Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spanish Imperialist detained in Gibraltar for unfolding an 18m Spanish flag near the top of the Rock

Members of the Vox party carried out the stunt which left the large flag on display for some 20 minutes, shouting ‘Gibraltar Español’.  Spanish Imperialist party Vox issued a statement ‘With this act, Vox has wanted to claim we will never relent until we recover plain Spanish sovereignty on the Rock, the usurpation which has led to the unacceptable financial paradise, and has prejudiced our fishermen, the economic depression in the Campo de Gibraltar and the conversion of workers in the zone into hostages of the pirate Picardo’, written by the leader of the party, Santiago Abascal.

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Scandal: Spanish Minister and Anti-fraud Office Director plot against Catalan pro-independence parties

Current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs and governing People’s Party candidate to run for the Spanish Elections in Barcelona, Jorge Fernández Díaz, has been involved in a conspiracy scandal.

According to Spanish newspaper ‘Público’ Fernández Díaz and the Director of the Catalan Anti-fraud Office, Daniel de Alfonso Laso, allegedly plotted to find different ways to accuse and discredit Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties left-wing ERC and liberal Convergència.

The conversations between Fernández Díaz and Laso which ‘Público’ published this Tuesday are said to have taken place in 2014. Catalan Government spokeswoman and CDC member, Neus Munté, has called for Fernández Díaz “to offer explanations” and other parties are already urging him to resign. The revelations come five days before the 26-J Spanish Elections.

“I will not resign, it is the Minister [for Home Affairs] who should do so”, stated the Director of Spanish Anti-fraud Office, Daniel de Alfonso Laso, in a radio interview this Tuesday, after the scandal was made public.

The recording suggests that both Fernández Díaz and Alfonso de Laso were allegedly trying to find suspicious dealings, business or family connections to discredit members of ERC and CDC. “Don’t do it yourself; selling it to the press and always naming the Spanish Police’s division for Economic and Fiscal crimes (UDEF) you will lose favour”, suggested Alfonso de Laso to current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs on the recording, “give the information to me instead”.

Some parts of the conversation also reveal how de Laso considered some information to be “too soft” and Fernández Díaz suggested going further so as to involve former Catalan Ministers, Convergència’s Felip Puig and Francesc Homs. Other pieces of the dialogue point to the brother of Catalan Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras, who was ERC’s leader at the time.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

500 members from the Spanish Legion Rally in Barcelona

Members of the Spanish Legion organized a demonstration against Catalonia's self-determination and independence in downtown Barcelona, which was backed by a local councillor from People's Party (PP). However, the unionist demonstration was smaller than expected. Today, around 500 people demonstrated in Barcelona for Spain's unity, according to different sources. Fascist chants and simbology spread in the rally as usual in Spanish Unionist marches. The slogan of the march was "We Will Fight, We Will Die".

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Catalan President rules out independence during mandate

Carles Puigdemont was elected president of Catalonia's semi-autonomous government in January with the task of fast-tracking the Spanish region towards independence from Madrid within around 18 months.

But asked whether he would actually be declaring independence within that timeframe, Puigdemont told Spain's economic daily Expansion that he would not.

"Because it's not planned and it's not our commitment," he said in an interview on Monday.

But "we will do all the work necessary for this country to become an independent state," he added.

Catalonia's predominantly pro-independence parliament is currently working to put in place administrative organs such as a regional treasury and social security system in view of creating a separate state.

But until Puigdemont's comments, it had always been unclear whether they would actually declare independence at the end of the 18-month timeframe.

According to sources within Catalonia's executive, who refused to be named, the regional government plans to call new parliamentary elections when the 18 months are up.

The newly-voted regional parliament - which they hope will be composed of a majority of pro-independence lawmakers like it is now - will then be tasked with writing a constitution for a new Catalan state.

A referendum will be called, and if the region's 7.5 million inhabitants approve the constitution, Catalonia will officially declare independence from Madrid.

However the Spanish government is likely to challenge these planned steps in court.

