Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Catalan President ready to call early elections to achieve independence from Spain in 18 months

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, gave a solemn speech on Tuesday evening in Barcelona to propose the next steps in Catalonia’s self-determination process. “It is time for the definitive consultation vote” on independence to take place, Mas stated after 2.3 million people participated in a symbolic vote on independence on November 9. Taking into account the Spanish Government’s no-to-everything attitude over the last 2 years, the “only tool” to allow citizens to decide on their own collective future as a nation is early elections to the Catalan Parliament, organized within the current legal framework, he emphasized  Mas affirmed being “ready” to call such elections but under a specific condition: parties and civil society organizations have to transform them into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence, as otherwise there is no need for early elections, he stressed. 

However, Mas highlighted the urgent necessity to become an independent state in order to have “the tools” to improve the lives of citizens and to better fight poverty, unemployment or corruption, after “the Spanish State has let us down” on many occasions. Now,political parties should be “generous” and respected personalities and professionals from the Catalan society should run in a single list that should clearly stand for independence, making other issues secondary, according to Mas. If such a list obtained an absolute majority, independence should be negotiated with Spanish, European and international organizations within the next 18 months. People forming this list should commit to only run once and the Catalan President said he was ready to be this list’s front-runner but also to end it, the latter case ruling out the possibility of his being elected. In these 18 months, the new state’s basic structures should be built and a citizen participation process should be launched to debate the new Constitution. Then, after those 18 months, constituent elections and a referendum to ratify the achieved independence should be called, with political parties taking a main role once again. Mas did not disclose when the early elections should be called but he said that the entire process to build the new state should be finished by the end of 2016. Therefore, early elections should be called within the next 6 months, during which time Mas also insisted that parties have to better explain what the independent state will be like.

On Tuesday evening, the Catalan President proposed a road map for the next two years: early elections to the Catalan Parliament and, if a single pro-independence list get an absolute majority, negotiations to reach full independence in 18 months. Mas recognised that there will be parties that will not recognise the plebiscite nature of these early elections. Hence, he stressed, the importance of running in a single list that supports, without any doubts, the creation of an independent Catalan state. In addition, partisan fights and ideologies ¨should be put aside” for the benefit of “shared ideals”, Mas stated. The Catalan President recognised that the process and steps ahead are “difficult”, but he asked citizens and parties to think of the generations to come and of the “people who gave their lives” in the past to grant Catalans a better life. In fact, Mas highlighted that independence was not an objective in itself but a means to obtain “better” and “more tools” to improve the lives of citizens.

Mas gave his speech in Barcelona’s Fòrum Auditorium in front of 3,000 people. He emphasised that he was speaking “as the President of Catalonia”, and not on behalf of the Government nor any political party. The audience clapped on many occasions during the 1-hour-and-20-minute speech, particularly when he was referring to the Spanish authorities prosecuting him, the need to form a single list, to not call elections if they are not transformed into an independence plebiscite, the promise not to run again after the next elections and the opportunity to build a country with less corruption.

The ERC leader was present

Within the audience, were all the members of the Catalan Government and many representatives from several political parties, business associations and civil society organisations. Among the attendees, the leader of the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, was present, which was significant taking into account the increasing speculation that he could run together with Mas. However, there were also important absentees such as the historical ‘number 2’ of Mas’ coalition; Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who leads the Christian-Democrat party UDC, the smallest force within the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU. In fact, two days ago, Duran presented his own political platform that supports granting Catalonia more powers within Spain, pointing towards CiU’s likely division.

There was great expectation for Mas’ speech after November 9’s symbolic vote. The Catalan President did not want to rush after the citizen participation process and at that time he announced he was taking two weeks to reflect on the next steps. He also held a round of talks with political parties supporting self-determination to gather their views and proposals. Furthermore, he sent a last offer to the Spanish Prime Minister to negotiate a mutually-agreed self-determination referendum, but Mariano Rajoy rejected the offer. In fact, the Spanish Government has been rejecting all offers of negotiation during the last 2 years and has ignored all the self-determination demands from Catalonia.

The Spanish Government has been ignoring “the absolute majority” for Catalonia’s self-determination

During his speech, Mas made an overview of the Spanish Government’s attitude for the last 2 years, but also of the relations between Catalonia and Spain for a longer period of time. He highlighted Rajoy’s blocking and no-to-everything attitude, he who has rejected all the proposals sent from Catalonia and has not made any proposals of his own to solve the current political problem. Furthermore, Mas stressed how the Spanish Government was talking about the “silent majorities” during the massive pro-independence demonstrations but “was paradoxically ignoring the absolute majority at the Catalan Parliament that supports Catalonia’s right to self-determination”. In fact, in the previous Catalan elections, held in November 2012, 80% of the newly-elected MPs ran promising a legal self-determination vote.

