Sunday, August 17, 2014

Remembering the Thirteen United States of America







There is much talk of whether current Spanish law allows Catalonia to decide for itself whether it wants to become a fully sovereign state. There is much talk of a possible aggressive reaction from Spain were Catalonia to express its will to decide. There is much talk of whether European organizations could and would support a possible secession. There is much talk of whether the world would be willing to recognize Catalonia as an independent state.

A lot is being said about this, too much.

So much in fact, that we forget that the right to decide, the right to self-determination, is an act that resides in the people who may exercise it, and it is their duty and responsibility to decide, when facing an unjust and immoral situation, whether they wish to continue being invariably tied to those who, begrudgingly, permanently and systematically submit a people against its will to laws, regulations and actions that directly attack its essential characteristics and endanger its survival.

We are not talking about a kind of emancipation in which those who have the power voluntarily grant it to whoever wants to emancipate themselves. We are not talking about this because those who have this power to grant do not have the slightest intention of doing so. On the contrary, those who have the power seek to perpetuate it and to create the conditions to rid themselves of whoever requests emancipation at any time.

We have talked about a people that want what is theirs, who intend to decide on their own future, something that is being denied by those who have the power and furthermore who act premeditatedly to eradicate this people, to assimilate it into a culture and a world that is not its own.

While I was reading history, I stumbled upon a text which might help to understand the feeling of the Catalans and which could perfectly be the Declaration of the Independence of Catalonia,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The text continues explaining the causes that have led the people to take this decision in order to protect themselves; not looking to damage or scorn the State from which they want to separate, but simply impelled by a strong desire to ensure the survival, freedom and happiness denied by the state they belong to against their will.

The text is not too long; it has 1,330 words including the title. It is easily understood, convincing, clear, and explicit. After calmly reading it, as a Catalan I subscribe to it and make it my own almost in its entirety. It is the Declaration of Independence of the thirteen United States of America signed on July 4, 1776.

I only ask to all of those who are puzzled, wondering what is happening in Spain and what the Catalans are asking for, that they read this declaration, or those who already know it, that they re-read it. Once read, or re-read, think of a peaceful people with its own culture and language, one that is at least as old as Spanish but cannot be used in a normal way and on a daily basis. Think of a people that feels constantly asphyxiated by the taxes it pays, but which do not go to improving its welfare; of a people who approves laws which are censored or just simply revoked; of a people that sees that the state it belongs to despises it and scorns it; of a people that continues stoically to work and contributes, hoping that one day all of this will improve until, finally, it receives what it deserves.

And finally, ask yourselves what the Catalans should do –seeing that they find themselves at the gates of the disappearance of their culture, language and as a people, due to the will of the state which they are part of– how they should act, how they should react. And after thinking about this, I ask you again to read the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen United States of America.


Please, keep the Catalans in mind. Thank you.

Albert Sagués

Spanish version

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Spanish Government cuts infrastructure investment by 50% in Catalonia and only 25% in the rest of Spain

According to a report published on Thursday by Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce, the Spanish Government's investment in infrastructure in Catalonia has dropped by 50% in the last 10 years, while it has been reduced by 25% throughout Spain in the same period. 
The President of the business association, Miquel Valls, stated that this reduction represents "a break" in the Catalan economy's growth and competitiveness. This political decision harms Spain's and Catalonia's economy, since now Catalonia could be in a better position to speed up the overall economic recovery as Spain's main engine. 
The Chamber's report takes into account the executed investment made by the Spanish Government and its public companies in areas such as airports, high-speed railway and harbours. In 2006, the Spanish Parliament recognised "a historical" lack of investment in Catalonia when it approved the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and set a minimum investment percentage share to be made in Catalonia to compensate this in the next 7 years. 
This investment share, which had to be equivalent to at least Catalonia's share within Spain's GDP (19.8%), was never respected by the Spanish Government, allocating to Catalonia 11% or 13% of the total infrastructure investment made throughout Spain in those years. Now, with the Chamber of Commerce's report, it is stressed that this investment has been reduced to an even greater extent than the country's average.


The president of Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce emphasised that infrastructure investment in Catalonia made by the Spanish Government "plummeted" between 2004 and 2014. The Spanish Executive decided to reduce spending in Catalonia by 50%; in Valencia by 33%; and in the Balearic Islands by 31%, while the Spanish average was a 25% reduction. Aragon, Castille-la-Mancha and the region of Madrid registered a higher drop of between 60% and 80%. However, the Chamber explained that many infrastructure investments made in Castille and León and Castille-la-Mancha were for roads or railways heading to Madrid, which is a very small and urban region, and therefore have a direct benefit for Spain's capital. In fact, Castille and León has had an investment increase of 100% and Galicia a growth of around 200% with the construction of the high-speed train railway, among other projects.

The Chamber's report takes into account the executed investment made by the Spanish Public Works and Transportation Ministry and associated companies and agencies, although for the two last years (2013 and 2014) it only considers the planned budget, as budget execution figures are not available yet. Regarding Catalonia, 2009 was a clear inflection point. While in the first five years infrastructure investment grew by 61% throughout Spain and by 76% in Catalonia, in the 5 last years, infrastructure investment has dropped by 53% throughout Spain and by 71% in Catalonia. The entire 10-year period posts an overall drop of 25% for the whole of Spain and 50% for Catalonia.

The Chamber of Commerce explained that these figures were because of political decisions adopted by the Spanish Government. However, it also emphasised the effects of the economic crisis and how the works of Barcelona El Prat Airport's Terminal 1 ended, as well as most of the works of the high-speed railway. In fact, in the last few years the main infrastructure work in Catalonia made by the Spanish Government has been the enlargement of Barcelona's harbor.

Barcelona (ACN)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stanic: “A Spain without Catalonia will also be out of the European Union.”

Ana Stanic, a lawyer specialized in international conflict resolution, considers that “Catalonia should insist that this is not secession but the dissolution of the Spanish State,” in an interview to newspaper Ara. 

Ms. Stanic considers that “a Spain without Catalonia will also be out of the European Union,” Stanic, daughter of one of the organizers of the Slovenian independence referendum in 1990, is the founder of E&A law firm and has worked for the most prestigious London firms. 

The lawyer considers that “Catalonia should insist that this is not secession but the dissolution of the Spanish State. Catalonia is an essential part of it. If it achieves independence, Spain will no longer exist as it is conceived right now, and the states which derive from it will have to be considered as heirs of the dissolved state.” 