For the moment, Spain is locked in political deadlock as parties struggle to form a coalition government following inconclusive December elections.

But all the main parties involved in negotiations for a future government oppose independence in Catalonia, although far-left Podemos supports holding a Scotland-style referendum on the issue.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

US Human Rights Policy and Weapons Transfers: White House directive Puts Question Mark on Defense Cooperation with Spain

On 15 January 2014 the White House issued a new Presidential Policy Directive on “United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy”. This new regulation, replacing a 1995 text, refers among others to the “need for restraint against the transfer of arms that would … serve to facilitate human rights abuses”. This provision may pose an obstacle to future weapons sales and other forms of cooperation with Spain, given that Madrid is repeatedly threatening Catalonia to use military force to prevent the exercise of the right to self-determination. The threats come from both officials and military personnel, with none of the latter having been court-martialed. The very real prospects of a coup could be deeply embarrassing to the United States, should Madrid employ US-made or designed weapons. Already, low-level flights by US-made F-18s have been reported in Western Catalonia, although they have failed to intimidate the civilian population. Although the 15 January 2014 Presidential Directive does not provide for a straight ban on sales to non-democratic regimes, its provisions clearly point out that it is not US policy to transfer conventional weapons for use in political repression. Furthermore, in the case of Spain, being a security consumer and unreliable ally, there are no strategic reasons to turn a blind eye to potential human rights violations. The White House would do well to suspend any conventional weapons sales to Spain pending a public commitment by Madrid not to employ them to repress Catalans.
Spain conquered Catalonia in 1714, opening up three centuries of human rights abuses which continue to this day. Repression, exile, linguistic persecution, and all sorts of restrictions, have characterized these three centuries. Despite partial democratization following Franco's death in 1975, and a measure of autonomy for Catalonia following the return of exiled Prime Minister Tarradellas in 1977, the dream of a fully democratic Spain, respectful of Catalans' civil rights, has gradually revealed itself as no more than a utopia. Catalan citizens, organizations, parties, and institutions, have repeatedly tried to seek a compromise solution whereby Catalonia would remain in Spain albeit with legal guarantees of self-government and human rights. The latest attempt, the 2006 reform of her Statute of Autonomy (laying down the powers of Catalan institutions and the basic human rights of Catalans), unleashed a political storm, with a strong Spanish reaction against and a counterattack seeking to put an end to the limited post-Franco concessions. This includes, among others, an attempt to stamp out Catalan from schools. As a result, a growing majority of Catalans decided it was time to go to the polls to decide their future, in accordance with the internationally-recognized and US-supported principle of self-determination, laid down in President Wilson's 14 Points and the Atlantic Charter, signed by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill. A semi-official referendum took place on 9 November 2014 but Madrid, instead of democratically campaigning to convince Catalan voters to choose to remain in Spain, launched a wave of cyberattacks against Catalan Government websites, targeting among others the public healthcare system, and charged President Mas and other officials. In the wake of the vote, and the later 27 September 2015 single-issue election (resulting in a pro-independence majority), newspapers have kept reporting subtle and not so subtle threats to employ military force to retain Catalonia, the same military force that secured Spanish sovereignty over the country in the first place.
The question is thus: does the 15 January White House Directive prevent future weapons transfers to Spain? In order to answer, we have to examine two different aspects. First, whether such weapons may be used to commit human rights abuses. Second, whether there may be other policy considerations, contained in the 15 January Directive, which may allow the White House to disregard the former and proceed anyway with weapons transfers or cooperation. Let us have a look at both.
Concerning human rights, both threats and actual instances confirm that Madrid is ready to use force.
With regard to other policy considerations, it is a complex area, since Washington may legitimately be concerned that making Madrid lose face may prompt a further radicalization of Spanish authorities. The United States may also be worried about Spanish contributions to international operations, such as counterpiracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and intelligence sharing in the fight against international terrorism. These contributions are already limited, given that Spain has persistently excluded itself, for example, from successive editions of BALTOPS. Furthermore, a significant portion of Spanish naval capabilities are employed to harass Gibraltar, rather than being available to NATO.
A possibility would be for Washington to prepare a package of limited, perhaps informal sanctions, and inform Spanish authorities that they will be implemented unless they commit themselves not to use force. This would send a shot across the bow to the Spanish military, warning them that repressing civilians is not only not in line with US values and interests, but a distraction from what their role should be at a time of growing tensions on a number of fronts, including Russia. It would also be very positive for the US Navy to increase naval visits to Barcelona, ensuring a regular presence in Catalonia's capital city. The US Navy already sent a ship in the run up to the 9 November 2014 referendum, in a move widely noted by Catalan observers.
Beyond purely military matters, there is another reason why it is clearly contrary to the US national interest to see Spain employ force in a desperate attempt to retain her hold over Catalonia. This would harden Catalan attitudes towards Spain's national debt, which at 100 percent of its GDP is clearly unsustainable. Should Catalonia recover independence without taking up a share, Madrid would default, threatening the euro's very existence and with it the stability of the world financial system. Rather than face this prospect, it may be better for Washington to discreetly intervene, ensuring that force is not used by Spain and that Catalonia reacts by refusing to take up a share of this unsustainable debt.
To conclude, the 15 January 2014 Presidential Policy Directive on “United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy” does not provide a detailed set of criteria regulating weapons transfers to semi or non-democratic regimes, but makes it clear that subject to national security considerations it is US policy to try to avoid indirectly facilitating violence against civilians. America has legitimate reasons to try to prevent Madrid from moving even further away from NATO, and can thus be expected to be prudent when it comes to dealing with the Spanish military. However, failing to act now may prompt an even greater diversion of already limited resources towards repression, weakening the Atlantic Alliance at a time of growing tensions with Russia. Furthermore, moving beyond threats to actual widespread resort to violence may prompt a Catalan refusal to take up a portion of Spain's national debt on recovering independence, with the resulting default by Madrid and negative impact on international financial stability. For all this reasons, the best solution could be for Washington to discreetly press the Spanish military to renounce the use of force against Catalonia, backing this up with necessary with limited, informal sanctions, such as restrictions on exchange programs. A more regular naval presence in Barcelona could also help send the message that what Madrid must do, is to close ranks with NATO, start taking part in BALTOPS, and cease and desist in the use of actual or threatened violence against Gibraltar and Catalonia.

