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24 de març 2019

The Italian Manifesto (21/3/2019)

Several hundred citizens have signed a Manifesto in Italian, calling on Italian and European institutions to act in the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. Here is an English translation of the text (by MS).
Click here if need be to access the whole text.

The Bologna Manifesto

Catalonia, Europe and democracy: the appeal

In Madrid, in the heart of Western Europe, twelve representatives of Catalan politics and civil society are currently on trial. Nine of them are in pre-trial detention, in many cases since well over a year ago. The charges are very serious, with requests for punishment by the public prosecutor of up to 25 years in gaol.

Among the alleged crimes there is "rebellion": it is the criminal figure used for those who, in 1981, entered the [Spanish] Parliament with weapons and took the tanks into the street. In actual fact, the Spanish penal code requires, in the typology of the crime, the element of a "violent uprising". The only certain violence so far, due to the innumerable images that show it and that have gone around the world, is however that put in place by the Spanish police forces: who departed from every corner of the country bound for Catalonia at the threatening cry of "A por ellos!" ("Go get 'em!"); who beat voters and demonstrators - even non-independence supporters - intent on peacefully resisting, with arms raised, in defence of the polling stations; who fired rubber bullets at citizens, although their use is banned in Catalonia.

But the judicial story does not end in Madrid, before the Tribunal Supremo. Other defendants will be judged (for disobedience and other crimes) by courts in Catalonia; hundreds of mayors, social activists, investigated artists (in some cases, convicted) for having contributed in some way to the preparation of the referendum or for simply expressing their ideas (in this sense, see Amnesty International Report 2017/18, pp. 339-341).

Then there are the seven politicians, both MPs and members of the previous Catalan government, who fled to Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland to escape arrest and continue to conduct their political action from abroad. They are free citizens throughout Europe, given that, especially following the German court's decision in the Puigdemont case, the Spanish judicial authority withdrew all European Arrest Warrants against them. Beyond the technical anomalies of the judicial proceedings (highlighted by various international observers), what is happening is evident: what is being debated, in the courtrooms, is an eminently political question, which should never have left the field of politics.

An entire political class is being criminalized, their responsibility being having tried to move the Spanish institutions from positions of radical closure to dialogue. It is forgotten that over two million Catalan citizens have been asking for years, in a civil and peaceful manner, to be able to express themselves freely and democratically on the structure of the relationship between Spain and Catalonia.

Only from a position of intransigent nationalism can the question of Catalan independence continue to be considered as an issue on which a democratic debate cannot even be opened; only from an illiberal position can the repression of fundamental civil and political rights be considered to be preferable to that perspective.

The silence of Europe, which dismisses the affair as a Spanish internal affair, is deplorable and dangerous. It is a sign of weakness of the European institutions, not of strength, and contributes to the radicalization of the conflict rather than to its resolution. If the EU accepts the criminalization of peaceful protest and civil disobedience in a member country of Spain's standing, then democratic rights are threatened not only for the Catalans, but for the Spanish and all Europeans. And that silence becomes embarrassing when the European Parliament forbids Catalan politicians in refuge abroad to take part in a conference organized in its premises whilst allowing, almost simultaneously, an anti-Catalanist debate promoted by the far-right Spanish party Vox, which is openly and programmatically homophobic, male chauvinist and xenophobic.

The scarce attention of the press, opinion and intellectuals of our country is also worrying. In the scenario described, we believe on the contrary that what are needed are the commitment and vigilant monitoring by all those who care about the protection of rights, democratic values ​​and the principles enshrined in the EU Treaties.

We call, as European citizens, for the release of Catalan prisoners, the return to a situation of democratic normality and the opening of a political dialogue on the issue, the only way that can lead to its resolution that is consistent with the values ​​of democracy.

The destiny of Catalonia is also our destiny, and the destiny of the whole of Europe.

Signatories: initially 41, mostly academics and nearly all Italians, and over 750 by March 30th 2019). To sign, click here:

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