Wednesday, October 22, 2014

75% of the members of the government led by Aznar are currently in prison, charged or are under investigation



75% of the members of the Spanish government led by Aznar, President of the Spanish Government 1996-2004, are currently in prison, charged or are under investigation re PP party’s accounts for alleged illegal financing.

The current Spanish President Rajoy was appointed for several ministries and was elected First Vice-President of the government by Aznar between 1996 and 2003. 

Now, Rajoy and at least 10 current PP prominent ministers are under investigation for alleged illegal financing. However, PP has absolute majority in Parliament and some court cases in Spain take years to reach trial.

Read more »

Pau Casals Some Quotes


  • "For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner ... I go to the piano, and I play preludes and fugues of Bach. ... It is a sort of benediction on the house."

  • "Of course, I continue to play and to practice. I think I would do so if I lived for another hundred years."

  • "Martita (his wife) is the marvel of my world, and each day I find some new wonder in her."


  • "The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?"


  • "We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree."


  • "Man has made many machines, complex and cunning, but which of them indeed rivals the workings of his heart?"


  • "You must work - we must all work to make the world worthy of its children."


  • "The first thing to do in life is to do with purpose what one purposes to do."


  • "I am perhaps the oldest musician in the world. I am an old man but in many senses a very young man. And this is what I want you to be, young, young all your life, and to say things to the world that are true."


  • "Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it."


  • "Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?

      We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move.

        You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?"

  • "You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children."


  • "The main thing in life is not to be afraid of being human."

  • "Each week I receive from Barcelona a package full of clippings from different magazines and newspapers."

  • “I am a very simple man. I am a man first, an artist second. My first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow man. I will endeavour to meet this obligation through music, since it transcends language, politics and national boundaries.” Casals


Download and share

Albert Einstein

“Pau Casals is a very great artist. What I admire is the firm stand he has taken not only against the oppressors of his countrymen, but also against those opportunists who are always ready to compromise with the Devil. He perceives clearly that the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.” – Albert Einstein

Albert Schweitzer


“He is a great musician in all he does: a cellist without equal, and extraordinary conductor and composer with something to say. I have been profoundly impressed by all I have heard of his work, but he is a musician of this stature because he is also a great man.” – Albert Schweitzer







W.J. Turner

"His playing . . . is one of those rare things that may only come once in a lifetime and even not in one person's life, it may be centuries before there is anyone like that again. He is a funny little fellow only about 30 and plays with his eyes shut practically the whole time, every note every pause and tone colour is reflected in his face and to hear him again, to draw the bow across is a revelation.
W.J. Turner (1913), music critic

Read more »

Pau Casals, his life

"Music, this marvellous universal language, would have to be a source of communication between all people."



Pau Casals (Pablo Casals as he was commonly called in English) was one of the 20th century's greatest cellists, internationally recognized as one of the finest performers and orchestra conductors of his times.

Born in El Vendrell on 29 December 1876, he showed a great sensitivity for music from childhood. His father, himself a musician, taught Pau his first notions of music, which Casals would go on to extend through studies in Barcelona and Madrid. At the tender age of twenty-three, he started out on his professional career and performed in the world's most famous concert halls. As a performer, he made innovative changes in the way of playing the cello, introducing new technical and expressive possibilities. As a conductor too, he sought depth of expression - the musical essence which he achieved with the cello. Pau Casals was also a teacher and a composer, writing works such as the oratorio "El Pessebre" (The Manger), which became a veritable hymn to peace. 

The outcome of the Spanish Civil War obliged him to go into exile, settling first in Prades (France) and later in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In addition to his extraordinary career as a musician, Pau Casals was always a staunch defender of peace and freedom. His numerous benefit concerts, his commitment to humanitarian actions and his various speeches at the United Nations characterized him clearly as a man of peace.

Pau Casals died in 1973 at the age of ninety-six in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His remains now rest in the cemetery of El Vendrell.

CHRONOLOGY
1876 Pau Casals is born on 29th December at Carrer de Santa Anna, no. 2, in El Vendrell.

1882 On 27th April he gives his first musical performance in the choir of the church of El Vendrell.
His father, Carles Casals Riba, begins to give him music and piano lessons

1883 Casals collaborates with his father on the composition of a score for a version of the "Pastorets", a traditional Catalan Nativity play, entitled “Los Pastorcillos en Belén” (The Little Shepherds in Bethlehem).