By Àlex Calvo

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Economics of a Catalan secession from Spain

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about a hypothetical future, but the impact of independence on economics –for both the newly created State and what remains of the older– is a foreseeable outcome in the light of more than 150 secessions occurred  in the last hundred years, backlashes and black swans –for better or worse– excluded.
First things first, here you have a table with some fundamentals since you are not supposed to know them at your fingertips. Be aware that when we say Spain, it means the nowadays Spain excluding Catalonia. All data, even €/$ exchange rate, are 2014’s.

The main difference between secessions has been, and always shall be, if they are a covenant’s upshot or they are won against the —often furious— will of the former State, so let's go by parts, as Jack the Ripper said:

1. Velvet divorce scenario: agreed secession.

The independent Catalonia is recognized by Spain, becomes a full EU member- state, enters the UN and all the international organizations, assumes its rights and obligations under the existing treaties, etc.
In this case few are the economic impacts on economics since almost everything goes on as usual. Catalonia would gain full control of its own taxes, hence around €16 billion ($21 billion) wouldn’t be siphoned off by Spain every year; economic policies best suited to Catalan needs may be developed if voters choose wisely; and both parts take their fair share of former Spain’s public assets and debt in application of the Vienna Convention of 1983.
Spain’s only loss should be the fore-mentioned Catalan taxes, around 2% of Spanish GDP every year: a big but not an overwhelming blow.

2. Sour divorce scenario: unilateral secession.

If Catalonia succeeds to become, against the Spanish opposition, an independent State whose central authorities exercise effective control over population and territory within defined borders, and it overcomes the difficulties involved –such as raising taxes and making public and private services work–, the effects on economics are closely related to Spain’s success or failure to expel Catalonia from the single European market and the euro.
The only way to deprive European businesses and people of the single market rights they now have in Catalonia, and strip Catalan businesses and people of their single market rights all around Europe, is an unanimous decision of the 28 member-states. Otherwise these rights cannot be forfeited.