Mas highlighted how Catalan parties had traditionally contributed to modernise Spain since the 19th century and had been essential in crucial moments in to order to pass the main reforms during the last 35 years of democratic regime. However, the times to modernise Spain seem to be over. Catalans have had and are having a permanent desire to govern themselves, which has been expressed on many occasions during the last few centuries. This is as much “a constant of Catalan identity” as was “the belonging within Spain”. However, now both things do not seem to be compatible any longer, as Spain is carrying out a recentralisation process and attacking Catalan powers and language, he said. 

Mas recognised he was skeptical about whether Spain could change, taking into account its attitude over the last few years, starting with the approval process of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (between 2005 and 2010). In fact, Mas recognised he had almost no hope at all. Nonetheless, “as Catalan President” he will always be willing to sit and talk, and listen to any proposal from the Spanish Government. However, such a proposal will have to be voted by Catalans. “The time for closed-door agreements is over”, he stated, while receiving a round of applause.

“It’s the time for the definitive consultation vote”

Now, the political process that started two years ago with the first massive pro-independence demonstration "has to be completed", emphasised Mas. “We need to know with precision whether there is a majority to build an independent state or not”, he highlighted. “Everybody should be interested in finding this out”, as the current situation and uncertainty cannot be extended over time. With their peaceful demonstrations of the last years, Catalans have earned their right to hold such a vote. Furthermore, with such festive and civic minded-mobilisations, Catalans are already contributing to make the world a better place, said Mas. “It’s the time for the definitive consultation vote”, he stressed.

“Democracy” rules out any violent repression against Catalans and “globalization has torn down borders, also the mental ones”. These are two of the main factors why Catalans can now ask themselves whether or not they want to split from Spain. However, the greatest reason is that “the Spanish State has let us down and is continuing to let us down” on many occasions,stated Mas recalling many events from the last few years. The Spanish State, including the People’s Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), has rejected the proposals to increase Catalonia’s self-government, has been recentralising powers and attacking Catalan culture and language.

Spain was imposing things on Catalonia

Furthermore, Spain is not treating Catalonia “as an equal” but “imposes” things and there is a clear “hierarchical” framework, in which “one orders and the other obeys”. When Catalonia only complains a little, things are fine, but when Catalonia increases the tone of its demands, then repression starts. This has been repeated throughout history and it has also been the case now in times of democracy; hence the great disappointment by a large part of Catalan society.

On November 9, Catalonia became “an adult country”, it “was not underage any longer”. It became a “more liberated country”, “more confident of itself”, emphasised Mas. This “does not mean automatic emancipation”, but it represents “a change of status”, he noticed. And now Catalonia is ready to build an independent country, he pointed out.

The Catalan President was also critical of the self-determination process and highlighted some mistakes that should not be repeated, such as long-discussions about secondary issues and the fact of mixing the roles of civil society and public institutions. However, he also praised the combined efforts of civil society organisations, public powers and individual citizens, carried out in a civic-minded and peaceful attitude. In fact, Mas was asking for a political leadership from the public and democratic institutions and for moving forward in a brave and yet cautious way, combining determination and prudence in the months ahead. The Catalan President warned that the final stages of complex processes tend to be the hardest ones, but he also added that Catalonia has proven to be ready for the challenge.

Mas’ formula for the early elections 

At this point, Mas announced the need for early elections as the only way to continue and take the definitive step in Catalonia’s self-determination process. Parties supporting independence could run in several lists, but at least one wide and shared list should obtain an absolute majority in order to launch the independence negotiations and start building the new state. Mas listed 7 conditions: a single list obtaining an absolute majority; formed by politicians but particularly by independents from the civil society and recognised professionals to build the new state structures; candidates agreeing to only run once; being in office for 18 months and afterwards calling constituent elections and a ratification referendum; that parties would step aside and would run again in 18 months; that the shared list would be funded through a newly-created foundation and donations; and, that the public funds received after the elections would be split between the political parties in order to guarantee their funding during the next 18 months.

