On the same day, both the Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Català, and the 'number 2' of the governing People's Party (PP), María Dolores de Cospedal, compared Catalonia's self-determination process with the Fascist and Nazi movements in Europe's 1920s and 1930s. Without directly mentioning Catalonia, Català stated in a public conference in Madrid that "Rousseau's thesis about national sovereignty" is being "substituted" with those of the "Nazi ideologist Carl Schmitt", who proposed "overruling the democratic law" through "a charismatic leadership and the mobilisation of masses on the street to mix them up with the entire society and make the strength of accomplished facts to overrule democratic law".
|Spanish Minister of Justice|
According to Català, this is "particularly worrying and refers to ill-fated memories and precedents that we all know about". A few hours after the Justice Minister's statement, the PP's Secretary General compared the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, with the European leaders "who thought they had a higher legitimacy than the law". Asked by journalists about which leaders she was referring to, De Cospedal refused to specify, although on previous occasions she had compared the Catalan independence movement and the Catalan Government with "totalitarian regimes" and she had even stated that Catalonia is currently "a sort of dictatorship".
Such comparisons trivialise the horrors of Nazism and are highly offensive for millions of Catalan citizens, particularly coming from politicians of the Spanish nationalist PP, which was founded and chaired for many years by a former Minister of Franco's Fascist and military dictatorship. The Catalan pro-independence movement has always acted in a peaceful and festive way, without pressure, pushed by grass-root civil society organisations and based on a varied ideological plurality. In fact, the self-determination process has been actively backed by 6 different political parties, ranging from the Christian-Democrats to the Alternative Left, passing through Liberals, Social-Democrats, Green-Socialists and post-Communists. In addition, it does not impose independence but it mainly demands to hold a free and democratic vote on independence, as Scotland did; a possibility that is totally blocked by Spanish authorities, who impose a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution and refuse the slightest negotiation on it.
A few days ago, the expert in populist movements throughout Europe, Meindert Fennema – Emeritus Professor at the University of Amsterdam – told the CNA that the Catalan self-determination "is not populist" and that he considered the comparisons with Nazism to be "ridiculous" and "nonsensical". On top of this, Dr. Fennema highlighted that Catalonia's society is highly inclusive, since it has welcomed and integrated millions of immigrants in the last 100 years, with many of them coming from poorer areas of Spain.
Catalonia has led the way in integrating millions of immigrants
In fact, 70% of the Catalan population has origins from outside Catalonia and yet there are no separate language communities. An active and pluralist civil society and work opportunities within the Catalan industry were important elements to guarantee such levels of integration, which have also been strengthened in the last 35 years through the Catalan school model, which guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan language, as results show. However, the Spanish Government is trying to change this model, by imposing a reform that attacks Catalan language.
Now, around 50% of the population would support independence from Spain, according to most of the polls published during the last 2 years. On top of this, support for holding a self-determination vote is around 80%, regardless of whether people would vote for independence or not. In the last Catalan elections, held in November 2012, 80% of the elected MPs ran by supporting the organisation of a legal self-determination vote.
Spanish authorities have ignored the democratic mandate from the last elections
The Spanish authorities ignored this democratic mandate and have been rejecting any negotiation on the issue. They have also ignored or downplayed the massive pro-independence demonstrations organised by civil society organisations in 2012, 2013 and 2014, which gathered more than 1.5 million people each.
Furthermore, over the last 2 years self-determination demands were not disappearing and were in fact increasing -out of the Spanish authorities' control- and some Spanish nationalist politicians and media started to compare them with Nazism. Their main argument is that an independence referendum is illegal (according to a monolithic and restrictive interpretation of the Constitution) and those who want to hold it want to impose independence on the rest and therefore they are like the Nazis. Such ridiculous comparisons have only increased over time, even being repeated by Spanish Ministers and by leading members of the Spanish nationalist parties, who incidentally deny that they are Spanish nationalists.
Taking into account the no-to-everything attitude of the Spanish Government that made an mutually-agreed vote impossible, Catalan representatives, together with civil society organisations, organised a symbolic vote on independence on last November 9, one with no legal value, as was immediately recognised by the President of the Catalan Government when he called such a vote. This symbolic vote took place despite the total opposition of the Spanish authorities, who sent last minute threats to demobilise citizens. Since November 9, the clash between Catalan self-determination supporters and Spanish nationalism has intensified and tension has significantly increased.