There are two sub-scenarios:
2a. From impact to wallop: Secession inside the European single market.
If Spain fails to get Catalonia off the European single market and the euro, but blocks its membership as an EU member-state –that requires an unanimous decision–, its reprisals against the independent Catalonia would be similar to the Spanish policies on Gibraltar and China’s on Taiwan: to make Catalan life inside the European single market and the euro highly bleak and rueful, and doing its best to clog any Catalan endeavor to become international organizations' and treaties' member.
Spain wouldn’t even recognize the existence of independent Catalonia, it wouldn’t agree to negotiate any partition of public assets, and it surely wouldn’t accept the former Spanish and now foreign pensioners’ entitlement to be paid their earned pensions.
In this case Catalonia should just take the Spanish public assets that dwell in its territory, and pay its pensioners with its own raised taxes, as Spain nowadays does in a pay-as-you-go pension system.
The main impact would be on debt: Spain retains all its €1 trillion debt ($1.3 trillion) with a shrunk GDP after losing Catalonia’s GDP, that is 19% of the nowadays Spain’s GDP –therefore its debt-to-GDP ratio would soar to 114% from the currently 100%.
Catalonia’s debt is €64.5 billion ($85.8 billion), 30.9% of its GDP, and Spain owns 60% of it. This is a powerful tool in Catalan hands to retaliate against the Spanish reprisals –such as behind-the-curtains officially-sponsored commercial boycotts doomed to end quickly: not to pay the former Spanish Catalonia's debt owed to a rowdy Spain.
Whence a not-agreed independence inside the euro and the European single market should be an acrimonious but manageable scenario, with huge but limited economic damage for both Catalonia and Spain.

2b. From wallop to Armageddon: Secession outside the European single market.
A completely different outcome will arise if Spain succeeds to implement an unanimous EU decision to wipe Catalonia off the euro and the single market, hence to impose tariffs on Catalan goods and services as a third country.
A Spanish commercial war would follow to take Catalonia out of the Spanish market, where Catalan goods and services are sold up to €39 billion ($51 billion),  18.5% of Catalan GDP. Since even newly independent countries are not prone to turn the other cheek to their would-be ruffians, those Spanish moves would surely provoke akin Catalan measures to wipe  Spain off the Catalan market, where Spanish goods and services are sold up to €27 billion ($36 billion),  3,1% of Spanish GDP. Catalonia could also block or otherwise clog the main land Spanish connections with Europe, that happen to pass through Catalan territory.
Hic sunt leones, sailing uncharted waters in an Armageddon scenario for both Spain and Catalonia.
These are the likely scenarios of the economic impact of secession for both players, a high-stakes game for strong nerves’ people.
Whoever blinks first loses. A lot.

Alfons López Tena and Elisenda Paluzie
Business Insider

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Asturian language forbidden in the Asturias parliament

Iniciativa pol Asturianu has launched an online petition against the decision of the Spanish nationalist parties to impose only Spanish. The leader of the PP (Spanish ruling party) in Asturias, Mercedes Fernandez, have boasted the decision saying "We've boasted that Spanish is the only language of the parliament of Asturias." Citizens, PSOE and Forum (a PP split Asturias) have given full support to the measure. So far 2,700 signatures have been collected.

Moreover, the Xunta Pola Defense of the Asturian Llingua and Xunta Moza and have called for a rally on February 25th in the Asturian parliament against the measure under the motto "Pola dignidá del asturianu. ¡Valió d'agresiones a la llingua asturiana! ' (For the dignity of the Asturian language. Enough is enough of attacks on the Asturian language).

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“No one forces you to speak Galician”

I always try to avoid conflicts that are condemned to gridlock from the start. But sometimes when I hear absurd things I have to respond to them.