The new Catalan Parliament and Government should launch a negotiation process with Spanish, European and international organisations for a maximum time of 18 months. International mediation should not be excluded in order to reach a “fair” agreement “for all the parties”, since this process does not go against Spain and a mutually-beneficial agreement should be reached. In addition, the newly elected Catalan authorities should start building the new state’s structures, such as a tax administration, a social security system, etc. Furthermore, they should launch a citizen participation process to debate a future Catalan Constitution, which should be drafted by a future new Parliament after constituent elections are called. Furthermore, the Catalan Government should guarantee that public services keep running during the negotiation period. Finally, they should call for such constituent elections and a final referendum to ratify the whole process.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Better together or happy apart?

Better together or happy apart? Independence movements in Europe. Hertie School of Governance // Berlin, Germany 

European experts ask the EU to stop avoiding the debate on the possible emergence of new states

The Hertie School of Governance hosted the first conference of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) in Germany entitled Better together or happy apart? Independence Movements in Europe, organised in cooperation with this international school of governance. The event was attended by approximately one hundred people, which included, amongst others, representatives from the German Parliament, the Spanish Embassy, students and faculty, who were all able to participate in the ensuing debate.

The conference was inaugurated by Albert Royo, Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Council, who thanked the Hertie School for its collaboration before giving a brief summary of the current political situation in Catalonia after the vote of the 9 November.

During the first part of the conference, Nico Krisch, ICREA Research Professor at the Barcelona Institutes of International Studies (IBEI) and Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance, explained the margin offered by International law for European independence movements. According to Krisch, the scope for operability is limited, as the movements are not cases of decolonisation or cases where basic human rights are not respected. However, Krisch endorses an approach in accordance with democratic values, whereby the aspirations of a broad majority of a society cannot be silenced. In this sense, the EU should formulate an approach rather than avoid the issue using the excuse that it is an “internal affair”. Krisch ended on the affirmation that the Catalan and Scottish movements are inclusive, not ethnic, more so than the States they aim to part from.

In a round table moderated by Mark Dawson, Professor of European Law and Governance, Hertie School of Governance, Catalan, Belgian and Scottish experts discussed the consequences of a new state within the European Union. Representing a Catalan perspective, Jaume López, Associate Professor of Political Science, University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Catalonia), explained the repeated failures of federalist reforms which Catalonia has proposed to the Spanish state throughout history. He also underlined that Madrid’s repeated refusal of such proposals have caused a rise in pro-independence positions in Catalonia.

Eve Hepburn, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Deputy Director of the Academy of Government, University of Edinburgh highlighted two aspects from the recent Scottish independence referendum. Firstly, as a political leader, you have to respect the democratic will of the people and let them vote. Secondly, as Mr Krisch had also pointed out, the Scottish independence movement was broad and inclusive, which made it especially strong.

Finally, Steven Blockmans, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit, Centre for European Studies (CEPS), and Professor of EU External Relations Law and Governance, University of Amsterdam, asked for more flexibility on behalf of the EU to accommodate regions, and not only to be a club of States. He also spoke about the case of Flanders, where 35 years of constitutional reforms have debilitated the independent movement.

With this event the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia continues the series of conferences on the right to decide in prestigious European universities. The cycle started at Sciences Po Paris in June 2013, and continued with conferences in London, Seville, Uppsala (Sweden), Toulouse, Lisbon, Utrecht, Santiago de Compostela, Oslo, Geneva, Reykjavik and now Berlin. Upcoming conferences of the series will be held in Rome and Vienna during the month of December.

The Hertie School of Governance was founded in 2003 by the Hertie Foundation, its main partner. The Hertie School is an international centre, with a variety of first-rate academic projects and a diverse student body. The school prepares students for leadership positions in government, business, and civil society. The Hertie School also actively promotes public debate.

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782 activities in Catalonia for the European Week for Waste Reduction

The European Week for Waste Reduction 2014 is starting! 

Around 12.000 actions are implemented, 782 in Catalonia

On 22 November 2014, the sixth edition of the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) will start. The 6th edition of the EWWR 2014 is a federative project and benefits from wide political support. In particular, it will take place under the patronage of Mr Karmenu Vella - European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries - and Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis - European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

The EWWR 2014 will take place from 22 to 30 November 2014 in Europe and even beyond European borders, as some actions will be implemented outside European countries! Around 12.000 actions have been registered by public authorities, associations, NGOs, businesses, schools and individual citizens. 

This means that there will be more than 12.000 actions will be implemented all around Europe - and beyond – during one single week. Most probably, you will find one of these events, exhibitions, workshops and contest happening near to where you live. The community of the European Week for Waste Reduction can be joined by participating in one of these events.

