On Sunday 23 February, European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding visited Barcelona, where she took part in an open debate with citizens at Gaudi's La Pedrera. Reding tried to walk a tightrope, asking the Spanish regime to negotiate with Catalonia, conquered in 1714, but saying that the purpose of the talks should be to secure continued Spanish control over the country. Spaniards have already told her what they think about her proposal, so we shall not waste any time discussing the prospects for any constitutional arrangement short of independence. Telling a master to negotiate in good faith with his slave is a rather difficult proposition.
What is rather odd is that in the days leading to the debate, and in its aftermath, Reding's social media team launched a charm offensive, trying to butter up Catalans with empty expressions such as “I love Catalonia” (Twitter, 23 February). This expression reminds one of FU's description of lame Collingridge as someone who needed to be liked, “An admirable trait, that… in a spaniel or a whore, not, I think, in a Prime Minister”. Well, we have bad news for whichever genius came up with that Tweet, and its accompanying messages: Catalans are neither spaniels, nor whores. We do not need to be liked by the European Commission, its vice president, or anybody else for that matter. What we do need, what we are indeed fighting for, and what we shall achieve, is to regain our freedom. Our parliament is the oldest in Europe, already meeting in the XII Century, we lived under a constitution, with a clear division of powers and rule of law, when much of Europe had never heard about any of these concepts. We had a constitutional monarchy, when most of the Old Continent was living under tyrants. We gave birth to modern maritime law. Our country was the first maritime democracy. We lost all this in 1714, by force of arms, and we will get it back. We will get it back because although we lost our liberties, we never lost our spirit. Freedom is an eternal flame that lives in our hearts, democracy is our common faith, the rule of law is our child.
So, no more expressions of love please, no more treating us as minors, or slaves, or feeble minded people. No more sweet Tweets, empty words, childish expressions. Keep all those for spaniels and whores. A storm is gathering, a great battle is coming, between the forces of liberty and those of tyranny, between good and evil, between democracy and dictatorship, between the ballot and the bullet. European Commission Vice President Reding and her colleagues can choose which side to support. Before taking their decision, though, there is something they should remember. Some years on, when their grandchildren are playing around them, or perhaps sitting on their knee, sooner or later one of them will ask: what did you do, when Catalans rose against oppression, and regained their freedom? Before choosing sides, bear this question in mind, and decide what it is that you will want to tell your grandchildren.
Alex Calvo is an expert on Asian security and defence