1885 His father and the barber Peret make Casals a "carabasseta" or gourd-fiddle, considered his first stringed instrument.
Casals begins to play the organ of the church of El Vendrell

1888 A chamber music trio, with Josep Garcia at the cello, plays at the Catholic Centre of El Vendrell. This is the first time that Pau Casals sees and hears a cello.
At the end of the summer, Casals travels to Barcelona with his mother and begins his studies at the Municipal Music School.
Pau's father, Carles Casals, purchases a 3/4 cello for him

1889 Casals begin to play at Barcelona's Cafè Tost, three hours each night, seven days a week, for 4 pesetas. 

1890 He is introduced into Barcelona's musical and cultural spheres by Mr. Tost, the proprietor of Cafè Tost.
Casals discovers Johann Sebastian Bach's Six Suites at Carrer Ample in Barcelona.
His father, Carles Casals, purchases a full-size cello for him.

1891 On 23rd February, Casals takes part in a benefit concert for the comic actress Concepció Palà at Barcelona's Teatro Novedades.
He meets the musical trio formed by Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Fernández Arbós and Agustín Rubio. 
Isaac Albéniz writes a letter of recommendation for Pau Casals to the Count de Morphy, secretary of the Queen regent of Spain, Maria Christina. 
Casals starts to work at La Pajarera, a café at Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, where he plays every night, forming a trio with Ibarguren and Armengol.
During this year he meets the composer Enric Granados, with whom he establishes a lasting friendship.

1893 In the spring Casals graduates with honours from the Municipal Music School of Barcelona. 
He travels to Madrid with his mother and brothers. Queen Maria Christina awards him a grant for a monthly sum of 250 pesetas. 
Casals starts his second stage of musical training in Madrid, beginning classes at the Conservatory of Music and Declamation, under Jesús de Monasterio as professor of chamber music.

1895 On 14th February, Casals is named Knight of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic.
He travels to Brussels, with a letter of recommendation to François Gevaërt, director of the Conservatory of Music there. After taking the admission tests under Edouard Jacobs, Pau Casals decides not to attend the conservatory and travels to Paris. 
Queen Maria Christina withdraws Casals' grant. 
After a time of hardship in Paris, Casals decides to return to Barcelona

Pau Casals & Enric Granados
1896 In May he becomes a professor at the Municipal Music School of Barcelona and in November he is appointed cello professor at the Conservatory of the Liceu.
Casals begins to give concerts in small musical societies such as the Athenaeums of Barcelona and Gràcia, respectively.
He becomes a cellist of the Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
In Barcelona he comes into contact with Isaac Albéniz, Agustín Rubio, Enrique Fernández Arbós, Enric Granados and Saint-Saëns.

1897 Formation of the Quartet Crickboom with Pau Casals as cellist, Mathieu Crickboom and Josep Rocabruna as violinists and Rafael Gálvez at the viola.
Casals makes a tour of Spain with Enric Granados and Mathieu Crickboom.
Queen Maria Christina gives him a blue sapphire and a new cello, a Gagliano

1899 Pau Casals travels to Paris and accommodates himself at the home of the U.S. singer Emma Nevada and her husband, Raymond Palmer.
In May he travels to London with Emma Nevada and the pianist Léon Moreau.
On 20th May, Casals makes his London debut at the Crystal Palace with Lalo's “Concerto in D minor” and on 20th August he gives a private concert for Queen Victoria of England at the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Casals returns to Paris, where he debuts with the great French conductor Charles Lamoureux: 
- On 12th November, at the Théatre de la République in Paris, he gives his first performance as a soloist, playing Lalo's cello concerto.
- On 17th December he makes his second appearance with the Orchestre Lamoureux, playing Saint-Saëns' Concerto.

1900 Casals settles in Paris and begins his great career as a soloist. 
He starts to introduce himself into the social, musical and cultural network of turn-of-the-century Paris. 
Pau Casals and the pianist Harold Bauer begin to perform together at the beginning of the summer. They give concerts in San Sebastián and at the Teatro de la Comedia in Madrid, among other places. 

1901 In November, aboard the Saint Paul, Casals travels to the United States for the first time in order to make a tour with the singer Emma Nevada, the pianist Léon Moreau and the flautist Daniel Marquarre.
On his stay in San Francisco, Casals injures his left hand on an outing to Mount Tamalpais, obliging him to abandon the tour. In the ensuing months he is accommodated in the home of Michael Stein, establishing a lasting friendship with Stein's offspring, Gertrude and Leo Stein. 
Queen Maria Christina grants Casals the Great Cross of Knighthood of the Royal Order of Charles III.