A complete database of actions is available online on the EWWR website: an advanced research can be made by selecting the country or region of implementation of the action, the themes covered by the actions (Strict avoidance and reduction at source, Reuse and preparing for reuse, Waste sorting and recycling and European Clean-Up Day) and the type of Action Developer, i.e. the entity carrying out the action.

Another research parameter to sort actions that might interest you is the relation with the theme of the Prevention Thematic Days 2014: Stop Food Waste! By selecting this criterion, you will discover the high number of actions that will raise awareness on this issue, informing citizens that food waste represents a substantial loss of resources such as land, water, energy and labour and inviting them to reduce food waste they produce with simple, daily gestures. 

More information on this year’s edition can be found in the Press Release and in a complete Press File for the EWWR 2014. Visit the Press Area!

The EWWR can be followed also on Facebook and Twitter. The EWWR Community shares its updates on waste prevention and virtuous good practices from different countries.

Take part in the European Week for Waste Reduction! YOU can make a difference!
For more info:

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Should Catalonia be independent of Spain?" debate in Gibraltar

Last Sunday 16th I shared a debate before 50 persons -majorly english and gibraltarian- in one of the events of the Gibraltar Literary Festival. The event was "Should Catalonia be independent of Spain?", and it was chaired by William Chislett, former FT correspondant in Madrid and my opponent was Rafael Arenas, Legal Dept. Chief of SCC

The debate was developed within the classic parameters of this events, with Mr. Arenas based on the fear and menace arguments (Spanish Constitution, rejection of European Union), and with addition of some other tipycal fake arguments like the ones related wit the children manipulation in schools or the media manipulation in Catalonia, to put a couple of examples.

This position was responded by myself with the also well known arguments of historic, cultural and economic legitimacy that are teh base of the Catalonia independence claim. Specially impacting were some economic data related to the Catalonian fiscal deficit (8% GDP, 16 bn € yearly) related to the percentage of free and toll roads (47/53 in Catalonia, 81/19 in Spain) or the fact that an hypotetical Spanish boycott to the acceptance of an independent Catalonia in the EU wouldn't be viable for Spain, given that the 40% of the Spanish "non catalan" exports go to Europe through Catalonia, so such a volume like this wouldn't be manageable to shift towards the Basque Country on their way to Europe not even in a short period of time, but also in the mid term. Surprisingly, Mr. Arenas didn't argue about the feasibility of an independent Catalonia.

The 9N vote was also a matter of interest, and the floor questions were related to things like if Podemos (new left wing party in Spain) could help tosolve the issue. In this case both Mr. Arenas and myself agreed that the new party Podemos won't give any solution to the issue. Very impacting was the quote of the Catalan writer Josep Pla -that was not in favour of the independence by the way- that said "there's no more similar thing to a right wing Spaniard than a left wing Spaniard"

Finally a question related to the fact that if the independence of Catalonia could open the "pandora's box" in Spain was replied by myself with the argument that after 150 years trying to change and modernize Spain and get as a result that the only Catalan Prime Minister in the Spanish history (Prim) was killed and increasing waves of anti-catalanism, catalans had gained the right to try the endeavour of independence on themselves.

Àlex Furest

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Better together? Seven big Noes from Spain to Catalonia

They will be topped by legal prosecution and criminal charges against the President of Catalonia because of the symbolic independence vote

This past 9 November, more than 2.3M Catalan citizens went to the polling stations to participate in a symbolic vote on independence. They went to vote despite the obstacles placed in front of them and the threats formulated by the Spanish government and state judicial bodies. This vote was not a referendum like in Scotland, as many would have wished, precisely because the Spanish government decided not to follow the democratic example of David Cameron. However, the international media, perceiving the importance of the vote, reported extensively on the event.

Faced with 2.3M citizens sending a message in a pacific and peaceful way through their vote, as done in the rest of the democratic world, any government would at least take note and pay attention. Politicians are there to see what is going on, comprehend and discuss. However, the Spanish government led by Mr Rajoy, merely qualified the vote as an anti-democratic and useless farce while demeaning it for its participation (one in three Catalans), Mr Rajoy having himself an absolute majority with an even smaller proportion of Spanish voters.

The problem is that for some time now the Spanish government has been refusing to recognise that it has a serious political problem in Catalonia. This problem cannot be dealt with by ignoring it, as done initially, or through sentencing and judicial prosecutions as is being done now. Political problems require political solutions, in Catalonia, Scotland, and everywhere else. There are many who criticise the inflexible position of the Rajoy’s Popular Party, who’s only strategy is to let time pass to see if they are lucky and problems disappear by solving themselves.

