Spain & Catalonia 2017

Written by  //  October 17, 2017  //  Europe & EU, Government & Governance  //  1 Comment

Catalonia: Spain’s top court rules referendum illegal as Catalan leaders double down
Spain’s top court has officially ruled that Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum was illegal because a regional law that backed it was against the country’s constitution.
Key points:
Spain’s Constitutional Court said the referendum was unconstitutional
Catalan leaders have been given until Thursday to renounce independence
A spokesman said leaders will not be “giving in” to Spain
In its ruling on Tuesday, the court said the law was against national sovereignty and the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation” — the court said the parliamentary session that approved the law also violated the country’s constitution.
Catalan leaders also refused on Tuesday to bow to the Spanish Government’s demand that it renounce a symbolic declaration of independence, setting it on a political collision course with Madrid later this week.

11 October
Catalonia baulks at formal independence declaration to allow talks
(Reuters) – Catalonia’s leader balked at making a formal declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday, calling for talks with Madrid over the region’s future in a gesture that eased fears of immediate unrest in the heart of the euro zone.

8 October
Mariano Rajoy: Spain won’t rule out ‘drastic solutions’ on Catalonia
Catalonian independence ‘will not happen,’ prime minister says.
(Politico eu) The Spanish government will do everything in its power to prevent Catalonia from seceding from Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told El País in an interview published late on Saturday.
“We are going to prevent independence from occurring … I can tell you with absolute frankness that it will not happen,” Rajoy said.
Catalonia: hundreds of thousands join anti-independence rally in Barcelona
Police say 350,000 have protested against regional government’s separatist course, but organisers say 930,000 joined in
The march, whose slogan is “Let’s recover our common sense”, was intended to call for a new phase of dialogue with the rest of Spain and featured such luminaries as the Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, former president of the European parliament.
Societat Civil Catalana said more than 1 million people had taken part, but Barcelona police put the turnout at 350,000.
Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is under growing pressure to stop short of declaring independence. The political uncertainty has already led some businesses – including Spain’s third-largest bank – to move their bases from Catalonia.

6 October
An uncertain future for an independent Catalonia
With an independence declaration looking likely, Lucía Benavides reports from Barcelona on the long history of Catalan repression, what’s at stake for the region and why Europe has been mostly quiet on the issue.
(Open Canada) Much to the Spanish government’s disapproval, 2.4 million people turned out to vote in last Sunday’s referendum — 43 percent of eligible voters. According to Catalan officials the “Yes” won with an overwhelming 90 percent, despite attempts by Spanish police to shut down polling stations and block the vote.
Sunday night, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy went on national television to announce that the referendum had not taken place.
Hours later, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont also appeared on television, speaking in both Catalan and Spanish, and announced that Catalans had won the right to independence. He is scheduled to make an official announcement on Oct. 9, when the Catalan government is expected to declare independence. (Despite a Spanish court order Thursday for a temporary suspension of the meeting, the regional government said Friday the session will still be held.)
But the fight for independence goes back much further than events this week — further, even, than the last few years of heightened separatist sentiments within the region. And the implications of the separation, if it goes ahead, could be felt around the world.

Madrid’s violent tactics will only push Catalans towards independence
In Spain national unity is elevated in an almost spiritual way. The slightest concession is treated as a betrayal
(The Spectator) Last Sunday’s violence will push Catalans towards independence. Public opinion in the rest of Spain, as much as the letter of the law, won’t allow Madrid to move. What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Catalonia issues a UDI; Madrid imposes direct rule and cuts off the Generalitat’s funding; the Generalitat rushes to put a tax system in place; the stock exchange collapses and the euro crisis is back with a vengeance. Brexit may soon be the least of the EU’s problems.