1903 On 3rd May, Casals begins a tour of South America with Harold Bauer and Moreira de Sá.

1904 Casals makes his second trip to the United States, this time as a soloist. 
On 12th January he gives his first performance at New York's New Lyceum Theatre, playing Haydn's Concerto in D minor with the American Symphony Orchestra.
On 15th January, president Theodore Roosevelt invites Casals to play at the White House.
On 9th March, he debuts at New York's Carnegie Hall, performing Richard Strauss's Don Quixote. 
Casals returns to Paris at the end of the year and settles at Villa Molitor.
From right to left: Pau Casals, Vera Pavlova, Oskanne Alexandra
Silloti and Anastasia Serguels. In front Alexandra Khoklohlova
 (russian actress) and Guilhermina Suggia (his first wife) 

1905 He begins a sentimental relationship with the Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia.
Creation of the Trio Cortot-Thibaud-Casals, formed by Jacques Thibaud as violinist, Alfred Cortot as pianist and Pau Casals as cellist. 
In November he makes his first trip to Russia, to perform in a concert on the 18th in Saint Petersburg's Hall of Nobility, establishing his first contacts with Moscow’s musical circles.

1906 On 18th December the Trio Cortot-Thibaud-Casals makes its debut in a concert in Lille. It becomes one of the foremost musical trios of the times..

1908 In the autumn, death of Pau Casals' father, Carles Casals Riba.

1909 On 20th October, Casals is invited by Edward Speyer to play at Bechstein Hall for the Classical Concert Society of London. 
From this time on, Casals travels to England to perform each year.

1910 In November Pau Casals makes his Vienna debut, interpreting Emanuel Moór's Concerto in C sharp minor at the Great Hall of the Musikverein, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Franz Schalk..

1912 In January, together with Eugene Ysaÿe, Casals plays Brahms's Double Concerto in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and on 20th February at the Great Hall of Vienna's Musikverein.
In February Casals plays Beethoven's Triple Concerto in Budapest with Donald Francis Tovey and Georges Enesco.
At the end of the year, Pau Casals ends his relationship with Guilhermina Suggia. 

1914 In March Casals embarks for New York.
On 4th April he marries the U.S. soprano Susan Metcalfe in New Rochelle, New York, and together they begin a tour across the United States. 
On 13th December Casals gives his first concert at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, where he plays Saint-Saëns' Concerto and Bruch's Kol Nidrei with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under conductor Richard Hageman.

1915 At the beginning of the year, Casals makes his first recordings for the Columbia Gramophone Company. 

1916 In May he organizes a benefit concert at the Metropolitan Opera House for the children of his friend Enric Granados, together with Paderewski and Fritz Kreisler. 

1917 In October, after the Revolution, Casals decides not to play in Russia again

1919 On 10th January, Casals performs in Mexico City with its Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Josep Rocabruna. He begins a three-week tour of Mexico.
Shortly afterwards he returns to Barcelona, settling at Avinguda de la Diagonal, no. 440.
In June, together with his brother Enric, Pau Casals begins the project of creating the Orquestra Pau Casals, with Enric Casals as first violinist, Enric Ainaud as adjunct first violinist and Bonaventura Dini as first cellist.

October 1923
1920 Together with Alfred Cortot and Jacques Thibaud, Casals founds the École Normale de Musique de Paris, where he gives interpretation courses each summer. 
On 13th October the first concert of the Orquestra Pau Casals is held at the Palau de la Música Catalana.

1922 On 7th April, Casals debuts as conductor at New York's Carnegie Hall.

1926 In May he creates the Workers Concerts Association, an independent organization with the ultimate goal of bringing music closer to the working class.

1927 In March Casals gives a series of concerts in Vienna on the occasion of Beethoven's centennial.
On 19 April, on the centennial of Beethoven's death, Eugene Ysaÿe conducts this composer's Eroica Symphony and Triple Concerto in Barcelona, with Thibaud, Cortot and Pau Casals. 

El Vendrell makes Casals a Predilect Son of the town.

1928 On 26th February, Casals gives his last concert as a soloist in the United States, at the Town Hall of New York, with Nicolai Mednikoff at the piano. 
Pau Casals' relationship with Susan Metcalfe grows colder and they finally separate.1931Pau Casals' mother, Pilar Defilló, dies at Sant Salvador on 11th March. 

The Second Republic is proclaimed in Spain on 15th April. 

At Barcelona's National Palace of Montjuïc, Casals conducts Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Orquestra Pau Casals and the Orfeó Gracienc, to celebrate the proclamation of the Republic.