From No to No

The negation of the 9 November vote is just one more of a long list of negations. In recent times, the first and most outrageous one, in terms of its consequences, was the sentence of the Spanish Constitutional Court against the Statute of Catalonia in June 2010. Next come the refusal of Rajoy to negotiate a new fiscal agreement (September 2012), the annulment of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Catalan Parliament (March 2014), the refusal to transfer the competences of holding a referendum to Catalonia (April 2014), the suspension of the non-binding consultation law and the decree calling for the 9 November vote (September 2014) and the extension of this suspension to the symbolic participatory process (November 2014).

It is obvious that the attitude of the Spanish government and the state organisms is not conducive to convincing Catalans of continuing to form part of Spain. To the contrary, the number of pro-independence voters has grown continuously, even among immigrant communities and more politically apathetic groups. As a seduction strategy it is unprecedented and unusual to say the least and contrasts starkly with the UK’s Better Together campaign. This culminates with another bridge-burning decision: the State Prosecutor’s will file a complaint and seek criminal charges against President Mas, the Vice-President and the Minister of Education.

This day, 39 years ago, marks the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, great enemy of liberty, democracy, and also of Catalonia. Faced with the political challenge brought forth by Catalonia, Spain has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that these four decades have been sufficient to consolidate a mature democracy. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not the path that has been chosen.

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Spanish Government rules out a new inter-territorial fiscal scheme, despite the current one having legally expired

Spanish Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro
On Wednesday, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cirstobal Montoro, refused to start negotiating and launching a new funding scheme for the Autonomous Communities before 2016, even though the current model had to be reviewed before January 2014. The Catalan Government has been insisting on its review since 2012, since the system does not properly fund basic public services such as healthcare and education in times of economic crisis, areas which are entirely managed by the Autonomous Communities. In addition, Catalonia suffers a permanently high fiscal deficit: each year Catalan taxpayers have to give away some 8.5% of Catalonia’s annual GDP to fund services and infrastructure in the poorer regions in Spain, a transfer equivalent to some €17 billion per year. The problem is that after such annual transfers, public services in poorer parts of Spain have more money per inhabitant than those in Catalonia. 

In addition, the Spanish Government does not invest enough in productive area such as Catalonia, which receives investment way below its population and GDP share. Therefore, the public services in Catalonia are under budgeted compared to other parts of Spain and basic infrastructure is not built which slows down the economy. The Spanish Government has been postponing the new model, despite the territorial tensions and the self-determination demands. Now, Montoro has definitively shut the door and Catalans will have to wait at least a year and half more.

In front of the Spanish Parliament, Montoro announced that the current model funding the Autonomous Community government will not be changed in the current term, which ends in one year time, neither he will start negotiating a new scheme. According to the law, the current model had to be reviewed before January 1st, 2014, which has not been the case. The Spanish Government has been postponing the revision with the argument of the economic crisis, saying that now it was not the time since revenue and spending are not at regular levels. In addition, they added that there would not be enough consensus among the different government levels and Autonomous Communities, even though most of them are ruled by the People’s Party, which also runs the Spanish Government.

However, at the same time, the Catalan Government was urging the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to do so because basic public services such as healthcare, education and social affairs are under severe stress and cannot withstand further budget cuts without their quality being seriously damaged. Since such services are managed by the Autonomous Communities, which can then be blamed by the citizens, Rajoy has not authorised reviewing the current model.

Montoro repeated on Wednesday that with the current economic context, a change is not possible. In addition, he also argued that the current political atmosphere would make such a change “unviable”, regardless of the fact that the Catalan Government has been requesting it since 2012, almost 2 years before the current model was about to expire. In fact, legally speaking, the new model should have entered into force on the 1st January 2014 and therefore should have been negotiated throughout 2013.

The Finance Minister argued that launching such a revision now would trigger “grievances among Spaniards”. Instead of a new model, Montoro emphasised that the Spanish Government is “sharing the debt” among the different government levels to fund public services. Once again, he defended the Liquidity Fund for the Autonomous Communities (FLA), which issues loans that later individual regional governments have to pay back with interest. This mechanism transforms the Spanish Government into a bank that earns money instead of being a coordinator that distributes resources without taking advantage of it. On top of this, Montoro is presenting such loans as a basic assistance to governments such as Catalonia’s, while at the same time the Spanish Executive does not allow the Autonomous Communities to access financial markets and to obtain alternative funds.

