Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Spain & Catalonia 2017 – 2023
One of Europe’s Hottest Cities Rediscovers an Old Cooling Technique
(Bloomberg) One of the coolest spots in Seville, Spain, is the site of CartujaQanat, an architectural experiment in cooling solutions that relies not on air conditioning but on natural techniques and materials. Inspired by ancient tunnels dug to bring water to agricultural fields in what is today Iran, the $5.6 million structure uses a network of aqueducts, pipes and solar-powered pumps to cool water at night and then turn it into cold air during the day.
Spanish PM’s deal with Catalan separatists triggers backlash
(Politico Eu) Several judicial groups blasted the proposal as undermining judicial independence in Spain. In a statement seen by Playbook, Manuel Luna Carbonell, secretary-general of the General Council of the Judiciary — an autonomous body designed to protect the judiciary’s independence — wrote that the body “totally rejects” the proposed reform, calling it an “inadmissible interference in judicial independence and a flagrant attack on the separation of powers.”
Backlash: The Association of Prosecutors said the Socialists’ draft reform amounts to an “unprecedented attack on judicial independence that translates into absolute contempt for our rule of law,” according to another statement seen by Playbook.
European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders raised “serious concerns” about the deal earlier this week in a letter to Spain’s justice and presidency ministers. A Spanish minister fired back asserting that the law didn’t come from the government, which is currently in a caretaker role, but from lawmakers.
As Reynders’ letter underscored, Sánchez’s deal raises rule-of-law objections at the EU level. The Spanish proposal to subject independent judges to political oversight if their rulings are considered a “judiciarization of politics” is redolent of similar moves taken by leaders in Poland and Hungary, which triggered a massive ongoing legal standoff with the EU executive.
Deals by Spain’s Socialists to clinch another term
(Reuters) – The deal struck between Catalan separatist party Junts and Spain’s Socialists on Thursday paves the way for the investiture of Pedro Sanchez as prime minister, clearing one of the last hurdles for his bid to garner a parliamentary majority.
A July 23 general election resulted in a political stalemate when the centre-right People’s Party and far-right Vox failed to win the outright majority most polls had predicted, leaving separatist and regionalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country in a position of influence.
Spain’s prime minister offers an amnesty to Catalan separatists
It should allow Pedro Sánchez to form a government, but at a heavy price
(The Economist) … Critics of Pedro Sánchez do not risk understatement when they speak of his deal to pardon thousands involved in Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum in 2017, unveiled on November 9th after weeks of tortuous negotiations.
Elections held on July 23rd left neither the centre-right nor centre-left with a majority, even with their respective preferred smaller coalition partners. So Mr Sánchez, the Socialist leader and incumbent prime minister, negotiated to win the support of five regional separatist parties, including two Catalan ones. The toughest one to bring on board was Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), whose leader, Carles Puigdemont, organised the referendum in 2017, fled to Belgium and is still wanted by the Spanish authorities. Without an amnesty he would risk trial and imprisonment for “rebellion” should he return to Spain.
In Spain, the price for power? Forgiving separatists.
(The World) Spain’s socialist party seems ready to form a coalition government after inconclusive elections in July. But to do so, they’ve had to promise to grant amnesty to fugitive Catalan separatists for their attempt to break away from Spain in 2017. The Catalan separatists’ party has become kingmaker, but folks on the right say the deal threatens Spain’s democracy.
… As the socialists and the separatists inch closer to a deal, the conservative leader’s numbers are rising. And the worst, for Sánchez, might be yet to come.
Exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont summed it up himself.
“Either the country holds elections all over again…,” he said in Brussels, “…or Sánchez’s government makes a pact with us, the same party that will never renounce our legal and legitimate right to secede from Spain.”
To wit, if Puigdemont does sign along Sánchez’s dotted line, sooner or later, he will demand that Sánchez cross a red one of his own: to negotiate a legal vote on Catalan independence.
But that would require amending the Constitution – not to mention likely sparking even larger national protests.
Catalan separatist leader becomes Spain’s kingmaker as support for independence wanes
By Graham Keeley
Carles Puigdemont could help prop up Pedro Sanchez’s government after the inconclusive general election, but his demands will be great
(The Telegraph) The legacy of Mr Puigdemont, who spent his life fighting to break up his country, hangs not just over this office, but over Spain.
His cause has received an unexpected boost in the wake of the recent general election, which thrust Catalan’s separatist leaders into the role of Spain’s unlikely kingmakers.