“This is important,” she explains, “from the point of view of EU membership for Catalonia and for what would remain of Spain: either both territories stay inside the EU or both are left out.” “Spain without Catalonia would be a different country. I do not see why just Catalonia should have to apply for readmission. If this were to happen, Spain should also have to do so,” she stated. 

Stanic explains that “as it is happening in Catalonia, pro-independence efforts in Slovenia were driven by the people” and politicians joined later on. There was some uncertainty until the last moment, she explains, because, despite of their win in the referendum with a 88.5% of votes, a few months before the day of the election, December 23, 1990, separatist sentiment was not majoritary.” 

“In Slovenia, the amount of people in favor of this route shot up when they saw that the process was for real. There comes a time when a no return point is crossed and support for independence becomes unstoppable. I do not know if this time has arrived to Catalonia yet,” she pointed out. 

She does not hesitate to position herself in favor of Catalonia’s right to self-determination: “Freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right. There is no legal justification to oppose to it,” she says. 

Finally, Stanic explains the existing a-legality, within the international framework, regarding unilateral declarations, “The position of the International Court of Justice was clear regarding Kosovo’s case, stating that nothing in the international law forbids a unilateral declaration. The international law does not legalize the right to secession, but it does not forbid this. It just ignores it. No one could then argue that international law considers it illegal,” she said.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Spanish Government downplays Catalonia's fiscal deficit and rejects reviewing its funding

On Tuesday, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, rejected to review the funding scheme of the Autonomous Communities to grant them more resources, despite the fact that the Catalan Government is under-budgeted. On Wednesday, the Spanish Finance Ministry downplayed Catalonia's fiscal deficit by issuing the so-called fiscal balances, which calculate the inter-territorial fiscal transfers (how much money is raised in taxes and how much comes back in terms of public investments and services) and posting a significantly low Catalan contribution. According to the Spanish Government's new calculations, whose new methodology has been designed for the occasion, Catalonia gave away €8.46 billion in 2011, representing 4.35% of its GDP. The figure is significantly lower than the Catalan Government's calculations: €15.01 billion and €11.09 billion, based on two complementary methodologies used by the Spanish Executive in 2008 and agreed among independent university experts.


Catalonia had a €8.46 billion fiscal deficit according to Madrid and a €15.01 billion one according to Barcelona

Angel de la Fuente presenting the new fiscal balances,
calculated with a new methodology for the occasion
According to the Catalan calculations, Catalonia's taxpayers gave away €15.01 billion in 2011 (7.7% of the GDP) using the monetary-flow formula, or €11.09 billion using the tax-benefit one (5.7% of the GDP). The two formulas are complementary, although they show different realities. However the first one is more widespread and is considered by experts to be more accurate in times of economic crisis. The second one is based on a greater number of assumptions and therefore it relies on a greater degree of interpretation. The first formula takes into account investments, services and grants specifically delivered in a given territory, including an estimate of the centralised services (such as the army). The second formula makes an estimation of the benefits that all the services and investments in the country (not only in a specific territory) have for the citizens living a given territory. For instance, with the second formula, a railway built near the border with Portugal is considered to be also beneficial for citizens living near the French border in Catalonia, in the other side of Spain. However, this formula does not take into account the benefits of a railway built on the French side of the border.

The Spanish Government designs a new methodology just for the occasion

The Spanish Government's figures have totally ignored the monetary flow formula that is traditionally posting higher fiscal deficits for Catalonia. In fact, using this formula, Catalans have given away an average of 8% of Catalonia's GDP (equivalent to €15.5 billion using 2013 money) each year since 1986. The Spanish Government not only ignores this fact but they have also modified the calculation method used by the Spanish Executive in 2008, when it calculated the fiscal balances from 2005. Back then, the Spanish Government stated that Catalonia had a fiscal deficit between 6.38% and 8.70% of its GDP, depending on the formula used, similar figures to those issued by the Catalan Executive.

Fiscal balances designed to counter-act the support for independence

Furthermore, the fiscal balances published this Wednesday come with a seven month delay despite Catalonia's business community pushing to have such figures earlier. Montoro decided to change the methodology arguing that fiscal balances "are used by pro-independence supporters" to argue that Catalans pay far more than what they receive from the Spanish Government. A few months ago, he explained that the new calculation will show the "territorialised accounts", which will show the cost of services per inhabitant in each Autonomous Community. According to Montoro's new calculations, each Catalan gave away €1,119 in 2011, while the Catalan Government's calculation showed a figure of €2,055.

With Montoro's new methodology designed for the occasion by the economist Angel de la Fuente, who is very vocal against Catalan nationalism and has been directly appointed by Montoro, Catalonia's fiscal deficit is significantly lower than the Catalan Government's calculation. According to De la Fuente, in 2011, Catalan taxpayers contributed €8.46 billion to fund services, investments and grants in other parts of Spain, an amount representing 4.35% of Catalonia's GDP. The figure comes from the €9.365 billion the Spanish Government raised through taxes in Catalonia that year and the €910 million it spent there, according to the "territorialised accounts".

With Montoro's calculations, Madrid has a €16.7 billion fiscal deficit

The region of Madrid is instead the Autonomous Community with the highest fiscal deficit, posting a €16.72 billion one, equivalent to €2,575 per citizen. In the last few months, the regional government of Spain's capital city, run by the People's Party (which also runs the Spanish Government), has been lobbying to grant Madrid greater resources. Ironically in the last two decades, the Spanish Executive has been carrying out centralist infrastructure plans, such as building a radial railway network for high-speed trains where all the lines pass through Madrid. Furthermore, the Spanish Government has spent billions in Madrid Barajas Airport and in the capital's metro lines or short distance trains, and it has under-budgeted or delayed many investments in other parts of Spain, such as in Catalonia. In addition, all the Spanish Ministries, most of the public companies and agencies, and many multinationals pay taxes in Madrid.

Catalonia is the second Autonomous Community with the highest fiscal deficit according to the Spanish Finance Ministry's calculations (€8.46 billion and €1,119 per person). The other two Autonomous Communities bringing resources to the system are Valencia (€2.02 billion, equivalent to 2.03% of its GDP and €394 per person) and the Balearic Islands (€1.48 billion, equivalent to 5.71% of their GDP and to €1,329 per person). The rest of Autonomous Communities have a positive fiscal surplus, meaning the receive more than what they bring to the common system. For instance, Extremadura receives an equivalent of 17.64% of its GDP (€2.99 billion); the Canaries get 9.96% of their GDP (€4.05 billion); Castile and León, 7.10% (€3.93 billion); Galicia, 5.79% (€3.24 billion); and, Andalusia, 5.24% (€7.42 billion). Ironically, Catalonia and Valencia are the two Autonomous Communities with the highest public debt levels, since their governments are under-budgeted, while Extremadura is posting very low debt levels and is lowering its own taxes this year.