Therefore, Montoro is not allowing the Autonomous Communities to get additional funds, neither does he agree on reviewing their current funding scheme, one that cannot provide enough funds for their needs any longer, and, instead, it issues loans out with which the Spanish Government will make money. Through this system, Rajoy is recentralising power and putting the Autonomous Community system under severe stress. In the current political situation in Catalonia, with demands for independence shared by a large part of society, Rajoy’s attitude is far from easing things and, instead, it adds further tension.

On top of this, the Spanish Government refuses to recognise Catalonia’s historical fiscal deficit and it has been denying it or downplaying it. Such an attitude irritated the main business associations in Catalonia, who urged Rajoy to admit the fiscal deficit and to partially correct it, funding infrastructure that is essential to ensure the competitiveness of the Catalan economy, which is Spain’s main economic engine, leading exports, industrial production and tourism industry.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Catalan President: it is “disappointing” that Spain’s reaction to November 9 is based on “courts and prosecutors”

 The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, reacted on Thursday to the announcement that the Director of Spain’s Public Prosecutor Office will press charges against him and 2 other members of his cabinet for having authorised and co-organised November 9’s symbolic vote on independence. Mas stated that “it is disappointing and pitiful” that the Spanish authorities’ reaction to the peaceful mobilisation of 2.3 million citizens is acting “though courts and prosecutors”. Despite the judicial complaint, Mas emphasised that Catalonia “will go on” with its “intentions, in a civic-minded, calm, democratic and firm way”. 

The complaint also includes the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, and the Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, who also reacted on Thursday. Both Ortega and Rigau said to feel “calm” about the fact of being prosecuted. However, the Vice President recognised she had a “bitter feeling” about the lack of political response from the Spanish authorities, which instead press charges against the Catalan Government. 
The President of the Catalan Government,
Artur Mas, on the Universal Children's Day (by ACN)
Ortega added she felt “an immense pride” and was fully convinced of having “respected the law” regarding November 9’s non-binding vote. Rigau emphasised that the judicial complaint was a product of “the political pressure” made by the Spanish Government and the People’s party (PP). However, she also said that such judicial processes cannot “make us walk away from our everyday tasks”. In fact, despite the complaint, Rigau kept her regular schedule and this Thursday she was opening a new school in Mollerussa, near Lleida (western Catalonia).

Barcelona’s main prosecutor will back the complaints against Mas

Besides, the show within the Public Prosecutor Office continued on Thursday, after 12 days of non-stop controversy. Now the main prosecutor in Barcelona Province, Ana Maria Magaldi, stated that not all Catalan prosecutors were against pressing charges against Mas. On top of this, she added that she will ask for the re-opening of all the cases against Mas in relation to November 9’s vote by backing all the complaints filed by citizens and political organisations. Furthermore, she will file appeals to readmit those complaints that have been already rejected by judges. After said announcement, Magaldi refused to answer any questions from journalists and she also refused to make any statement in Catalan, adding in a mocking way that she only spoke in Catalan “to say good morning, good afternoon, and that’s all”.

A summit among the main Catalan prosecutors for next week

After this episode, the main prosecutor of Catalonia, José María Romero de Tejada, announced a meeting for next Tuesday with the 4 provincial heads –including Magaldi – in order to set shared criteria regarding the complaints on November 9’s symbolic vote. The Public Prosecution Office is a hierarchical institution and, despite the fact that each prosecutor has his or her working autonomy, they are also obliged to obey orders from Spain’s top prosecutor, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, who is directly appointed by the Spanish Government.

The Director of Spain’s Public Prosecution Office denies any “rebellion” in Catalonia

In fact, Torres-Dulce also spoke on Thursday, after 12 days of controversy in which his autonomy has been seriously questioned. He stated that the fact of saying there are “rebel and mutinous prosecutors” in Catalonia was “an exaggeration”. On Monday evening, the prosecutors of the Catalan Supreme Court decided not to back Torres-Dulce’s intention to press charges against the Catalan President, although on Tuesday they added they would do it if they were ordered to do so, since they belong to a hierarchical institution.