Pedro Sánchez, the country’s socialist prime minister, is now attempting to strike a deal with Mr Puigdemont, the journalist turned leader of the independence movement party, Together for Catalonia.
Mr Rius wants Spain to introduce an amnesty law which would pardon all those accused in connection with the failed 2017 Catalan independence bid, including Mr Puigdemont.
He believes the pardons could unite the divided independence movement. His party has long feuded with the more moderate Left-wing Catalan Republican Left, which controls the regional authority.
Spain Dodges a Far-Right Bullet
A few days ago, the Vox party appeared to be on the cusp of becoming the first far-right party in Spain’s government since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship nearly 50 years ago. That did not happen, but Spanish politics may nonetheless be headed for a new and volatile chapter.
(Project Syndicate) “Spain is different” is a phrase that has often been used as a substitute for nuanced analysis of developments in the country. But Spain truly was different in its peaceful transition to democracy after the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship – which coined the cliché – and the sweeping modernization that followed. It was also different for not having a far-right party contending for political power – a status it seemed to be losing but has now managed to reclaim.
Spain’s center-right People’s Party (PP) succeeded in integrating remaining Francoist forces, thereby diluting their influence. This changed in 2014, when Santiago Abascal founded the Vox party, whose neo-Francoist agenda quickly drew significant support: five years later, Vox won 52 seats in Spain’s parliament. A few days ago, Vox appeared to be on the cusp of another milestone: becoming the first far-right party in Spain’s government since the end of Franco’s regime. Polls suggested that, in last Sunday’s snap election, voters would reject Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s fractious left-wing coalition in favor of the PP – Spain’s main conservative opposition party – which would surely need Vox’s support to take office. Instead, the PP gained fewer seats than expected, leaving it with 136 total, and Vox lost 19 seats. Together, the two parties did not secure the 176 seats needed to form a majority, and the PP has no natural allies beyond Vox to augment a potential coalition.
… Despite its lavish social policies, the outgoing government managed to tame inflation, bring down endemically high unemployment, and foster steady growth. GDP expanded by 5.5% in both 2021 and 2022, making Spain one of the eurozone’s best-performing economies.
Despite its lavish social policies, the outgoing government managed to tame inflation, bring down endemically high unemployment, and foster steady growth. GDP expanded by 5.5% in both 2021 and 2022, making Spain one of the eurozone’s best-performing economies.
Fugitive Catalan leader holds key to Spanish electoral impasse
By Joan Faus and Belén Carreño
Stocks, bonds fall as no party or bloc clinches majority
Spain faces lengthy negotiations or fresh election
PM Sanchez has more options with regional parties
Exiled Catalan independence leader signals tough stance
(Reuters) Former Catalan regional government head Carles Puigdemont, who lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leading a failed push to split Catalonia from Spain in 2017, unexpectedly finds himself a potential kingmaker after no bloc on the left or right won enough seats to form a majority.
Inconclusive Election Thrusts Spain Into Political Muddle
(NYT) The outcome was an inconclusive election and a political muddle that has become familiar to Spaniards since their two-party system fractured nearly a decade ago.
A political mess is not new to Spain. In 2016, the country spent 10 months in political limbo as it careened from election to election. Then Mr. Sánchez ousted the conservative prime minister and gained power in a parliamentary maneuver in 2018. More elections followed until Mr. Sánchez ultimately cobbled together a minority government with the far left and support in Parliament from small independence parties.
… In the weeks leading up to the election, Mr. Sánchez and his left-wing allies raised fears about his conservative opponents’ willingness to ally with Vox, potentially making it the first hard-right party to join the government since the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco nearly 50 years ago.
The prospect of Vox sharing power in government unnerved many Spaniards and sent ripples through the European Union and its remaining liberal strongholds, surprising many who had considered Spain inoculated against political extremes since the Franco regime ended in the 1970s.
Vox’s ascension, liberals argued, would amount to a troubling watershed for Spain and yet another sign of the rise of the right in Europe. Instead, Vox sank, and may have brought down the chances for the Popular Party to govern with it.
Sánchez’s tricky road to victory after shock Spanish election result
The Socialist may remain prime minister if he can cobble together enough support from wildly different political groups.
(Politico Eu) If you thought the political drama in Spain would conclude with Sunday’s national election, think again.