Montoro stated he will not give more resources to the Autonomous Communities

On Tuesday, in a press conference in Barcelona, Cristóbal Montoro stated that the Spanish Government is not planning to grant the Autonomous Communities greater resources, despite the fact that they are exclusively managing the healthcare, education and social affairs systems, among other policies, and they have been obliged to undertake severe budget cuts. In addition, the Spanish Finance Minister closed the door once again to setting up a new scheme granting the Catalan Government a greater amount of resources, reducing Catalonia's solidarity to the common scheme and its transfer to poorer parts of Spain.

This demand is widely shared by a majority of the Catalan society and it was proposed by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, in September 2012 to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, who even rejected to talk about it. At the time, Catalonia's fiscal agreement had the support of more than 75% of Catalans and the entire business community. This fiscal pact would have been quite similar to the one the Basque Country and Navarra already had, but Rajoy rejected to even talk about it.

Barcelona (ACN)

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Blanes' International Fireworks Competition gathers 100,000 people in its opening night

Blanes' annual International Fireworks Competition (Costa Brava), which this year celebrates its 44th edition, started on Thursday night, attracting more than 100,000 people to watch the show, according to initial estimates by the Mayor of the Catalan coastal town, Josep Marigó. The event was supervised by pyrotechnic and three-time festival winner, Tomás de Castelló. The competition, which will run until Sunday, involves four professional pyrotechnics: the Valencian which opens the competition, last year´s winner from Granada, one from Aragón and a last one from Slovenia. The winner will be chosen by a jury, which this year is open to the public and formed of volunteers.


The first firework night in Blanes' International Competition
 (by A. Recolons)
Blanes, a coastal town in Catalonia's Costa Brava, launched one of the top summer attractions in the Counties of Girona, the Blanes' International Fireworks Competition. The event started on Thursday night with the fireworks display by pyrotechnic and three-time festival winner, Tomás de Castelló de la Plana. More than 100,000 people filled the beach and the promenade in Blanes to enjoy the show, which is "powerful, full of lights and color" according to the Mayor of Blanes, Josep Marigó. No incidents occurred apart from the lack of wind, which has concentrated much smoke in the launching area, and a certain "lack of pace" of the show, as experts reported.




The show, which started on Thursday, is the start of a contest that will run until Sunday. It is an international competition, one of the most important in Europe, in which various companies from around the world participate. This year, the main participants include Angustias Pérez, the last year winner from Granada; a pyrotechnic from Zaragoza who participated in the event last year and Privatex, a Slovenian pyrotechnic who will close the competition on Sunday.

One of the main novelties of this year's competition is that the jury is opened to the public and is formed of volunteers. The winner will be selected by the eight members of the Technical Committee and 40 members of the Popular Jury, of which twelve are chosen among all those who have requested to be part of it.

The Mayor of Blanes emphasized that despite the high concentration of people, the night has passed without any notable incidents. In fact, the security and emergency plan, chosen as the model to follow, which involved more than 100officers from the Catalan Police, the fire brigade, the Guardia Civil and medical services, worked perfectly and the event took place without any incident apart from small actions "in the areas with concentration of lots of people," said Marigó.

This is the third year that the fireworks will last four days instead of six as it used to be two years ago, due to the City Council´s decision to reduce the format, budget and awards. This year everything remains as last year. With a total budget of €101,000, the City Council will pay a maximum amount of €19,000 to each pyrotechnics participating in the event. The prize for the winner will be €6,000, the invitation to participate in the competition next year and participation in Girona's street festival with the additional amount of €12,500. This year 10 requests to participate in the competition have been received.

CNA/ Neringa Sinkeviciute

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tortosa recreates the Renaissance with its annual international festival

From Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th of July more than 200,000 people visited Tortosa, located in the Ebro Delta area in southern Catalonia, which took a trip back in time to the splendor of the sixteenth century. The nineteenth edition of the Renaissance Festival ended with a positive assessment by the City Council. The Mayor of Tortosa, Ferran Bel, highlighted the consolidation of the event and the high participation numbers with many international visitors, including foreign tourists and participanting companies, such as theatre groups, music bands and food traders. Bel also revealed that development work would soon take place in the old town of Tortosa and further changes would be introduced to improve next year's event. The Mayor said the festival had attracted considerable attention not only in southern Europe, but across the entire continent.


A street festival picturing life in Tortosa in the 16th century
This year the Renaissance Festival's programme included 60 daily shows and 600 artists in total, with a large participation of foreign companies from France, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal. In addition, up to 3,000 residents and shopkeepers from the city were directly involved in the festival process.

Regarding traditional festival performances, like La Taverna d'Enrico by Quico el Célio, el Noi and el Mut de Ferreries, the programme included performances by the first group of torchbearers, who participated in the festival the Sbandleratori of Arezzo (Italy), or surrealist creatures of the French company Ourobouros, who had performed in the festival in previous years. Dance and theatrical performances, fire shows, five installations by the street traders, gastronomic taverns within the Ruta de la Saboga and traditional dishes served in restaurants added a specific vividness and colorfulness to the celebration.

Tortosa, rich historical and cultural heritage
Tortosa is a city located in the Baix Ebre County, in the south of Catalonia, with a heritage that goes back more than two thousand years. The city bloomed thanks to its strategic location, since it is in a central position is approximately 200 km from large cities such as Barcelona, Saragossa and Valencia. It is located by the Ebro River, where its delta and the Ports hill range begin. Ancient Tortosa was the second city in Medieval Catalonia after Barcelona and was used as both a port and a market for receiving and distributing products from the Iberian Peninsula and from the Mediterranean area.

The City Council is pleased with this edition
The 19th Tortosa Renaissance Festival finished on Sunday afternoon with the Grand Parade and the closing ceremony of the city gates. After four days the festival gained a very positive evaluation from the Mayor of Tortosa, Ferran Bel, who stressed the consolidation of the festival at an international level. According to him, promotional campaigns which have been conducted around Catalonia are one of the main reasons for this high level of participation that brought together foreign companies from Portugal, France, Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic, as well as tourists from all over Europe (mostly French and some Russians), who visited Tortosa last week.