5 October

It is not too late to stop the break-up of Spain
To avoid calamity, ask Catalans what they really want
(The Economist print edition Oct 7) If [Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy thought that cracking heads would put a stop to secessionism, he could not have been more wrong. He has only created a stand-off that has energised his enemies and shocked his friends (see article). On October 3rd Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, was paralysed by a protest strike. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have marched to express their outrage.
Secession would be a disaster for Spain. The country would lose its second city and risk the further loss of the Basque region. Secession would also hurt Catalans, which is why a majority of them probably oppose it. And Catalan independence might stir up separatism elsewhere in Europe—in Scotland again, no doubt, but also in northern Italy, in Corsica, perhaps even in Bavaria. To prevent the crisis deepening, both sides need to seek a new constitutional settlement. Instead, they are digging in and Catalonia is on the brink of unilaterally—and illegally—declaring independence.
… the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, does not have a strong case for independence. Nor can he claim a real mandate. He rammed the laws authorising the referendum through the Catalan parliament with a narrow majority and without proper debate. Those laws have no formal legal standing. Before his referendum, opinion polls suggested that only 40-45% of Catalans wanted to break away. The 90% vote to leave was 90% of an unregistered turnout of well under half, because Catalonia’s Remainers mostly declined to take part. As with populists elsewhere, Mr Puigdemont has offered a simplistic vision, without explaining the costs of independence or how it might come about.
But that is not the end of the story. Democracy rests on the consent of the governed. Even some who disagree with Mr Puigdemont’s methods believe Catalonia has a case for nationhood. It could survive economically. A lot of its people think it constitutes a nation. Under autonomy, Catalan leaders have promoted their language and their nationalist creed.
Only a negotiation can restore calm and it should start immediately. Even now most Catalans can probably still be won over with the offer of greater autonomy, including the power to raise and keep more of their own taxes, more protection for the Catalan language and some kind of recognition of the Catalans as a “nation”. Mr Rajoy might even take up the opposition Socialists’ idea of turning Spain into a federal state.
Any settlement, though, must include the option of a referendum on independence. Separation would be a wrenching change for Catalonia and the rest of Spain, so should not be done lightly. A majority of Catalans eligible to vote should be the minimum threshold for independence. A follow-up vote on the terms of a separation might be wise, too.

4 October
Spanish king’s authority at stake in Catalonia
(AFP) It was a king’s speech that left many Catalans dismayed — no mention of those hurt in police violence when they tried to vote in a banned weekend independence referendum, no mention of dialogue.
Instead, Spain’s King Felipe VI sided squarely with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government on Tuesday evening as he addressed the nation over an escalating crisis between Catalan separatist leaders and Madrid.
And with his camp clearly chosen, analysts said the head of state paved the way for Madrid to apply drastic measures to slow down Catalonia’s independence drive — risking his very monarchy in the process.
Felipe VI came down hard on Catalan authorities, which organised Sunday’s referendum on independence even after they had been told by Madrid they could not go ahead with a vote deemed unconstitutional.
Accusing them of “disloyalty” and being “completely on the margins of law and democracy“, the king said that state had to “ensure constitutional order”.

2 October
Commentary: Spain’s missteps supercharge the Catalonia crisis
(Reuters) If Spanish authorities hoped strong-arm tactics against the referendum independence for Catalonia would nip nationalist feeling in the bud, they will almost certainly be proved badly wrong. Sunday’s footage of violent police action against unarmed demonstrators may prove just the catalyst pro-independence groups wanted, handing Europe yet another crisis when it needed it least.
Ironically, the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would have done better to simply ignore the non-binding referendum. It was always likely to produce a vote for independence, if only because those who favored it were far more likely to vote. Broader opinion polls conducted before the weekend ballot never showed majority support for independence, and most estimates suggest it has been ebbing steadily since 2013 to around 40 percent.
The scale of the violence this weekend and the brutality of the national police attempts to stop the ballot – almost 900 injured, according to local authorities – has changed everything. While the referendum was expected to be a polarizing event, the Spanish authorities have now effectively guaranteed it will be seen as a defining moment not just for Catalonia but the country at large. It would be astounding if it did not yield a substantial spike in separatist feeling. In a single day, the Rajoy government may have taken what should have been a manageable issue and escalated it into an existential challenge for Spain.
Brussels says Catalan referendum was ‘not legal’
The EU repeats its position that Catalan independence is ‘an internal matter.’
(Politico eu) Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum was “not legal,” European Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday.
Schinas also repeated the EU’s line that if Catalonia does become independent, it will be “outside the European Union.”
Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont appealed directly to the EU last night after the results of the disputed referendum, which were overwhelmingly in favor of independence.

29 September
The referendum in Catalonia, explained
Catalonia’s vote is not part of the global wave of populist authoritarianism. But, the rise of populism and the rise of separatism are symptoms of the same problems. States are struggling to manage diversity and internal economic disparity. This seems to be true even in rich, well-consolidated democracies. Indeed, Catalonia is a rich region in a democratic country.
(Brookings) On Sunday, Catalonia will try to stage an illegal referendum on independence from Spain. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has insisted that regional officials will do their best to hold the vote, but Madrid has cracked down on the efforts. No matter what happens on Sunday, the upshot of the referendum campaign is serious damage to the relationship between Spain’s central government and its Catalan citizens.
Catalonia’s referendum is highly irregular. The same can be said for Spain’s response to it. The situation reflects broader trends that are undermining democratic states and hampering their ability to channel and absorb contention.
Purely symbolic referendums are a persistent feature of a series of frozen conflicts, from Transneistria in Moldova to Abkhazia in Georgia to Somaliland in Somalia. Referendums on independence held by territories with de facto but not de jure sovereignty are aspirational and do little to change the status quo. Similarly, non-binding, unofficial votes can be held in territories with secessionist aspirations. Catalonia conducted an unofficial referendum on independence in 2014.
Other votes on sovereign status, such as in Puerto Rico this spring, are advisory. The results do not take effect but are taken into consideration in policy process or negotiation. Again, those votes do not, in and of themselves, alter facts on the ground. The best-case scenario for advisory votes is to move policy negotiations forward in specific ways. This was the goal of the Iraqi Kurds’ non-binding referendum on independence held last week.
Holding a referendum and using its results as a pretense to declare independence without the support of the central state is rare and dangerous.