1933 He gives his last concerts with Jacques Thibaud and Alfred Cortot, bringing to an end an association that had lasted twenty-seven years.
Casals take part in the Brahms Festival of Vienna with Huberman, Schnabel and Hindemith.
He declines Wilhelm Furtwängler's invitation to play with the Berlin Philharmonic in the season of 1933. In a letter to Bronislaw Huberman, Pau Casals states his decision not to play again in Germany "for as long as its musical life is not free".

1934 Together with Albert Schweitzer, he is made Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Edinburgh.
Barcelona pays tribute to Casals, making him an Adoptive Son, awarding him the Medal of the City, and inaugurating the avenue called Avinguda de Pau Casals. 

1936 On 28th June, the Orquestra Pau Casals finishes its last season.
On 18th July, during a rehearsal with the Orquestra Pau Casals at the Palau de la Música Catalana, the military uprising begins in Spain.
Despite the situation of instability in Spain and the imminent outbreak of the Civil War, Pau Casals continues to make tours in Europe and South America and to give benefit concerts to raise funds for food, clothing and medicine.

Between 1936 and 1939, Pau Casals records Johann Sebastian Bach's Six Suites for Solo Cello for the EMI label.1938In February he begins a tour of North Africa.
On 19th October 1938, Pau Casals gives his last concert in Spain, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on behalf of the Children's Aid Society.

1939 At the end of January, after the occupation of Barcelona by General Franco's troops, Pau Casals goes into exile. 
The University of Barcelona makes him Doctor Honoris Causa.
On 28th March, Casals gives a benefit concert for the Spanish refugee children at the Royal Albert Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra. 

After a short stay in Paris at the home of Maurice Eisenberg, Casals goes to the Catalan town of Prades and takes up residence in a room of the Grand Hotel, from where he will begin his campaign of aid for the Spanish refugees, together with his friend, the poet Joan Alavedra. 

1940 German forces enter Paris on 13th June. Pau Casals, Francesca Capdevila, Pilar Casals and the Alavedra family decide to leave France via Bordeaux aboard the Champlain, sailing for the United States.
Just when the passengers are about to board, the Champlain is bombed by German aircraft and the group decides to return to Prades, where Pau Casals settles with Francesca Capdevila and the Alavedras in Villa Colette.

1943 The poem “El Pessebre” (The Manger) by the Catalan poet Joan Alavedra wins First Prize in the first Floral Games of the Catalan Language in Exile, held in Perpignan. Pau Casals begins to set it to music.

1945 World War II having ended, on 27th June Pau Casals gives a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. At the end of the concert, Pau Casals sends a message to Catalonia from the BBC studios. After a week of concerts in England, Casals decides not to play again in this country in protest against the Allied countries' immobility with respect to General Franco's regime. 
He turns down Doctorates Honoris Causa from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

1946 On 7th November, Casals is appointed Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour. 
He decides not play again in public as long as the democracies do not change their attitude with respect to the Franco regime, and his second exile in Prades begins. In the next four years he devotes himself to composing, to giving cello lessons and, above all, to helping the Catalan and Spanish refugees.

1950 In May, Casals presides over the Floral Games of the Catalan Language in Exile, held in Perpignan.

At the initiative of Alexander Schneider, on 2nd June begins the first Prades Festival, the Bach Festival, in commemoration of the bicentennial of the great composer's death.

1951 July marks the holding of the second Prades Festival at the Palace of the Kings of Majorca in Perpignan, featuring the pianist Myra Hess. Marta Montañez attends the festival for the first time.
Casals conducts two of his own compositions in Zurich in September: “Sardana for Cellos” and “Els tres reis” (The Three Kings).

1952 He takes part for the first time in the Zermatt Summer Academy of Music. Between this time and 1966, he will hold master classes in interpretation here each year.

1954 From 7th to 23rd June, the 4th Prades Festival takes place, focused on Beethoven's chamber music, with the participation of Pau Casals, Eugene Istomin, Rudolf Serkin, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Szymon Goldberg, Joseph Fuchs and the Trio Pasquier. 
In September, Marta Montañez comes to Prades to take interpretation classes with Pau Casals.