Bel, who has been in office for eight years, admitted that the Tortosa Renaissance Festival was reaching the greatest size possible. He revealed some town planning improvements, which will take place in the old Moncada and Bonaire streets, in Montserrat Square and Mossèn Sol Square. The installation of an underground car park in the middle of the town´s old neighbourhood will also prompt changes in the festival. Bel thanked volunteers and town organisations that had cooperated and were directly involved in the event. He stated that because of them the Tortosa Renaissance Festival has attracted a considerable attention "not only in southern Europe, but throughout the entire continent and the festival is expected to continue growing at the same rate."

Changes made to improve the festival
According to Tortosa Councilman for Celebrations, Domingo Tomàs, the show exceeded "all initial expectations." He said some changes were introduced, for instance, the new service for selling tickets via the Internet, which ensured fast and functioning organisation this year. Domingo informed that some other "specific adjustments" will occur in the system in order to improve the festival in the future.

The run-up to the twentieth edition
Next year the Renaissance Festival will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Although there is still much time left, Domingo announced that the organising team, which usually has 85% of the event scheduled by March, already has some shows assigned for 2015, and is organising the festival's twentieth anniversary party. Finally, Domingo praised what he called "mirror effect", since "the best companies, say that it is the best party in which they have participated."

CNA / Neringa Sinkeviciute

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Dimensions of the Catalan Defence Forces: Naval Forces (Executive Summary)

DIMENSIONS OF THE CATALAN DEFENCE FORCES I: NAVAL FORCES

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction

The following is an English-language executive summary of the 1 July report by the former Catalan National Assembly's Defence Policy Working Group, now Military Studies Society, outlining the possible shape and composition of the reconstituted Catalan Navy. The full, unabridged, report is also available in English.[1]

Preliminary considerations

* This document is not a final blueprint on the dimensions and hardware of Catalonia's Naval Force, but an outline proposal.

* The text starts from scratch concerning hardware and personnel, making no reference to possible assets to be inherited from Spain's Defence Ministry or to Spanish military personnel wishing to join the Catalan Defence Forces.

* To avoid duplicities and redundant capabilities, the Catalan Defence Forces will have a single Joint Chiefs of Staff, bringing together elements from the three forces (land army, air force, and navy)


* All officers and NCOs will speak English at NATO Level 4.



OPV-Gowind

Starting from scratch, yet wasting no time

* Catalonia is s hugely dependent on the sea, making it imperative for us to work on this domain from day one.

* Despite having two large ports such as Barcelona and Tarragona, Catalonia is currently home to no naval bases.

* The first goal must be to control our territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

* A temporary maritime security agency may have to be set up at first, with personnel from existing agencies, including the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan Police) and local and harbour police forces.

* It is necessary to quickly set up the Catalan Naval Academy, ready in no more than three years. Instructors will fill operational slots on a rotating basis.

* To train a core of officers and NCOs, in order to fill both instructor and operational posts, it will be necessary to reach some sort of agreement with another state. Both because of its proximity, and above all experience, the United Kingdom is the best option.

* Naval exchanges will take place with different countries.


The Littoral Patrol Command

* First operational unit to set up.

* Its functions will be:

- Defence of territorial waters.

- Protection of harbour infrastructures.

- Control of illegal maritime activities (smuggling, drug trafficking …).

- Search and rescue at sea.

- Support in catastrophic events (such as a toxic spill).

It will need the following components:

- Command and Control Centre.

- 3 or 4 offshore patrol vessels (OPV). For example the Adroit class, displacing 1,450 tons.

- 2 or 3 fast patrol crafts (FPC). For example Israel's Dvora class (45-60 tons) or Norway's Skjold class (274 tons).

- 4 to 6 unmanned air vehicles (UAV).

- 4 to 6 unmanned surface vessels (USV).

- An ocean-going tug.

* Unmanned systems are meant to ensure a constant surveillance of territorial waters.

* Setting up and consolidating this command may take 10 years since independence, making it possible to move on to the next stages.

* The Naval Academy, the Littoral Patrol Command, and the shore-based services personnel, should altogether require around 600 officers and sailors.


The Mediterranean: our strategic environment. NATO: our framework

* Catalonia must participate in SNMG2 (Standing NATO Maritime Group 2; formerly Standing Naval Force Mediterranean), a component of the NRF (NATO Response Force).

* It would also be convenient to participate in the SNMCMG2 (Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2).

* In order to be able to participate in these institutions, we shall need to set up another division within our Naval Force: the Escort Command.

The Escort Command: taking a leaf from Japan's MSDF

* Catalan naval doctrine uses the term “Escort” in a wider sense than just anti-submarine warfare, employing the concept as defined by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces when referring to its destroyer flotillas.

* The functions of the Escort Command will be:

- ASW (Anti-submarine Warfare)

- ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare). Focusing on asymmetric conflicts and making a big effort to prepare against “swarm attacks” by fast craft.

- AAW (Anti-Air Warfare). Anti-ship missile proliferation is a serious threat, let us remember Hizbullah's 2006 attack against an Israeli corvette using a C-802 missile. (the Argentine attack with a shore-based Exocet missile against HMS Glamorgan in the 1982 Falklands War).

- MOOTW (Maritime Operations Other Than War)

* The Escort Command will need the following assets and personnel (in brackets):

- Naval Operations Headquarters (200). Acting in coordination with the Allied Joint Command Naples.

- 3 to 4 multi-role corvettes (360).

- Auxiliary Fleet (300). Including a fleet tanker and a logistics ship, enabling our units to spend long times at sea, as well as supporting Allied vessels.

* The acquisition of corvettes, rather than large surface combatants such as frigates and destroyers, is based on two factors: a realistic conflict assessment, and the fact they adapt more easily to a large portion of Catalan harbours without the need for extensive construction work.

* It is essential to develop EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams, ready to defuse explosive charges placed on ships.

* This stage may take between 10 to 15 years after independence. At the same time, a reserve system should be implemented.

The Atlantic and the Indian Oceans: Collective Security knows no borders

* Once we have consolidated the defence of our territorial waters and our presence in the Mediterranean, in a 10 to 15 years horizon, it will be necessary to consider projecting force within a multinational framework, as a contribution to global peace and security and as an exercise in corresponsibility and solidarity towards our Allies.