I’m not against any language or nation, but I can’t stand hate speech and absurd phrases that are put in the heads of simple-minded people. The maxims they repeat later, even if they sound funny, can be dangerous.

Even though the following conversation I had with a Galician is pretty common, it still makes me think about things a little:

Someone approached me and asked me a question that I didn’t understand. He seemed to be a normal guy and really seemed to have a question. I could not have known that he was Galician. I guess that’s not something that I could guess by looking at his hairstyle or the way his lips moved when he said certain words, because I’m not Sherlock Holmes.

I politely told him that I hadn’t understood him and I asked if he could repeat his question. Without thinking, I asked him this in Catalan, because it’s the language I usually use around here. It had never crossed my mind that the words I spoke out of politeness were rather like bait for a fish—a fish full of hate and frustration toward the culture that this man was in the midst of.

“You make me speak Catalan,” he started to shout. “In Galicia we don’t make anyone speak Galician and here you always make everyone speak Catalan.”

“Who makes you?” I tried to figure out where his problem was coming from, but the man was just shouting and it was impossible to have a fruitful conversation.

“Speak to me in Galician or Mandarin if you know it, because the more languages we know, the richer we become.” I tried calming him down but there was no way to communicate with him, because he just kept repeating the same words. Finally, I shrugged my shoulders and I left, so we wouldn’t waste our time.

I regret not having pressed him to give me an answer to my question about who was making him speak Catalan (all Catalans, I guess...) and how exactly they were pushing him around to speak it. I surmise that neither the obligation nor the pressure to speak Catalan were very onerous, because this Galician man didn’t seem to know a single Catalan word, not even for a courteous gesture or a rude insult.

Anita Janczak

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pompeu Fabra, the university professor

"Pompeu Fabra always used to speak without much emphasis, in an almost colloquial manner. His explanations were absolutely clear and his scientific rigour, with a touch of irony here and there, and even, at times, jokes, was perfectly adapted to his educational intentions. He did not want to be seen as brilliant, he wanted to communicate and persuade. The wise man masqueraded as the professor […]"
(Alfred Badia, to Jordi Mir (1998): Memòria de Pompeu Fabra. 50 testimonis contemporanis, Proa.) [Memory of Pompeu Fabra. 50 Contemporary Testimonies, Proa.].
As mentioned in his biography, he studied industrial engineering - to please his family- and held a professorship at the Engineering School in Bilbao, where he lived for ten years (1902-1911). However, his firm vocation was always linguistics, Catalan and languages in general.
In 1911, when called upon by Enric Prat de la Riba, then president of Barcelona county council, he moved to Barcelona, where he was appointed to the professorship of Catalan created by the county council, a post he lost under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-30).
On the demise of the dictatorship, he was directly appointed professor of the University of Barcelona (1932), without going through the normal channels, compulsory up until then, of taking public examinations for the post. Shortly afterwards, when the University became autonomous, he was made chairman of the university board (1933), and was subsequently imprisoned (1934) for a few months as a result of this post, following the so-called Fets d'Octubre [October Incidents]. Notes taken by some of his students have survived to serve as witness to his dedication to the university. Some of these notes have been published (those by Pere Galtés, Recull de les lliçons del curs de català superior 1933-1934 pel mestre En Pompeu Fabra, [Collection of Lessons from the Advanced Level Catalan Course 1933-1934 Given by Professor Pompeu Fabra], and those of Joan Miravitlles, Apunts taquigràfics del Curs superior de català (1934-1935) professat per Pompeu Fabra a la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona[Shorthand Notes of the Advanced Level Catalan Course (1934-1935) Given by Pompeu Fabra at the Autonomous University of Barcelona]); these and other unpublished notes will be published in the Obres completes [Complete Works] of Fabra, which are in the process of being published.
In 1945, at the age of 77 and in exile, Fabra was appointed doctor honoris causa by the University of Toulouse.
PortadaAUTOR: Fabra, Pompeu
TÍTOL: Apunts taquigràfics del curs superior de català, 1934-1935
PUBLICAT: Andorra la Vella : Erosa, 1971

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Carles Puigdemont new Catalonia's president towards independence

The coalition Together for Yes (JxSÍ) and Popular Unity Candidates (CUP) have agreed to the presidency of the new Catalan regional government. Thus on January 10 Carles Puigdemont, of JxS, has been declared the 130th President of the Generalitat until now mayor of the city of Girona. The agreement provides for the proclamation of an independent Catalan state within a maximum period of 18 months. CUP and JxS have most of the Catalan parliament with 72 seats over 135 MPs.

