Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yes to Democracy, Yes to the Union: Best Outcome for Catalonia's National Interest

The result of the Scottish referendum, with a majority voting for the Union, and the display of democratic values put on by both sides during the campaign and up to the last minute, amount to the best possible outcome for Catalonia. By voting freely on the future of the Union, Scots have helped highlight how Spain is and remains a prison of peoples, while the United Kingdom is a free union of equals. By choosing to retain the Union, Scottish voters have kept in place a global force for good and net security contributor to NATO, paving the way not just to the recognition of Catalonia but to a much needed mutual defence treaty which is essential for the defence of Gibraltar and peace and security in the Mediterranean. 


British Democracy Versus Spanish Colonialism

The holding of the Scottish referendum has made it possible to highlight how multinational states can only survive and thrive on the basis of the consent, expressed at the polls, of the different nations involved. For months, the two camps have worked hard but respectfully and democratically, to convince Scottish voters. Needless to say, this is worlds apart from the Spanish approach, which treating Catalonia as an object, instead of a subject, has seen Madrid (both the government and political parties, and more generally speaking Spanish civil society) launch a barrage of threats and insults against Catalonia, not pausing for a second to explain the benefits, if any, of remaining under Spanish sovereignty. Thus, while the UK is a Union, one of equal and free parties, where no one is forced to stay unless he wants to, Spain sadly remains the sum of Castille and her colonies, with the ever-present threat of military force the only glue holding together what has never been a marriage of equals. Note that Spaniards always talk about “unity”, while never employing the word “Union”.


Democracy Enables UK To Be a Net Security Contributor

This use of the police and the military to keep down colonized peoples is the ultimate reason why Spain is a security consumer, since the priority of her Armed Forces and security and intelligence services is keeping slaves under control. To be honest, many Spanish units have the same training and equipment found in other NATO countries, but their ultimate purpose is very different. Spain did not participate in #BALTOPS2014 because her naval units were busy harassing Gibraltar (punished for preferring to be free under Her Majesty the Queen than just another slave in the Spanish 'paradise') and boats displaying Catalan flags. In July 2014, while the Royal Navy was busy contributing to collective security, Spain's Civil Guard imposed a 3,000 euro-fine to a boat owner for displaying a Catalan state flag. Can anybody imagine the Royal Navy abandoning her duties to punish someone for showing a Scottish flag? 


The Impact of the Scottish Referendum in the European and International Arenas

Scottish voters have chosen to remain in the United Kingdom, but the run-up to the referendum has forced European and international institutions to conduct some discrete planning, just in case the result was a different one. In particular in the case of the EU, this is likely to be useful when it comes to recognizing Catalonia, since some of the legal and political issues involved are similar. On the other hand, two key differences are evident. First of all, the concerns (expressed, for example, by President Obama) about the potential damage to British security contributions are not applicable to Spain, a security consumer who often acts at odds with NATO (for example by letting the Russian Navy operate from Ceuta, a Spanish possession in North Africa facing Gibraltar). No wonder President Obama has never spoken against Catalan independence, why should he support a regime backstabbing NATO? Second, the size of the Scottish economy and her net positive fiscal balance with the rest of the United Kingdom, means that, had voters chosen independence, this would not have signalled trouble for Sterling. Actually, Prime Minister David Cameron guaranteed the UK's national debt regardless of the outcome of any negotiations with an independent Scotland. On the other hand, Spain proper has long been enjoying huge forced net fiscal transfers from Catalonia, and her national debt is clearly unsustainable in the absence of a deal with Barcelona, involving swift recognition in exchange for taking over a portion. Since Spain is a euro zone member, Madrid's default may bring down the single currency. As explained earlier, though, despite these two key differences, much of the discreet planning by EU institutions on the so called 'internal enlargement' prompted by the Scottish referendum will be most useful when Catalonia declares independence, resuming her freedom lost in 1714 by force of arms. 


Catalonia and the United Kingdom: Two Natural Partners and Allies

Much unites Catalonia with England and the wider United Kingdom. Just to mention a few, parliamentary democracy (the two oldest parliaments in Europe are Catalonia's and England's), the rule of law, constitutionalism and the notion of division of powers, pro-business and pro-entrepreneurship culture, and a strong commitment to collective security. Shared values are not, of course, in and by themselves enough to provide the foundations of lasting bilateral cooperation, but when one adds common interests into the mix, it becomes clear that the label “natural partners and allies” is more than justified. These common interests include, among others, the fight against terrorism and organized crime, security in the Mediterranean, the defence of Gibraltar, the rule of law at sea, freedom of navigation, free trade and an open global economic system, a strong NATO and trans-Atlantic relationship, and cooperation with fellow maritime democracies like Japan. 


Next Steps: Recognition, Mutual Defence Treaty, Defence Cooperation 

For the above mentioned reasons, Catalan diplomacy has long recognized London as one of the keys to the consolidation and widespread recognition of a re-born Catalan state. The UK is not just one of the leading powers of the world, but holds a seat at the UN Security Council and is one of five (six if one includes India) recognized nuclear powers. She is home to a dynamic economy, a cultural powerhouse, and a prestigious military that has proved its worth time after time. It is no coincidence that one of the Generalitat's (Catalan Government, established in 1359) delegations abroad is in London, in able and discrete hands. Whereas negotiations with Germany will likely focus on Spain's national debt and the euro, with a somewhat reluctant Merkel aware that Madrid is defaulting unless she brokers a deal with Spain, talks with London are likely to take place on a much more positive note. 



Following London's recognition of the re-born Catalan state, next steps should include a mutual defence treaty and a range of defence cooperation agreements resulting in the provision of training, regular holding of joint drills, and frequent port visits by the Royal Navy. One of the lessons from the 1982 Falklands War is that you can never know what a non-democratic regime will do, another is that regional allies are vital. For both reasons, it is essential to see the Catalan Navy and the Royal Navy jointly ensuring security in the Western Mediterranean and the safety freedom, and well being of the population of the Rock. Russia'a growing naval presence at Spain's Ceuta provides a further incentive for strong naval cooperation between London and Barcelona. Our commitment must extend to all areas of human security, with for example spill control equipment ready to quickly move between Gibraltar and Catalonia, in either direction, if the need arises, and strong cooperation in areas like security in the cruiser industry. Defence attaches and police liaison officers must be exchanged without delay. Direct flights between Catalan airports and Gibraltar must start at once, with the necessary security measures in place, a necessity which the MH17 tragedy has sadly reminded us. Democracies can never lower their guard wherever revisionist powers are equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, but neither can they succumb to the temptation of appeasement, or in Winston Churchill's immortal words, the hope of being eaten last by the crocodile.

The Issue of Commonwealth Membership

Last, but not least, we have the issue of whether Catalonia should apply for Commonwealth membership. This we shall discuss in a future article. In any case, technical cooperation with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is essential.

Àlex Calvo
@Alex__Calvo


Alex Calvo is an expert on Asian Security and Defence, currently a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan) 

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