Business over Tapas Editorial:
The Catalonian referendum on independence, illegal or not, will (or perhaps won’t) be held on Sunday. The results may or may not give Carles Puigdemont the support to go ahead with his independence from Spain. They probably won’t be very conclusive, as the Spanish authorities are doing their utmost to put an oar in the proceedings and furthermore, not everyone who has an opinion will necessarily wish to vote in what is generally thought to be an illegal plebiscite.  Difficulties are mounting, with, for example, ten million voting papers located by the Guardia Civil and confiscated. However, if Puigdemont considers his plans sufficiently thwarted, he may call for a unilateral declaration of independence.
Then again, he may be arrested in the next few days, becoming either a political prisoner or a secessionist traitor (depending on who you ask).
His police are now under the orders of the Guardia Civil (a military force nominally under the Ministry of Defence but in reality directed by the Ministry of the Interior). Many of the Catalonian Mossos d’ Escuadra are unwilling to take orders from their new bosses.
Odd things are happening: apparently, Catalonian farmers will be leaving their tractors parked outside the voting stadia from Friday – to stop other large vehicles from parking there… although the Senior Prosecutor’s Office in Catalonia has ordered the Mossos to close down all of the voting stations by Saturday… Many of the national police – anything up to 10,000 of them have been transferred from the rest of Spain – are staying on three Looney Tunes cruise ships until at least October 3rd: while the local stevedores refuse to supply the ships, and the owners, Warner Bros., insist on Tweetie Pie being covered with a canvas.  The lowly panaderos meanwhile are said to be the secret distributors of the dreaded cardboard ballot boxes…  as the Supreme Court bans the use of public buildings across Catalonia this Sunday.
The rest of Spain is generally enthusiastic about quelling these troubles which could easily escalate, not only in Catalonia, but also in the Basque Country. And for some one-sided propaganda on the issue, try El País in English here.
We should have a clearer picture in a few days time, but we have to say that, like Pablo Iglesias, we expect the weekend to end in riots, rubber bullets and tears….

26 September
Catalonia’s Independence Referendum: What’s at Stake?
(NYT) The unity of the country is at stake, as is the political survival of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He has stepped up pressure in the region, which has seen arrests and the confiscation of campaign materials. Some Catalan leaders have suggested that Mr. Rajoy is taking the country back to the dark days of dictatorship, although he has resisted hard-liners’ calls for him to seize complete administrative control of Catalonia.

23 September
The view from Madrid: anger and sadness as Catalans prepare for vote
Beyond Catalonia, there are calls for Spanish unity and bitterness about claims that the northern region is footing the bill for the rest of the country

11 September
Konrad Yakabuski: Catalonia’s referendum plan pushes Spain to the brink
(The Globe and Mail) Catalonia’s current President, Carles Puigdemont, insists there will be no turning back this time. Most people seem to believe him.
The standoff between [Catalonia’s President] Mr. Puigdemont and [Spanish Prime Minister] Mr. Rajoy threatens to take Spain down a dangerous path, one with unpredictable consequences. The crisis is made all the more intractable by the fact that each leader depends on a political base that rejects all compromise – Mr. Rajoy is backed by conservative Spaniards who see separatists as fanatics, Mr. Puigdemont by a coalition of Catalan-speaking voters on the right and left united in their visceral desire to throw off Madrid’s yoke.

One Comment on "Spain & Catalonia 2017"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson August 19, 2017 at 7:41 pm · Reply

    Prescient message from friends in Spain
    “It was a bit surreal seeing the “Presidents” of Spain and Catalonia standing side by side at a media conference speaking about solidarity and unity, and more or less agreeing on their respective lines. The Catalan independence “referendum” if it is allowed to proceed, is less than six weeks off, so this collaborative spirit may not last long. Barcelona seems to be almost back o normal, albeit with more armed police in evidence than is normal, to judge by TV coverage.” (19/08)

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