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The axe and the bonsai

For 300 years we have been wary of the Catalans, fearing that they would become powerful enough to leave us. That has made us treat them like a bonsai (a miniature Japanese tree) smothering them with wires (without being noticed) to grow little and under control, in a small pot with drip water. We grant them powers, but only the most necessary ones and in any case, we keep control of all the functions (e.g. education in Germany is run by the "Länder", NOT by the central Ministry as happens here). We give them money, but just enough to make sure they are always in debt and dependent. We give them infrastructures, but late and always somewhat less than agreed. We give, yes. But little, because we are suspicious that the bonsai might slip through our hands. The truth is, we do not really understand why the ungrateful oak wants to stop being a bonsai, when it fits so well on our shelf. But stubbornly, they dream of becoming a tree. And as we can now see that the wires are not enough, now we show them our axe, made of our sharpened Laws.

After the 9-N vote, the public prosecutor is under the pressure of the Spanish government to take legal action against the president of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, and his vicepresident, Joana Ortega, for alleged prevarication and disobedience. Their crime is to have made it possible for more than two million European citizens to express their opinion about Catalonia's political future as a people in a public poll on November 9th, in accordance with basic rights of all people and peoples enshrined in the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Krystyna Schreiber

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spanish army chief makes dark comments about Catalonia secession bid

Catalans hold independence flags (Estelada) on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes during celebrations of Catalonia National Day (Diada) in Barcelona, Sept. 11, 2014, (QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Spain's army chief has waded into the growing storm over Catalonia's secession bid from Madrid. Chief of the General Staff Jaime Domínguez Buj likened the current state of affairs in the country to Spain's losses more than a century ago during the Spanish-American War.

"When the metropolis is weak," Dominguez said, "the collapse happens."

By metropolis, he is using a term popular among academics for the center of political and colonial power in an empire. When the conflict with the U.S. ended in 1898, Spain had lost its hold over Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam, some of its last prized imperial possessions. The defeat was a traumatic blow to Spanish prestige.

Dominguez went on, insisting his army "is prepared to intervene at home or abroad, to go to Afghanistan or Valencia" to uphold the Spanish Constitution. Valencia is a city and region along Spain's Mediterranean coast, south of Catalonia.

The army chief's comments have furrowed brows, with even a spokesman from the ruling Popular Party calling them "difficult to understand." Catalonia, a northeastern region with its own distinct language and identity, has never been a Spanish colony. Its secessionist movement has gained momentum in recent years, culminating in the region's attempt to stage a referendum on the question of independence earlier this month.

More than two million Catalonians voted in the plebiscite on Nov. 9 in what was a symbolic, non-binding poll that Madrid refused to recognize. The overwhelming majority opted for independence.

The Spanish government insists that the people in the region do not have a right to self-determination. It has also dismissed overtures from Catalan leader Artur Mas to have a constructive dialogue about figuring out a path by which Catalonia, home to one-fifth of the Spanish economy, can determine its own political destiny.

On Tuesday, Spain's state prosecutor even filed a suit against Mas for helping stage the symbolic plebiscite.

The Spanish army, of course, has a troubled past in Catalonia. Under the dictatorship of military strongman Francisco Franco, the Catalan language was barred from schools, the use of Catalan names was prohibited, and local Catalan traditions were suppressed.

Times, of course, have changed greatly since Franco's death and the advent of Spanish democracy. But the army chief's remarks likely won't help patch up the divide between Barcelona and Madrid.

Ishaan Tharoor
writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.


Spanish Army Chief about Catalonia: “when the metropolis is weak”, “the fall takes place”

The Chief of Spain’s Army Defence Staff, General Jaime Domínguez Buj, was asked asked on Tuesday about the situation in Catalonia and he has implicitly compared it with a colony. The main General of the Army stated that “when the metropolis is weak” is the time when “the fall takes place”. 
He added that a “processes” such as Catalonia’s happens “when the central power is weak”, as happened in 1898, when Spain lost Cuba and the Philippines, he said. His words have caused quite some controversy. Later on, Domínguez Buj, nuanced his previous statement and said he was referring to 1808 and the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon’s Empire. Such a war helped some of Spain’s American colonies to get their independence. He also added that he was referring to other historical periods and to other empires, more....

Spanish Army Colonel Threatens Catalonia with Military Intervention

Spanish army colonel Francisco Alamán said in an interview to Alerta Digital that Catalonia would only be independent “over my dead body and that of many other soldiers,” arguing that the Spanish army has solemnly sworn to defend “the non-negotiable principle of Spain's unity,” and that they will defend it “even with our lives.” In the interview he made clear his extreme Spanish nationalistic views by emphasizing concepts like fatherland, Spanish nation, and Spain's unity as the sovereignty principles which the Spanish army has an obligation to address. He also said that "the armed forces are not here to serve the politicians, but the fatherland." He accused Catalan secessionists of being like "scavenging vultures," and made derogatory comments Read more....