1955 Francesca Capdevila dies on 18th January.
Pau & Marta
The 5th Prades Festival is held at the beginning of the summer, in the church of Sant Pere, with the participation of the pianists Eugene Istomin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, the violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Sándor Végh, and the singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
On 11th December Casals makes his first trip to his mother's birthplace, Puerto Rico, accompanied by Marta Montañez. At he initiative of Abe Fortas and the governor Luis Muñoz Marín, the Casals Festivals are created with Pau Casals as musical director and Alexander Schneider as musical assistant. 
At the end of November, Casals returns to Puerto Rico, accompanied by Marta Montañez, his brother Enric and the latter's wife. He settles in a house at Calle Bucaré in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

1957 On 16th April Casals suffers a heart attack at the Theatre of the University of Puerto Rico during a rehearsal with the Festival Orchestra. 
The festival management decides to hold the first Casals Festival of Puerto Rico in tribute to Pau Casals himself, under the direction of Alexander Schneider. 
In parallel to the Casals Festival, the Symphony Orchestra of Puerto Rico and the Music Conservatory are created. Pau Casals is appointed president of the latter. 
On 3rd August, Pau Casals and Marta Montañez marry in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Pau Casals & Dag Hammarskjöld
1958 The second Casals Festival of Puerto Rico is held in the spring, with the participation of Pau Casals. On 24th October, Pau Casals is invited by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, to give a concert at the U.N. General Assembly in New York to commemorate United Nations Day. The concert, together with the peace message that Pau Casals had recorded a few days earlier in Geneva, is broadcast by radio to over 40 countries, turning Casals into a symbol of the struggle for world peace. 
This year he is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


1960 In the spring he holds a series of master classes at the Music Department of the University of California at Berkeley. 
In July he is invited by his friend the pianist Rudolf Serkin to direct a series of master classes at the Marlboro Summer School of Music, in southern Vermont, U.S.A. This becomes an annual event for him from 1962 to 1973.
On 17th December 1960, he premieres the oratorio “El Pessebre” at the Fuerte de San Diego in Acapulco. 1961In April he makes a three-week visit to Japan, where he gives a concert with his pupil Takeichiro Hirai.
In September he visits Israel for the first time, to participate as a member of the jury of the 3rd Pau Casals International Cello Competition and to take part in the 3rd Israel Music Festival. 
On 13th November he is invited by John Fitzgerald Kennedy to give a concert at the White House.


1962 On 19th April, at the concert of the oratorio “El Pessebre” held at San Francisco's Memorial Opera House, Pau Casals announces his intention to embark on a personal crusade for human dignity, brotherhood and peace. 
Over the next ten years, Casals will conduct “El Pessebre” round the world. Indeed, this will be the foremost musical activity of his latter years. 

1963 On 24th October, “El Pessebre” is performed at the United Nations headquarters in New York, with the Casals Festival Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. 
The president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, awards Casals the Medal of Freedom.



1965 On 15th April, Casals conducts “El Pessebre” at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh, U.S.A., likewise conducting Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos during this month.
Pau Casals & US vice president
Hubert Humphrey
For the rest of the year he carries on with his customary activity: in May the Casals Festival of Puerto Rico, at the start of summer the Prades Festival, in August the Zermatt Summer Academy, and in the autumn the Marlboro Music School. 

1966 In September Pau Casals conducts “El Pessebre” at Sant Miquel de Cuixà.
In December, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Pau Casals receives numerous public tributes, notably including the one from the Catalans in Molig, where the group Nens del Vendrell forms a “castell” or human tower, and the one in Puerto Rico with a reception at the courtyard of La Fortaleza attended by the vice president of the United States, Hubert Humphrey.

Pau Casals & US President Johnson
1967 On 21st October, Pau Casals is invited by the United Nations to conduct “El Pessebre” at the Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., to commemorate United Nations Day. After the concert, Pau Casals meets with president Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House. 
At the beginning of November, Casals conducts “El Pessebre” in the Central American city of San Salvador.

1971 Casals receives the Grand Cross of the French National Order of Merit.
He composes the Hymn to the United Nations.
Pau Casals awarded at UN by  U-Thant
On 24th October, he takes part in the United Nations Day Concerts at the headquarters of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. On this occasion, Pau Casals premieres the Hymn to the United Nations, and he is awarded the U.N. Peace Medal by the U.N. Secretary-General, U-Thant. 

1972 On 3rd July Pau Casals and his wife Marta create the Pau Casals Foundation for the purpose of bequeathing to Catalonia the splendid legacy kept by the Maestro at the house in Sant Salvador, El Vendrell.