Puigdemont has been elected by 70 yes against 63 not and two abstentions.

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Agreement to form new Catalonian goverment after Mas steps aside

Independentists forces struck a last-minute agreement today to form a new government to work towards independence from the Kingdom of Spain.

It brings an end to more than three months of deadlock between "Together for Yes" (Junts pel Sí) secessionist alliance and the more radical, far-left separatist CUP party that together hold a majority in the Catalan parliament.

The agreement supposes Artur Mas stepping aside to seal the deal. "This is not an easy decision, but it is a coherent decision. I am stepping aside and will not be standing as a Together for Yes candidate for the re-election of president of the autonomous government."

Girona mayor Carles Puigdemont will be elected tomorrow as the 130th Catalonia's President. Together for Yes won 62 seats in the 135-seat parliament in regional elections in September -- but were unable to form a government with the CUP, which held a crucial extra 10 seats, due to bitter disagreement over Mas.


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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Corsican nationalists won a historic victory

The Mediterranean island of Corsica, a territory with a far greater degree of self-government than is the norm in “metropolitan France”, has experienced a significant shift to parties representing various strands of Corsican autonomous sentiment, from cautious regionalists to progressive nationalists. Though their combined support was slightly down when compared to the previous elections in 2010, the creation of a joint “list” between the majority Femu a Corsica a and the minority Corsica Libera yielded the new alliance, Pè a Corsica or “For Corsica”, just over 35% in the decisive second round of voting. This was enough to give them nearly half the seats in the Assemblea di Corsica or Corsican Assembly. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Corsican nationalists have won a historic and unexpected victory in France’s regional elections, gaining two seats short of an outright majority on the island. The Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) list won more than 35% of the votes in the second round of polls on Sunday, giving it 24 of the 51 seats in the local authority council. Nationalists, who joined forces with those seeking independence from French control for the run-off vote, are now the Mediterranean island’s main political force.

In what was the only four-way battle in the French regional elections, Gilles Simeoni, who is also the mayor of Bastia, the island’s second city, won 35.34% of the vote, well ahead of the leftwing alliance led by Paul Giacobbi, who polled 28.49%, and the centre-right candidate who obtained just over 27%.

Corsica’s increasingly powerful nationalist and independence movements are opposed to France’s cultural and political dominance over the island, which it annexed in 1768. Nearly two and a half centuries have not strengthened the bond between the island and Paris.

There are at least two branches of nationalism on Corsica: nationalists who seek reform aimed at promoting Corsican identity, and hardline independence seekers who want the island to break free of France. The nationalists will have two years to prove themselves in power. Local authority reorganisation means Corsicans will be called on to vote again in two years.”

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Catalan Police upgrade website, in bid to gather more counter-terrorism intelligence from citizens

The Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police force) have expanded their website, making it possible for citizens to report suspicions of terrorist activity. In addition, it informs citizens about the terrorism alert level (currently 4 over 5) and explains how security forces act in each level. Speaking in Valls on Thursday, 10 December, Interior Minister Jordi Jané explained that the goal of the revamped website was to “lay down patterns prompting trust, proximity, and information” through open channels. He said that, in addition to the web, citizens could get in touch with police on the phone or by e-mail, adding “we expect citizens' cooperation”. The minister asked people to forward to the Mossos d'Esquadra “suspicious news”, given that they may contribute “most valuable information to face a threat from which nobody is immune”. Information provided to the Catalan police will be confidential, and agents will ensure providers' privacity.