* Possible scenarios include contributing to the fight against piracy off the Somali coast and evacuating civilians in the Gulf of Guinea.

* This will require setting up an Expeditionary Command.

The Expeditionary Command: Collective Security requires more than just words

* The Expeditionary Command will need:

- Joint Expeditionary Headquarters.

- One Multi-Role Vessel (MRV).

- One corvette (seconded from the Escort Division) and/or one OPV (seconded from the Littoral Patrol Command)

- Logistic support, from Auxiliary Fleet units or chartered civilian vessels.

* The Joint Expeditionary Headquarters will be a company-sized joint unit with staff from the three branches of the military. It will be responsible for C4 (Command & Control, Computers & Communications) tasks and be ready to be deployed at 24 hours notice, located either offshore or onshore.

* An example of MRV fitting with Catalonia's needs would be the Royal Danish Navy's Absalon class frigates, which could operate not only from Barcelona and Tarragona, but also from the ports of Palamós, Vilanova i la Geltrú, and Sant Carles de la Ràpita.

* In addition to the MRV, existing assets would protect the expeditionary group (corvettes or OPVs, depending on the intensity of the conflict).

* At this stage, the total strength of our Naval Force would be 2,000 men and women, plus the reserve component and civilian personnel in logistical support functions.



[1] At http://sem-cat.blogspot.com/p/documents-in-english.html

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Former Catalan President Jordi Pujol gives up all his benefits and will face a parliamentary committee

The historical leader of conservative and moderate Catalan nationalism, Jordi Pujol, who chaired the Catalan Government for 23 years (1980-2003) and led the governing CiU for three decades, has been forced to renounce all of his honorary titles and posts, to give up his pension and to shut down his office as former President due to the fiscal fraud to which he confessed on Friday. Furthermore, all the opposition parties have demanded that Pujol provide further explanations to the Catalan Parliament, besides the fiscal and judicial processes that he will very likely face. 
President of the Catalan Government MHP Artur Mas
The veteran politician explained that his family had kept a fortune in an Andorran bank since 1980, which was part of his father's inheritance and was not reported to the tax authorities during almost 35 years. 
The confession arrived after two years of rumours and news regarding his family's fortune and after several of his sons faced judicial investigations for alleged fiscal offenses. The news shocked Catalonia's society since Pujol was a widely respected figure, regardless of individual ideology, and he had always defended hard work and honesty as values. Furthermore, he played a crucial role in the Transition from Franco's dictatorship to democracy and in Spain's modernisation and stability in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. 
On Tuesday morning, Artur Mas, the current Catalan President and the political heir of Jordi Pujol, personally announced that the former President will have all his honorary titles taken away, including those in the party, as well as his pension and office. "I have had to take extremely complicated decisions in my political career, but this is the most painful one" since Pujol "is my political father" admitted Mas. Pujol founded the Liberal party CDC in 1974, which is the largest force within the centre-right pro-Catalan state two-party coalition CiU, which has run the Catalan Government since 2010. Mas' announcement is made the day before he will meet with the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to talk about Catalonia's self-determination demands.


On Tuesday morning, coinciding with the weekly Cabinet Meeting, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, addressed the press to announce the measures adopted regarding Jordi Pujol's confession. Mas explained that all the measures had been discussed with Pujol himself, who totally understood their need, added the Catalan President. At a party level, Jordi Pujol will no longer hold the honorary posts of Founding President of the CDC and Founding President of the CiU, the two-party coalition that has brought together the Liberal CDC and the Christian-Democrat UDC. In addition, "at a country level", Mas announced that Pujol would give up his pension as former President of the Catalan Government. This benefit is regulated by law and its amount depends on the time in office; it also includes an additional pension for the President's consort in case of death. Furthermore, Pujol would also renounce his office as former President of Catalonia, which was paid for with funds from the Catalan Government and had its own budget, a 3-person staff and an official car associated with it.

At a later stage, the Spokesperson from the Catalan Government and Minister from the Presidency, Francesc Homs, added that Pujol will also give up the Golden Medal of the Catalan Government. In addition, he will no longer be authorised to use the title of "Very Honourable", an honorary distinction that has been used to precede the name of the Presidents and former Presidents of the Catalan Government and the Catalan Parliament since the Middle Age.

Artur Mas announced the measures without reading from any papers and later he took questions from journalists. He explained that he knew about the fiscal fraud in the early morning on Friday, when Pujol explained the matter to him and told him that he had decided to issue a press release on the same day confessing to the facts. Mas admitted that he was totally shocked and upset, but he also wanted to highlight that Pujol had made great contributions to Catalonia throughout his entire life, "although some people might not understand why I am saying this now", he added. Mas said he was feeling "an immense sorrow" but also "compassion" for Pujol. He said that today's announcement and the decisions adopted were extremely painful for him as Pujol is his "political father". In fact, the veteran politician appointed Mas as his successor in 2001, two years before he quit active politics. Regarding this last point, Mas also wanted to emphasise that "in more than 10 years" Pujol has not taken "any important decision" within the party since he retired from the first line, explained Mas. Furthermore, the Catalan President also stressed that Pujol has not participated in Government decisions since 2003.

Parliamentary committee
In the morning, Mas was asked whether he supported the creation of a committee within the Catalan Parliament to investigate Pujol's fraud. The Catalan President said that he did not see the advantage of such a committee, taking into account that the Pujol family is already facing several judicial investigations and that presumably Jordi Pujol senior will have to face them in the coming weeks as well. Under these circumstances, the parliamentary committee would have a very limited impact since the Pujol family would keep their statements for the judge, who has a priority role, said Mas. However, the Catalan Government have revealed that they will not oppose any request launched by the Catalan Parliament regarding this issue.

On the same day, all the parties within the Catalan Parliament except the CiU have publicly asked Pujol to provide further explanations before the Catalan Parliament and have started the administrative procedure. All the parties have signed the document except the governing CiU. However, the centre-right governing coalition might end up signing the petition as well or at least not opposing it. Besides, a group of parties want to go even further and launch a parliamentary committee to investigate Pujol's fortune and go through his 23 years in power. The parties supporting this last initiative are the Spanish nationalist People's Party (PP) – who runs the Spanish Government – and Ciutadans (C's), as well as the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition, ICV-EUiA.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Help Catalonia is open to anyone feeling uneasiness and motivation to report what is happening to us around here”

Hi, I’m Laura. I’m nineteen years old, though about to turn twenty. I’m a student of Journalism and Political Science at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where I live. And I happen to be the youngest of all the voluntary contributors at Help Catalonia. I joined less than one year ago. It is my job to write short articles, do some small translations into Spanish and send tweets from @AyudaCat, which is Help Catalonia’s Spanish Twitter handle. Despite all these contributions, I think the most memorable one was my participation in the Catalan Way on 11 September last year. Covering that gigantic human chain really was a whole new fascinating experience and whenever I recall it I still get gooseflesh.