1973 In June he attends the Casals Festival held at New York's Carnegie Hall and in Central Park.
From 16th July to 26th August, he takes part in the 13th Israel Music Festival, where he gives his last concert. 
At the end of September, Pau Casals suffers an irreversible heart attack in Puerto Rico. 
On 22nd October, Pau Casals dies at Hospital de Auxilio Mútuo in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A few days later he is buried at that city's Commemorative Cemetery.

1979 On 9th November the remains of Pau Casals are transferred to Catalonia, where they now rest in the cemetery of El Vendrell.

Read more »

Real Madrid sends statement urging fans to abstain from displaying Nazi symbols


Real Madrid Football Club sends its members a statement to remind them that they must abstain from displaying Nazi symbols. The reason given is that this could lead to sanctions -no reference to this behavior going against the Club's values, neither in this statement nor in any other public statement whatsoever.


The fact that announcements of this kind still need to be sent out in 2014 demonstrates the laxity so far applied to the far-right in all their variants by both the Police and the Law in Spain.



Read more »

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Former Spanish PM Felipe González takes into consideration the suspension of Catalan autonomy


 
Felipe González. Foto: Europa Press.

The Catalan political process has experienced a though path today as words between Catalan sovereigns and the supporters of the unity of Spain became stronger. The constitutional possibility of the separation of a territory has been regarded as a suicide by the former Spanish socialist President Felipe González. At the same time, he said that the suspension of Catalan autonomy must be taken into consideration according to an article of the Spanish Constitution.

From Madrid, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the Partido Popular leader, has announced a new proposal, which has become a new focus of discussion. The proposal includes the creation of a new political force in Barcelona, consisting of all the parties –ideologies aside- against the independence consultation. Hours later, the proposal has been rejected by the conservative party Ciutadans (Citizens) and the Christian Democrat party Unió Democràtica (UDC), both in the Catalan Government and in favour of the consultation but against a unilateral declaration of independence.

Also from the Partido Popular, Xavier García-Albiol, mayor of Badalona –the third most populated city in Catalonia– has restated that the council will not be involved in the organisation of the consultation on the 9th November.

Apart from those statements, an important event has been the request of 80 million euros of VAT from the Spanish Finance Ministry to the Catalan public administration managing Televisió de Catalaunya (TV3), the public Catalan television channel. According to Catalan Government sources, it might endanger the channel. Clearly, Artur Mas executive committee will fiercely defend TV3.

On one hand, the Spanish party Unión, Progreso y Democracia (Union, Progess and Democracy), led by Rosa Díez, has encouraged people to demonstrate in favour of the unity of Spain. She suggested that demonstrations should take place in every major city of the country on the 10th of September, eve of the Catalan National Day.

On the other hand, Josep Guardiola –currently coaching FC Bayern Munich, former coach of FC Barcelona and a popular celebrity among Catalans– has launched a video in which he supports the consultation. This has reaffirmed the sovereign movement to keep seeking independence.

Read more »

Preparations for alternative independence vote kick off while Madrid hesitates to act against it

The Catalan Government is gradually disclosing details and starting preparations for the alternative non-binding referendum process on independence that will take place on the 9th of November, which replaces the non-binding referendum vote also scheduled on that day. Meanwhile, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, celebrates "the excellent news" about the Catalan Government abandoning the previous non-binding referendum vote, which had been temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court. 

You participate, You decide
The Spanish Government and the People's Party (PP), chaired by Rajoy, would not want to raise the profile of the minor new vote by acting strongly against it. It seems they are hesitating whether to appeal against it or to tolerate it, in spite of Catalans still being called to cast a ballot about independence from Spain in a non-binding participatory process. On the 9th of November, Catalans will be called to give their opinion about their collective future in an alternative non-binding referendum vote that was announced on Tuesday by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, without the agreement of the other parties supporting self-determination. 
Mas did not disclose many details about the new democratic process, although he guaranteed that there will be "ballots and boxes", located in Catalan Government's venues, run by volunteers and where citizens would register as voters on the same day, just before casting their vote. In the next two days after this announcement, further details have been revealed and the first preparations have begun.


On Wednesday, the Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, explained that there will be 600 voting venues spread throughout Catalonia, instead of the 4,000 polling stations initially foreseen in the previous non-binding referendum vote. Furthermore, these 600 venues will be hosting 6,000 polling places, with a ballot box in each one of them.

Volunteering civil servants will supervise the participation process

In addition, there will be between 3,000 and 3,500 civil servants among the 20,000 volunteers that will run the voting venues. However, Homs stressed that these civil servants will be elected on a volunteer basis. Their task will be essential in making sure that the whole public participation process is developed correctly.