Separation of powers is doubtful in Spain
The Spanish Government has put pressure on the Public Prosecution Office to press criminal charges against the Catalan President and other members of the Catalan Executive, over the November 9 vote. This seriously damages the separation of powers in Spain. The Director of Spain's Public Prosecution, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, is directly appointed by the Spanish Government and directly reports to the Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Català. Both Torres-Dulce and Català have denied any interference, but they admitted to speaking daily during the last few weeks.
On top of this, over the last few months, the Spanish Government and the PP have been announcing in advance not only on what the actions and decisions made by the Public Prosecution Office would be, but also those by the Constitutional Court and other State bodies. In addition, before any judicial decision was made, they already stated that some decisions adopted by the Catalan authorities were "illegal", showing little respect for the separation of powers and the autonomy of the judicial power.
The PP has close ties with Franco's dictatorship
The Justice Minister who speaks each day with the Director of the Public Prosecution Office is the person who is now criticising not respecting the legal framework and who compares Catalonia's self-determination with the mobilization by Nazism. Such comparisons are offensive and ridiculous, particularly coming from politicians of the Spanish nationalist PP, which was founded and chaired for many years by a former Minister of Franco's Fascist and military dictatorship, Manuel Fraga. Furthermore, in May 2013, the Spanish Government's Delegate in Catalonia and PP Member, María de los Llanos de Luna, paid tribute to a brotherhood of soldiers and supporters of the ‘Divisón Azul’, a division of Spanish volunteers who fought in Hitler's army on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.
In addition, significant PP members come from families with close ties with the Franco regime, such as the former Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who was replaced by Català a month ago. An Argentinian judge has requested the extradition of Ruiz-Gallardón's father-in-law, José Utrera Molina, for crimes during the military dictatorship. He was Minister of the Fascist Franco regime and signed several death penalty orders against political prisoners. A few days ago, Utrera Molina showed no regret and stated he had been following the legal procedures of that time. In fact, such an investigation against the crimes of Franco’s regime is being undertaken in Argentina because the PP managed to block it in Spain, supporting the Supreme Court's decision to fire the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who was investigating the case. Garzón is the same judge who prosecuted Augusto Pinochet for crimes against Humankind and requested his extradition from the UK.
European politicians start to react
In October, the German Christian-Democrat party CDU was outraged by how Nazism was being trivialised by a Member of the European Parliament from Spanish nationalist party UPyD, who sent a letter to the 751 other MEPs in which she compared the Catalan self-determination process with what was going on “in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s”. The CDU MEP Ingeborg Grässle asked for an apology as she was "shocked" and "outraged" by such a trivialisation and such disrespect towards the victims of Nazism.
Furthermore, in September 2013, the previous European Commissioner for Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights, Viviane Reding, had already warned Spanish politicians against trivialising Nazism. However, EU institutions have been particularly reluctant to publicly criticize such comparisons, fearing the reaction from the Spanish Government. Since they officially consider the Catalan self-determination process Spain's "internal affair", they can avoid talking about it, regardless of the fact that Catalonia's self-determination demands directly speak to the European Union's core values such as the promotion and protection of democracy, peaceful resolution of conflicts, ideological plurality, cultural diversity and building a union of citizens, which should go beyond Member State governments.
Comparing Catalonia's self-determination democratic process with the Nazi regime has become one of the arguments the Spanish nationalists have been using over the last two years, repeated in extreme-right television stations and even at the Spanish Parliament. Such an offensive and dishonest comparison outrages most of the Catalan society because of its total unfairness in describing the current democratic and peaceful self-determination process and for trivializing Nazism and the suffering of its victims – including hundreds of Catalans who died in concentration camps. Now, the controversy has reached the European Parliament. Read full article....
Warning to Spain by the European Commission: trivialising Nazism or other totalitarian regimes is unacceptable. “The intentional public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of the Nazi crimes is to be made criminally punishable” said the Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, the ACN can confirm. Following a complaint by Catalan MEPs about the honours received by a brotherhood of soldiers and supporters of the ‘División Azul’ that fought alongside the Nazis, Brussels warned that next year it will be able to fine member states that do not prosecute “incitement to violence or hatred”. Read full article...
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