The telephone number to report suspicious terrorist activity is 937 285 220, or 112 in the event of an emergency. The e-mail account for such purposes is The minister explained that citizens could still directly visit a police station if they preferred. Jané added that the revamped website would also help combat false rumours of terrorist attacks.

Alex Calvo is an expert on defence and security in the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region. He tweets at Alex__Calvo and his work can be found here.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Àngel Colom: “Barcelona must have a grand mosque financed by moderate Islam”

We are visiting Àngel Colom, director of the Fundació Nous Catalans (New Catalans Foundation), a few hours before the latest arrests of alleged recruiters of Jihadist combatants in Catalonia. He welcomes us in the organization's headquarters, located in the central quarter of Santa Coloma de Gramenet (Barcelona conurbation).

- La Razon (Madrid-based daily) has written on its front page (Catalan President) “Mas and Junqueras' New Catalans travel to Syria to join the IS”. Are you aware of anybody connected to the Foundation that you head being fighting in Syria?

Absolutely not. Neither fighting in Syria nor merely supporting Jihadism.

- La Razon also says that, according to counter-terrorism sources, there are 10-12 combatants from Catalonia in Syria, having emerged from the milieu of New Catalans and (second-largest Catalan party) ERC's immigration working group. Can you vouch for the fact this is not the case?

Long ago I learned not to vouch for anything or anybody. However, from what I know and from the work that we are doing with the Muslim community, I can state that all of this is a fabrication by this Spanish nationalist pamphlet. It is a lie.

- Maybe the origin of the report lies in your tight connection with the Muslim community …

One thing is the religion of Islam, as respectable as any other, and a different thing is Islamist ideology. If, in Catalonia, there is an organization working to ideologically combat radical Islamism and stand side by side with democrats from the whole of Europe and all over the world, that is us. I do not know whether La Razon is aware of this, but Spain's Interior Ministry and security forces are.

- Why do you believe that this report surfaced?

They try to link the independence movement to Jihadism. It is one of their long-standing obsessions.

- Who is behind this?

- The PP (Popular Party) administration, the CNI (National Intelligence Centre), and a number of Madrid-based media outlets.

- Is there any chance that somebody, who was connected to your Foundation at some specific point in time, may have later radicalised?

If so, it would be a very rare exception, but I am not aware and very much doubt it. The people who come here know that they are working in a project whose values are completely opposed to Jihadist Fascism. Therefore, I am very calm.

Jihadism is Fascist

- Are there Jihadists in Catalonia?

There is a small radical minority, as in all over Europe. However, it is here where one must distinguish Islamists from Muslims. I said earlier that I was not vouching for anybody, but I do vouch for the huge majority of Muslim Catalans who have nothing to do with Jihadism. Look, here we also have a minority of Catalan Fascists of Catholic extraction who demonstrate on 12 October (Spanish national day) in Montjuïc, and we do not stigmatize Catholic religion as a result.

- Are there radical Imams in Catalonia?


- Do you (the Foundation) know who they are?

Yes, and sometimes we have reported them.

- Such as?

Abdelwahab Houzi, an imam in Lleida (one of Catalonia's four provincial capitals, in the West), who for years has been preaching an intolerant, mediaeval, sectarian Islam. In the past the local council buttered him up a few times. Now he is under greater control, but keeps preaching. Another case is an Imam in Reus (Southern Catalonia) who comes and goes from the Netherlands, and in Torredembarra (nearby town) they hold a gathering during Easter bringing together 3,000 of the faithful, who listen to sermons by Imams from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Spain's police and Civil Guard (constabulary-type police) know it.

I do not understand why the Spanish Government does not expel radical Imams

- And, don't they do anything about it?

No. And I wonder why, knowing what they do and having identified them, they do not arrest and expel them. France and Italy do.

- What is your response to this rhetorical question?

Look, the current chairman of the Islamic Commission of Spain (officially recognized umbrella organization), Mr Mounir Benjelloun Andaloussi Azhari, is somebody ideologically close to Justice and Charity, a movement banned in Morocco.

- Banned?

It is considered illegal and terrorist.