Furthermore, on Thursday, the Catalan Government launched the website where citizens can register to become one of the volunteers running the polling stations (www.participa2014.cat). The form to register as volunteer will be available on Friday after 2pm (CET). The website also includes information about who can vote and, coming soon, about the exact location of the polling venues.

In addition, also on Thursday, Catalonia's Official Journal (DOGC) published the creation of the file that will register the personal data of the citizens who will participate in the new non-binding referendum process scheduled for the 9th of November. The Catalan President already explained that there will be an electronic system to make sure that citizens do not cast their ballot twice. Francesc Homs gave more details about it: participants will register their official ID number into a computer located in the voting centre, just before casting their vote. All the computers will be connected to a same system that will make sure that this person does not vote twice or in two different centres. Homs emphasised that such a system is in place for official elections in many countries such as in the United States.

Those entitled to cast their vote will be all Catalans of 16 years and above on the 9th of November. This includes all the Spanish nationals living in Catalonia and all the people born in Catalonia and living in the rest of Spain or abroad, of 16 and above, who can prove their ID, official residence and place of birth through their official Spanish ID card (DNI) or passport. For those living abroad, they will have to also show proof of being registered in the Register of Catalans Living Abroad. In addition, EU-nationals who have been living in Catalonia for more than a year and non-EU-nationals who have been living in Catalonia for more than 3 years will also be able to vote by showing their official Spanish ID card for foreign residents (NIE).

In addition, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, stated on Tuesday that he will not sign a specific decree to call this public participatory process, in order not to "pave the road" for the Spanish Government to appeal against it, take it to the Constitutional Court and have it temporarily suspended like the previous non-binding referendum vote. "We will not make things so easy for them this time", Mas said. He emphasised that the Catalan Government is organising this alternative non-binding referendum using its powers over citizen participation, recognised by the Catalan Statute of Autonomy currently in place after its trimming by the Constitutional Court in 2010. In addition, there is a current legal framework in place ruling these kinds of participatory processes in Catalonia. However, experts say that even if a decree is not signed, the Catalan Government will have to approve in the next few days, resolutions and orders regarding this public participatory process, which could be appealed against by the Spanish Government.

The Spanish Government is waiting to react

On this occasion, the Spanish Government is acting with caution. It seems it is hesitating about whether to tolerate such a devaluated non-binding referendum vote or to appeal against it. By acting against it, it will probably strengthen the pro-independence side since it will give them additional motivation to vote and it will offer them a powerful photo opportunity, with citizens queuing in front of polling stations while the Spanish Government prevents them from voting. However, by tolerating the vote, Mariano Rajoy risks facing a majority of cast ballots supporting independence from Spain, in a public participatory process with a low but respectable turnout. 

In any case, what seems obvious in these first two days, is that the People's Party (PP) and Rajoy's Government are trying not to raise the profile of this alternative non-binding referendum in order not to strengthen it and strengthen support for independence. Rajoy and its Cabinet are insistent that the original non-binding referendum vote has been cancelled and that therefore Spain's rule of law has won the challenge. It is "excellent news" emphasised Rajoy on Wednesday before the Spanish Parliament. They portrayed such a cancellation as a defeat of the Catalan Government and its President, Artur Mas. At the same time, they are downplaying the new alternative public participation process, picturing it as a "crazy idea" or a mockery.

The Spanish Justice Minister stated on Tuesday afternoon that if the alternative public participation process is about independence, "it would still have the same vices of unconstitutionality" and they would appeal against it. However, on Wednesday and Thursday he has not been so clear about this.

Talking about Catalonia's self-determination would dismantle Spain's "democratic framework"

In the days to come, the Spanish Government's strategy will be clearer. However Rajoy repeated he is willing to talk if independence demands are abandoned, while some sectors of Spanish nationalism are rejecting any concession and opening any sort of dialogue. The former Spanish Prime Minister, José María Aznar, stated on Thursday that reforming the Constitution to better fit Catalonia "is ridiculous". Furthermore, Aznar said that the offers to talk are only "feeding fanaticism" in Catalonia and he insisted on rejecting the Catalan "challenge as the base for a setting dialogue". For the former PM, talking about Catalonia's self-determination would represent "dismantling our democratic framework".

ACN

Read more »

The Generalitat of Catalonia


The Generalitat of Catalonia stems from the medieval institution which ruled, in the name of the King of the Crown of Aragon, some aspects of the administration of the Principality of Catalonia. The first Catalan constitution is that of the Corts of Barcelona from 1283.

