50% plus one, it was realised that the following vote could not be the Constituent elections. Instead a Referendum would be held to ratify a Transition Act, and this was to come into effect in two stages.
6.
First of all this Bill has to create the legal framework to allow a referendum (binding for the Catalan government) to be held, outside the Spanish legal framework, which has been used politically to prevent such a vote.
7.
Secondly, if the Yes vote wins, the rest of the Transition Act will come into effect, starting with Article 1, which will apparently say that Catalonia is an independent State. The rest will ensure legal certainty, so no void can damage human rights and the day-to-day activity of business.
8.
Only then, once Catalonia has voted itself as an independent State, will the constituent elections be held.
All of this is fine on paper, but there are other actors.
9.
The Unionist opposition in the Catalan Parliament, which has been and will continue to be as obstructive as it can: legitimately, of course. So the pro-independence parties plan to put in place ways of avoiding or at least reducing filibustering.
10.
But the main opponent is the Spanish State. It has used the courts (particularly to try and force Catalan politicians and institutions to «obey» court injunctions blocking political initiatives) instead of seeking a political solution. Unfortunately (for democrats) the public perception of the courts is that they are not independent.[3] A very recent survey shows that across the EU only Bulgaria and Slovakia score below Spain.

11.
The road map is therefore more akin to a swamp track: there are crocodiles on either side, and Spain is poised to challenge every step before the courts. And every step does, of course, challenge the Constitution. Even Catalonia's post of Minister of Foreign Affairs has been deemed unconstitutional!
For the Parliament Bureau to allow a debate on the independence process should of course not raise any eyebrows. But the Spanish government got the Constitutional court to order the suspension of that vote (last July). That way it could lay criminal charges for disobedience against the members of the Bureau that decided the debate would go ahead anyway. Incidentally, the public prosecutors let off one of the Bureau members who had endorsed the debate being held, with the feeble argument that his «intention» was different, thereby underlining just how political these tactics are.
12.
The next step is underway: to prepare for the referendum. Many firmly believe that things will come to a head before the summer. What is clear is that the day the President does sign the call, the five official warnings he has already received from the courts will be activated by Spain.
13.
There is a real threat that the Parliament’s Speaker Carme Forcadell and the pro-independence members of her Bureau will be barred from office by the Spanish authorities, joining the four politicians that have already been barred. At that moment yet another massive, historic mobilization of the Catalans is likely to take place. 
14.
Recently, the sections in Catalonia’s 2017 budget to cover the costs of elections... and referenda have been challenged before the Constitutional court.
15.
And false information is being disseminated by most of the media, which show great tolerance of hate speech against our process, hundreds of instances of which I have gathered on my blog.
16.
In the meantime, Catalan pro-independence organisations like the Assemblea Nacional have received fines totalling well over a million euros on trumped-up excuses.
17.
There are growing calls for a Declaration of Independence. Basic human rights are being violated by Spain on other ways as well: it has opposed and blocked dozens of Catalonia’s social laws (while failing to comply with a similar number of adverse Constitutional court rulings). So Buchanan’s remedial rights secession theory is being increasingly seen as legitimate.
18.
In the last analysis many, many people feel that what is at stake is the survival of the Catalans as a distinct people (no better, no worse!), in the face of what has been, over the centuries, a concerted effort to assimilate them into the Castilian culture.
19.
Two things are clear: firstly, Catalans - who became past-masters at losing crucial battles and wars - know that their future lies only in peaceful ways of striving to survive. 
And secondly, that very will to survive. 
Thank you.

Michael Strubell / Miquel Strubell

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