Some in Spanish Army Encouraging Catalonia's Occupation

For a while, the media have been reporting about some people in the Spanish army in favor of a military intervention in Catalonia, as for example colonel Francisco Alamán's statements. Today recently retired lieutenant general Pedro Pitarch openly admitted that active and retired members of the military forces are working together in order to “encourage the armed forces” to occupy Catalonia.
In an interview published by El Confidencial, the lieutenant general, who has been in the reserve for three years but is still knowledgeable about the current situation in the army, states that “some military personnel are publicly urging to break ranks and go against the legal system” in order to take measures against Catalonia.
Former lieutenant general Pitarch regrets the fact that “nowadays the spirit of the coup d’état of February 23rd 1981 is back to haunt us,” and he adds that “the ill-meaning ideas that encouraged that coup are well alive.” Read more...

European Parliament vice-president proposes sending in military to prevent democratic referendum in Catalonia

European Parliament vice-president, Spanish nationalist Alejo Vidal Quadras, asked the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, that he choose any brigadier general, “preferably from the guardia civil,” to put a stop to Catalonia's independence process. “Besides fighting the resolution in the courts, we must take over the autonomous region. The Spanish government needs to get in contact with Mas and tell him that what he's doing is against the law, and if he does not change his mind we'll be forced to step in,” he said.

He also offered some details about how this would work. “The Spanish senate meets, has a vote, then takes over the autonomous region. We disband their parliament, the Catalan government goes back home, and the Spanish government delegation in Catalonia takes over Catalonia. The brigadier general is to be in charge of the Catalan police.” Read more...

Spanish government pays homage to Hitler loyalists: once more, Spain is different

As already reported, the Spanish Government’s highest official in Catalonia recently paid homage to the “Blue Division”, a unit of the Wermacht. This did not lead to her firing or resignation, but instead Madrid has explicitly supported  Ms Maria de los Llanos de Luna. Many details have already been discussed in the press and the social media, but in order to understand how odd this is in the European context, we need to remember that the members of this unit made a personal, public, oath of allegiance to the Führer.
Thus, although this was Franco’s contribution to Hitler’s war in the East, together with economic cooperation and intelligence support, each soldier of the Wermacht’s 250th division personally made an oath of loyalty to the German dictator. Therefore, we are not talking about a purely Spanish unit that may have taken part in the hostilities, but rather about a division fully integrated into the German Army. A look at their uniforms, for example, read more...

Unfair Play Against Catalonia

The retired Spanish army officer Francisco Alamán reiterated and elaborated his threats against Catalans in a new interview to Alerta Digital. This time he went even further and demanded that the Catalan MPs who have placed charges against him (Joan Tardà, Alfred Bosch, and Uriel Bertran) be detained “for wanting to fracture Spain and for high treason.” He also demanded that “all political parties that have as their main goal the fracturing of the [Spanish] nation be made immediately illegal.” Alamán claims to have received many messages of support after his first interview, and he declares himself openly a Franco admirer. When they ask him “Do you admire Franco?” he answers “Which Spaniard could not admire him? [...] Read more...

Spanish army chief makes dark comments about Catalonia secession bid

Spain's army chief has waded into the growing storm over Catalonia's secession bid from Madrid. Chief of the General Staff Jaime Domínguez Buj likened the current state of affairs in the country to Spain's losses more than a century ago during the Spanish-American War.
"When the metropolis is weak," Dominguez said, "the collapse happens."
By metropolis, he is using a term popular among academics for the center of political and colonial power in an empire. When the conflict with the U.S. ended in 1898, Spain had lost its hold over Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam, more...

Spanish Retired Military Officer Demands that President Mas Should Be Sent to Prison

After all the first controversial statements by retired Spanish army officer Alamán, no one has silenced him. Quite the opposite. The complicit silence of the Spanish government has given him more strength and he has asked this time that Catalan President Artur Mas be sent to prison, and also all Catalan police people who would not act to jail him. Yesterday a tribunal decided that the Colonel statements threating Catalonia were not only absolutely legal but "freedom of speech".
The retired colonel is not satisfied with sending elected President Mas to jail, he also wants the Catalan police to act againt Catalan government representativesAgain Mr. Alaman keeps his threats to Catalans and Catalan institutions. He asked “When ******* Mr. Mas seriously violates the Spanish Constitution, he needs not to be convinced, but he should be sent to jail, and if we are in a rush for this, a couple of civil guards will do, who are always willing.” Read more...

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