The Generalitat of Catalonia, outside
Another medieval precedent- the Diputació del General de Catalunya (Commission of Deputies) – which the 1931 legislators felt was appropriate for invoking as a legitimising base for contemporary self-government.


Old emblem of the Generalitat
Catalonia’s political past as a territorially differentiated community having its own representative and autonomous institutions, with respect to the sovereign power of the combined Aragonese monarchies (1283-1516) and Castilian monarchies (1516-1808) and of the Spanish constitutional state (since 1812), can be divided into four stages, separated by three great ruptures in the legal/public order.






The Generalitat of Catalonia, inside

First abolition

Nueva Planta Drecree
Catalan institutions which depended on the Generalitat were abolished in what is currently known in Catalonia as Northern Catalonia, one year after the signature of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in the 17th century, which transferred the territory from Spanish to French sovereignty.

Then, by the early 18th century, as the Nueva Planta decrees were passed in Spain, the institution was abolished in the Spanish territory as well.



First restoration
Bank note from the Generalitat de Catalunya, 1936

The Generalitat of Catalonia was restored in Spanish Catalonia and given its modern political and representative function as the regional government of Catalonia in 1932, during the Second Spanish Republic.


After the right wing coalition won the Spanish elections in 1934, the leftist leaders of the Generalitat of Catalonia rebelled against the Spanish authorities, and was temporarily suspended from 1934 to 1936.


Second abolition

President Companys jailed by Spanish Gov
In 1939, as the Spanish Civil War finished with the defeat of the Republican side, the Generalitat of Catalonia as an institution was abolished and remained so during all the Francoist dictatorship until 1975. The democratic president of the Generalitat at the time, Lluís Companys, was tortured and executed in October 1940 for the crime of 'military rebellion' by the Spanish government


Second restoration

President Josep Tarradellas when he
came back at the balcony of the
Generalitat de Catalonia
The succession of presidents of the Generalitat was maintained in exile from 1939 to 1977, when Josep Tarradellas returned to Catalonia and was recognized as the legitimate president by the Spanish government. Tarradellas, when he returned to Catalonia, made his often quoted remark "Ciutadans de Catalunya: ja sóc aquí" ("Citizens of Catalonia: I am back here, now!"), reassuming the autonomous powers of Catalonia, one of the historic nationalities of present-day Spain.

After this, the powers given to the autonomous Catalan government according to the Spanish Constitution of 1978 were transferred and the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia (Estatut d'Autonomia) was passed after being approved both by referendum in Catalonia and by the Spanish Cortes Generales.



Autonomous system of government

The Generalitat consists of the Executive Council, the President and the Parliament. Some people wrongly apply this name only to the Council as if it were the same as Cabinet only; however, Generalitat de Catalunya is the (autonomous) Catalan system as a whole.

The region has gradually achieved a greater degree of autonomy since 1979. After Navarre and the Basque Country regions, Catalonia has the greatest level of self-government in Spain. The Generalitat holds exclusive and wide jurisdiction in various matters of culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local governments. In many aspects relating to education, health and justice, the region shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government.

One of the examples of Catalonia's degree of autonomy is its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, which is currently taking over most of the police functions in Catalonia.

With few exceptions, most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions. The legal system is uniform throughout the Spanish State, with the exception of so-called civil law. This is administered separately within Catalonia. As another institution stemming from the Generalitat, but independent from it in its check and balance functions, there is a Síndic de Greuges (ombudsman) to address problems that may arise between private citizens or organizations and the Generalitat or local governments.


International presence

As an autonomous community of Spain, Catalonia is not recognized as a sovereign state by any sovereign state. However, as Catalonia has progressively gained a greater degree of self-government in recent years, the Catalan Government has established nearly bilateral relationships with foreign bodies. For the most part, these relationships are with the governments of other powerful subnational entities such as Quebec  or California. In addition, like most Spanish autonomous communities, Catalonia has permanent delegations before international organizations, such as the European Union.

Altogether, Catalonia has well over 40 representative offices worldwide. Most of these offices are located in major world cities like London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo and others. Each office has specific duties assigned by their ministry or department agency. Generally, the functions of these are the representation of specific interests of the Government of Catalonia, trade and foreign investment, Catalan culture and language support, tourist promotion and international cooperation activities.

There are no specific Catalan political institutions in Northern Catalonia, the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales. However, since September 5, 2003, there has been a House of the Generalitat in Perpignan, which aims to promote the Catalan culture and facilitate exchanges between each side of the Franco–Spanish border.

Read more »