The reasons for me to become an active member of Help Catalonia are to be found in chats with friends about Catalonia, national independence, the role of the media and journalism and participation in digital newspapers. I was told about Help Catalonia’s existence in one of these conversations. Just a few days later got through to them and soon I was welcomed by all the other members in the team.


I’m still young and I have not had yet the chance to look beyond the students’ world, but I do think that being part of such a strong team will not only help in my professional career but it is also enriching me as a person. Help Catalonia is open to anyone with concerns, motivation and is eager to report what is happening to us here, especially at this time of effervescence when Rajoy’s Spain is acting progressively harder against Catalonia.

It has been several years now since I became aware of what is happening around us, particularly concerning Spain. I must say that it is now much more necessary than ever for us Catalans to become fully conscious of this situation so we can decide on who we are and what we want to be. We don't really live in the democracy they want to make us believe in, no matter what our school books say or despite what the Constitution says about Spain being a social and democratic state under rule of law. Now more than ever we must show our disagreement, report all the injustice we have to bear and show the world what Catalonia is and who we are.

This is the moment for change and it is now that we are a large majority wanting to know where our faults lie and how we can improve our lot. This is the era of consciousness and maturity.

That is why coming across Help Catalonia opened opened the doors to me. Helping to spread the reality of Catalans is already a first step towards improvement. The best thing about it? Being more and more people every day. Because there are more of us, who like me are also ready to help and participate. Thanks once more to all the companions I have met. We are all Help Catalonia.





Laura Estrada

Catalan

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gibraltar - Why we choose not to be Spanish

It’s the year 2002, and Gibraltar stands on the eve of a referendum that could shift the balance of sovereignty power. The governing Labour Party in the United Kingdom, against the wishes of their British people in an overseas territory, have held secret talks with Spanish Prime Minister Aznar to negotiate co-sovereignty of Gibraltar, and its eventual absorption into Spanish hands. Outrage and feelings of betrayal have befallen the people of Gibraltar, who are determined to not let this transition of sovereignty ensue.

Gibraltarian Chief Minister of the time, Peter Caruana, calls on a referendum for the people of Gibraltar to decide on whether to accept the proposals set out by the secret talks. On 7th November 2002, the votes came in. 87.9% of the electorate voted. The result: An outstanding 98.48% ‘No’ vote for co-sovereignty with Spain! The talks were halted by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Needless to say, the talks were already falling apart as Spain demanded that full sovereignty of Gibraltar be granted with immediate effect.

The results of the referendum also gave rise to hostile reactions by several Spanish media entities and the then Spanish Minster of Foreign Affairs, Ana Palacio, who declared this referendum to be “illegal” and “against all UN resolutions”. Catalonia can relate to these same statements from the present PP government.

So the question you may ask is, why does Gibraltar not wish to be Spanish? Our answers derive deep within our history with Spain, and the lack of changes to political stances that Spanish governments have towards Gibraltar. It also derives from Spain’s own hostile history since the end of the Spanish Civil War. I could write so much more for the following answers, but will keep it brief.

1) Spain uses bullying tactics against Gibraltar

Taking the example of a school, what is the objective of a bully against one of his victims? To harass him/her enough to make the victim feel helpless or to submit to the bully’s will. And what other objective does a bully have? To make sure he does not get caught! This is exactly what Spain the bully tries to accomplish against her tiny neighbour Gibraltar. Since Dictator Francisco Franco, various Spanish governments have sought all forms of bullying against Gibraltar to inflict damage to us, but not catch the attention of higher authorities such as the EU or the UN. The best ‘legal’ framework they have had of carrying out their inhumane tactics have been the frontier queues. They have used the laws of the EU to exaggerate their cross-border customs checks of vehicles and pedestrians and have caused up to seven hours of queuing in one hot summer day! This was one day after the infamous artificial reef blocks were dumped into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) by the Gibraltar government in an attempt to save the highly affected marine life in the area, caused by seabed raking by Spanish fishermen.


2) Spanish media thrives in falsely discrediting Gibraltar

For half a century now, Gibraltar has been labelled with various insults and have been accused of breaking dozens of international laws up to this day. The majority of Spain’s media franchises, which may as well be under PP control, have printed topics of Gibraltar on their front pages merely to spread lies about how the ‘pirates’ inhabiting the Rock abuse Spanish/EU laws, finances and Spanish workers in Gibraltar. One ongoing activity that Spanish media persistently publish is the reclamation of a Gibraltarian bay. Insisting the reclamation project is illegal under EU environmental laws, the PP decided to block all imports of sand and rock into Gibraltar, even after the EU denied the project violates any such law! To this day, Spanish Guardia Civil patrol boats continue entering British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to confront international ships bringing the resources over for the project. One other ridiculous article published by ABC was that Catalunya’s ERC party was conspiring against Spain by siding with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo of Gibraltar. This took place after a well-known ERC and Spanish Congress member, Mr. Alfred Bosch, visited Gibraltar unofficially to gather his own views on the political tensions. There were also kind letters from Mr. Bosch expressing his regrets at Spain’s unethical treatments towards Gibraltar, as well as congratulating the Gibraltar Football Association in entering UEFA (Moltes gracies Alfred). Which brings me to the next point:

3) Spain boycotts every attempt at Gibraltar entering an international committee, especially sports

The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA), is one of the oldest football institutes in Europe. It was founded in 1895, well before the RFEF and the popular club teams that are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF. Up to 2013, the GFA has ceaselessly fought to show UEFA that it had every right to join in the committee and partake in its tournaments. Spain was always and continues to be the most outspoken delegates to boycott our entry into these committees. Eventually, the Court of Arbitration for Sport recognised the validity of our application into UEFA, and we were voted in last year. To us Gibraltarians, justice has been served and we may now welcome international football teams to play with us in the spirit in which football is intended, with respect, friendship and without politics. There have been several occasions where Gibraltar has been discriminated against in sporting events by Spain. One such example which affected young athletes is the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tgJxYxOtYY

4) From 1975 to the present: Democratic Spain still treats Gibraltar the same way Franco did

Gibraltar, like most nations, denounces Fascism. We helped the Allies fight against it in World War Two, and we survived against it under difficult times up to 1975. Why, when the PP and nationalist thugs treat us no differently, should we Gibraltarians be led to believe that we should be Spanish? Whether Spain likes it or not, we have very different political ideologies and cultures that just don’t work together. We firmly believe in democracy and rights to self-determination. Conservative Spanish parties like the PP believe in imposing their nationalist will against Gibraltarians and Spaniards alike, sometimes in shockingly similar ways that Franco imposed his own. The Fascism of the past did not work against us Gibraltarians; the Fascism of today will not work now!