- Why?

It defends deposing the King of Morocco and setting up a caliphate. Needless to say, this is exactly what the IS defends. The thing is that a gentleman who supports this movement is the representative of Muslims in Spain, with the green light from the CNI and the PP administration.

- Have you reported this?

I have talked about this with European experts on Jihadism and they do not understand anything. We find ourselves in a situation where the Spanish Government, which is not working for the security of everybody, is accusing us, us who fight radical Islamism, of connivance with radicalism.

- When incidents such as those in Paris take place, a portion of Catalan society demands a more robust public rejection by the Muslim community against radicals' violence. Do you also miss that?

Years ago I used to think this same way, and I thought that it had to be solved. Now, thanks to extensive talks, Muslim communities have evolved in this direction. After the Paris terror attacks there have been gatherings to condemn them, with more than 80 Muslim communities from all over the country present, to denounce those who claim to be acting in their name. It is true that no gathering involving thousands of people has taken place. However, if it was necessary some day, and I hope it is not necessary, it will take place. Do not doubt it.

- How is the integration of Muslims in our country progressing?

For more than one year we have been working on a National Plan to achieve a country-wide agreement solving the fitting of Muslims into Catalonia. If we do it right, it will serve the purpose of further isolating the tiny minority that radical Islamists amount to.

I would not accept a mosque financed by Qatar or Saudi Arabia

- Does a way to make Muslims feel even more at home involve building Barcelona's famous grand mosque?

For years I have been defending the view that Barcelona cannot be the capital of the Mediterranean if it lacks a grand mosque which is furthermore an architectural jewel.

- Do you understand the reticence displayed by a portion of Catalan society when they hear grand mosque and Barcelona? Not to mention this is a very attractive issue, from a political perspective …

This will come into being of its own accord. In very few years we should be able to lay down the foundation stone of a mosque, of which I want to feel equally proud, as the Catholic Catalan I am, as if it were Sagrada Familia and Santa Maria del Mar (next to Fossar de les Moreres military cemetery, in Barcelona). 

-What shall we do with prejudices?

We must leave them behind. Together with fears and political correctness.

- How should the construction of this grand mosque take place?

The city's local council, together with political parties, must initiate the setting up of a consortium, with the participation of the countries of origin of most Catalan Muslims.

- Are you talking about Morocco?

With Morocco and her King it is easy to talk, because they practice Maliki Islam, very much compatible with European and Catalan values. I am also thinking, however, of Senegal, Pakistan, Mali, and Bangladesh. All these countries may take part in a consortium that would finance the grand mosque's construction. Morocco, for example, has a specific plan that has already resulted in the setting up of a number of mosques in European cities.

We would prevent them from seeking to finance this place of worship and lay down its ideology on the basis of an Islam contrary to European values

- And, what would we get out of this?

We would avoid the temptation by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, to seek to pay for this place of worship, laying down its ideology on the basis of Wahhabi, Salafi Islam, which is opposed to European values.

- What if they were the ones financing the mosque?

Just like I squarely state that a grand mosque is necessary in Barcelona, I say that I am completely against it if Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, finance it.

- Why?

- They would drive the practice of an Islam which is the root of present-day radicalism. Our option must be a mosque with modern values of peace and understanding, and with a school training the Imams who will later teach the Quran in Catalan mosques. Concerning this, there must be no fear.  

What are you therefore expecting from Barcelona City Council.

A brave mayor who takes the bull by the horns, and political parties that properly explain this to citizens.

- And what are you expecting from the countries you mentioned earlier?

I have talked about this with many of them, and they already agree. The issue has moved forward a long way, and now it is necessary that someone take the first step and that everything starts rolling. If we manage it, the radicalism that may exist will gradually shrink until it becomes an anecdote.

The above interview was conducted by Iu Forn, and published in on 29 November 2015. The original, in Catalan, is available here. The text in brackets provides some additional background information for international readers. Àngel Colom tweets at @angelcolom, and the New Catalans Foundation at @NousCatalans. Translation by Alex Calvo.

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