The arguments on this article are brief but I will add more to each for my new articles in future.




Jared Baglietto

Other articles by the same author:

Spanish School Play On Invading Gibraltar

A Gibraltarian View of Spanish Oppression

 

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The NATO-Russian Crisis and the Mistral Controversy: Could Catalonia contribute to a Pragmatic Solution?

Growing tensions between Russia and the West have prompted NATO to suspend military cooperation with Moscow, leading a growing number of voices to question Paris' Mistral deal, whereby France is to supply two vessels of this class to the Russian Navy, with a further two being built in Russia herself. As a prospective NATO member and net security provider, fully committed to Allied security, Catalonia has been following the crisis most carefully. Our country is eager to see relations with Russia improve, while understanding that this can only happen if the Atlantic Alliance is stronger, not weaker. Only from a position of unity and strength will NATO be able to negotiate in good faith. Catalonia, sharing not only a land border with France but many security concerns and interests with Paris, has also been following very carefully the controversy prompted by the Mistral deal. While aware that these vessels may boost Russian naval capabilities at a time when many countries are afraid these may be used against them, Catalan national security circles are also aware of the industrial stakes involved. This is no time for simplistic solutions which, while perhaps right in principle, are not politically realistic and may even backfire.

The only realistic way to prevent the Mistrals from reinforcing Russian naval capabilities may be to offer French industry an alternative, so that the principle of Allied solidarity does not result in any job losses or otherwise financial and technological damage to our neighbour. That would mean existing or prospective NATO members purchasing the vessels.

While preliminary defence planning in Catalonia for the first 10 years after the resumption of sovereignty has focused on land-based naval aviation and small surface combatants, stressing asymmetric threats rather than conventional conflict, the realities of the current NATO-Russia crisis and the need for a pragmatic solution preventing both a significant increase in Russian naval capabilities and damage to French financial and technological interests, may force the Catalan national security community to consider the possibility of the early purchase of a light carrier / amphibious assault ship. While this may well anyway fit with the country's longer-term naval needs, it would without a doubt imply an added stress in terms of training during the immediate post-recovered-independence period. It would thus require a strong commitment from the French Navy to help train the necessary personnel. While preliminary planning is more geared towards cooperation with the Royal Navy, there is no reason why this should be incompatible with French training to operate a Mistral-class ship, in particular in view of growing Anglo-French defence cooperation. Thus, a three-way agreement may well provide the foundation for the training of the Catalan Navy.

A deal with France would also help explore potential opportunities for defence industry cooperation, something which should naturally flow from geographical realities but which in the past has unfortunately been prevented by alien political realities. Concerning the financial costs involved in purchasing a Mistral-class vessel, the Catalan national security community is aware of them and does not wish to see any single acquisition imbalance a defence budget which will have to cover the development of a wide range of capabilities. However, any realistic price estimate should well be within reach of the country.

To conclude, the Mistral issue requires imagination and pragmatism, with no room for simplistic solutions. It is clear to NATO that as long as current tensions and mistrust persist, it would be wrong to acquiesce to Russia's acquisition of such powerful assets. At the same time, French financial and technological interests must receive due recognition. Given these constraints, the only realistic solution seems to be the purchase, by existing or prospective NATO members, of the vessels. In the case of Catalonia this would imply moving to a kind of asset not considered to be a priority for the first decade in the post-resumed-independence era, and require a training agreement with France, which could take the shape of a three-way treaty with London. However, NATO membership implies duties and responsibilities, which are also the essence of collective security. Therefore, any serious Ally must be ready to make further sacrifices and undertake additional burdens, even more so at a time when, more than ever, it is essential for NATO to stand strong, capable, and united.



Alex Calvo, and specialist in Asian security and defence, is a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan)




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Friday, July 25, 2014

Els de “la pela és la pela”

It is no news that in Spain, the Catalans are said to be stingy. We are a people who, unlike other societies, have for centuries based a great part of our economy on foreign trade. That explains why we were pioneers of the Industrial Revolution in the Iberian peninsula, or why the word peseta (the currency in Spain before the Euro) comes from the Catalan language. Curiously, this account jelled and we ended up being described as penny-pinchers, with the hackneyed phrase la pela es la pela (a penny is a penny).

In this “penny-pincher's” country, nevertheless, over 3,000 tonnes of food were collected during the GranRecapte food drive this year, food delivered to the needy throughout Catalonia. This record figure was achieved thanks to the participation of over 20,000 volunteers, with donations from many families, mostly from the middle class in over 250 towns across Catalonia.

Every year since 1994, Catalans also Get (their feet) Wet for MultipleSclerosis, jumping into hundreds of pools throughout Catalonia when summer comes, to collaborate in the fight against this disease. This event is the second most massive charity event in Catalonia.

And what is the top charity event? La Marató de TV3. Catalan Public Television organizes a telethon every weekend before Christmas, held simultaneously with dozens of events organized throughout Catalonia to raise funds to assist in disease research. Since 1992, La Marató has collected around €120 million.

Consciously or not, these events and acts of solidarity supplement the work of national and local governments, which instead of investing in research and meeting the needs of its population, rely on the goodwill of the people. The Catalan people get involved in numerous acts of solidarity every year. Just for this single reason, Catalans deserve to clear themselves the “penny-pinching” tag, because la pela és la pela applies to everyone, and maybe there should be more self-criticism and analysing of who does what with their own – or with other people’s – money.




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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The birth of a new state in Europe






Since the massive demonstration of the Catalan people in September 2012, but specially since the Catalan Way human chain last September, when more than 1.6 million people joined hands to demand independence for Catalonia, many Spanish politicians have been predicting all kinds of disasters were Catalonia to become an independent country. Fortunately, as we will see below, many economists and academics have produced reports refuting this point of view, so far from the economic and political reality of an independent Catalonia. This article sets out to circulate these arguments as far and wide as possible, with the goal of removing unfounded, artificial fears. Fear should never be the guiding force of a nation.




Firstly, we analyze the threat that Catalonia would be banned from Europe. The concept "banned from Europe" does not really make sense because Europe is a continent and Catalonia, for obvious geographical reasons, cannot be banned from it. However, if we speak of political Europe, this is made up of a multitude of treaties, conventions and institutions, each with its own different rules.




In this sense, the most important in the case of Catalan independence is that companies established in Catalonia should enjoy the free movement of goods, services, capital and people among European countries. For this purpose, it is not necessary to become a member of European Union. In fact, this objective would be achieved if Catalonia becomes a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA is a European common market formed by the European Union (EU) member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. While becoming a full EU member requires the unanimous vote of all state members, Catalonia need only attain a qualified majority to join the EEA (19 of the 28 member countries). Therefore, Spain could not unilaterally block the accession of Catalonia to the EEA.




But why should European countries support Catalonia joining the EEA?




There are a lot of solid reasons that reinforce this, the most important being that Catalonia is the main route connecting Spain with the rest of Europe. Furthermore, there are over 5,300 companies that have set up facilities in Catalonia. These multinationals are not here to supply the Catalan market, but to supply the EEA market (including Spain). The imposition of customs duties on Catalan exports would damage the interests of these multinationals. And these interests are enormous: Seat-Volkswagen (Germany), Renault-Nissan Alliance (France), BASF (Germany), Solvay (Belgium), Carrefour (France) and thousands of other foreign companies have made strategic investments in Catalonia.




The second argument used by Spanish politicians is that a Catalan state cannot have the Euro as its legal currency. This is a ridiculous and unrealistic argument because you can use the Euro without belonging to the Eurozone (like Montenegro or Andorra). Nevertheless, the European Union needs Catalonia in the Eurozone because the two main Catalan banks (CaixaBank and Banc Sabadell) are classed as systemic for the European financial market, i.e., if these two banks were to fail it could seriously destabilize the whole Eurozone. Therefore, the European Central Bank will have a firm interest in having the Catalan banks under its supervision.




To summarize, we have shown that if Catalonia becomes a new state, Europe will not leave Catalonia to its fate. It is not the end of the world; it is simply the birth of a new state in Europe.





Economists for Independence, Economy Section of the Catalan National Assembly.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Kurdistan, Scotland and Catalonia: They just want to be free, or do they?

Supporter waves Kurdish flag at soccer game in Sweden in June. (Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images)

Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead with such a vote, it would be joining two other parts of the world embarked on similar paths: Scotland and Catalonia.
Independence for all three of these regions makes little sense at this point in time.- 


In Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond has set the referendum on Scottish independence from Britain for Sept. 18. The Catalonian government, led by Artur Mas, has scheduled its referendum for Nov. 9. Although the British government in Westminster has not stood in the way of a referendum, Scottish opinion polls show a narrow lead for those who want to stay within the United Kingdom. In Catalonia, by contrast, the central government in Spain has declared the referendum illegal, but the polls overwhelmingly favor independence.

Independence for all three of these regions makes little sense at this point in time.

Kurdistan probably has the best case: It has been divided and repressed, and its population subjected to unspeakable horrors, especially during the Baath years and Saddam Hussein's murderous dictatorship. Today, the Kurds have fashioned a stable region for themselves. After the disintegration of the Iraqi army in Mosul, the Kurdistan government, confronted by a determined Islamic State-led insurgency, sent in its own forces to protect nearby areas not recognized as being within its boundaries. Some have a Kurdish plurality, others a majority.

The Kurds are unlikely to withdraw from these territories, which include the vast Kirkuk oil and gas reserves. Independence is likely to be contested by all of the putative state's neighbors, including the rest of the Arab world, which refuses to recognize a separate existence for Kurds.

But Barzani would have been better off remaining silent and waiting for a weak and imploding Iraqi state to one day concede to the inevitable. Certainly, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has done his best to alienate just about everyone, whether Sunni Muslim Arabs or Kurds; in a recent fit of pique he replaced all the Kurdish ministers in his Cabinet. By acting too quickly, the Kurdish government is unnecessarily perceived as usurping lands that in all likelihood would willingly have elected to join it in a breakup of Iraq.

If the Kurdish demands are understandable, what of the others? Neither Catalonia nor Scotland has suffered as much as the Kurds. Catalonia, to be sure, was not a favorite during the Francisco Franco dictatorship years. Nevertheless, with a population of 7.5 million of the nation's 47 million, it is today Spain's most prosperous region. Unlike the Kurds, who are landlocked, Catalonia borders France and enjoys a coastline on the Mediterranean.


Were Catalonia to secede, its status in the European Union would be indeterminate. Would it have to apply as a new member state? Would the rump state of Spain, out of spite, then veto Catalonia's efforts to join? That would be worrying since much of Catalonia current prosperity depends on its continued membership in the EU.

Scotland, like Kurdistan, has oil, and, like Catalonia, faces the prospect of having to apply for EU membership. Unlike Spain, though, Britain is not part of the Eurozone, and Scottish independence leaders have signaled that they would prefer to continue using the English pound as their official currency. Of course, that assumes the government in London would allow an independent government to use its currency. There are precedents: Panama uses the U.S. dollar, but the small size of the Panamanian economy has little effect on U.S. monetary policy.

Scots may elect to remain in the United Kingdom, especially because Westminster has followed a policy of not alienating the Scottish voter. Catalonia, which may face a more uncertain future in Europe, could be persuaded by Madrid to not secede if the latter were more accommodating on budgetary and other issues. Madrid's generally uncompromising role has exacerbated separatist feelings.

Of course, there are probably many who secretly root for these new countries to emerge. For one, international relations specialists, who would love to have "new countries" to study, new inter-state relationships to explore, new entry points for data sets and concomitant occasions for new grant proposals to write.

What of diplomats? New countries mean openings for new ambassadors, deputy-chiefs of missions, political officers, etc. Even future would-be campaign funding bundlers, be they soap opera producers or Long Island shopping mall builders, can dream of representing the United States in Barcelona. The embassy in Irbil, in Kurdistan, on the other hand, would more likely go to a career foreign service officer.

But those advocates notwithstanding, the prospect of independence for these regions does not look promising — at least not yet.

Henri J. Barkey is a professor of international relations at Lehigh University.

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