The inconclusive national vote resulted in a split parliament with no clear governing majority. The center-right Popular Party secured the most votes, but it doesn’t have nearly enough seats to form a government on its own or even with the far-right Vox party, its preferred coalition partner.
On Sunday night, conservative leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said he would attempt to form a minority government and demanded “no one be tempted to blockade Spain.”
Spain at risk of political gridlock after conservative win falls short of toppling PM Sánchez
(AP) Spain appears headed for political gridlock after Sunday’s inconclusive national elections left parties on both the right and left without a clear path toward forging a new government.
For Whom Spain Polls
Gordon Brown, former prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom
Spain’s general election on July 23 could pave the way for the formation of its first far-right government since the death of Franco. The emerging alliance between the conservative Popular Party and the hyper-nationalist, anti-immigration Vox will embolden extremist nativist movements throughout Europe.
(Project Syndicate) Spain’s general election Sunday matters not just for the country’s future but also for the future of Europe. A defeat for socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez would likely propel the extreme right-wing Vox party from back street demagogues to parliamentary power, and if, as is widely expected, Vox and the Popular Party (PP) enter into a coalition government, it will mark the end of Spain’s long aversion to far-right politicians, which has endured since the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1975.
Should Vox become part of Spain’s government, its chilling, hyper-nationalist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist, and anti-immigrant agenda would push Europe one step further into a right-wing abyss. The capitulation to Vox by Spanish center-right conservatives, who have traditionally rejected alliances with the far-right but are now desperate to return to power, would reverberate across the continent, particularly given that Spain recently assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Message from the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez
Spain assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union with determination to make it a useful instrument that improves the lives of citizens.
Throughout these last decades, Europe has shown how much it can do for Spain. Now, the time has come for Spain to show the world how much we can do for Europe. Our country assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union with humility and gratitude. But also with ambition, determined to make it a useful instrument to improve the lives of citizens.
World’s most powerful passport: Germany, Italy and Spain move up into second place
Singapore has taken first place on the latest Henley Passport Index 2023 rankings.
Singaporeans enjoy visa-free access to 192 travel destinations out of 227 worldwide.
With Japan falling to third place, three European countries tie in second place: Germany, Italy and Spain with visa-free access to 190 destinations.
Wimbledon champion makes King Felipe of Spain laugh in Royal Box
The 2023 winner met with the royals after the match
9 October 2020
Spanish Government Orders State of Emergency In Madrid Region As COVID-19 Cases Rise
(NPR) Tensions have heightened between the center-left national government and the center-right regional government over how to fight the new wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez issued a 15-day lockdown order on Oct 2. Madrid President Isabel Díaz Ayuso took the issue to court and a judge in Madrid ruled in her favor. So Sánchez followed up with the emergency declaration.
The new restrictions limit freedom to travel outside Madrid and eight other nearby cities that are showing an increase of infection and transmission.
Why It’s Still So Hard to Know Where Spain’s Former King Is
While Juan Carlos may have been spotted in Abu Dhabi, the government and the royal family are keeping mum on his whereabouts.
(Vanity Fair) Nearly two weeks ago, Juan Carlos I, the former King of Spain, sent his son, King Felipe VI, a cryptic letter saying that he was “moving away” from the country he reigned over for nearly 40 years, before his abdication in 2014. It was the next beat in a scandal over his luxurious lifestyle and reported offshore accounts that has followed the former monarch for nearly a decade. Since then, rumors about his whereabouts have proliferated, but no one really knows for sure where he is—and if they do, they’re not talking.
Experts warn Spain is losing the 2nd round in virus fight
(AP via CTV) Not two months after battling back the coronavirus, Spain’s hospitals have started seeing patients who are struggling to breathe returning to their wards.
The deployment of a military emergency brigade to set up a field hospital in the northeastern city of Zaragoza this week is a grim reminder that Spain is far from claiming victory over the virus that overwhelmed the European country in March and April.
Authorities described the field hospital as a precaution, but no one has forgotten the earlier scenes of Spanish hospitals filled to capacity and the devastating period when the country’s COVID-19 death toll grew by over 900 a day.
Spain’s embattled ex-King Juan Carlos leaves country
(BBC) Spain’s former King Juan Carlos has left the country for an unknown destination, weeks after he was linked to an inquiry into alleged corruption.
Juan Carlos, 82, announced the move on Monday in a letter to his son, Felipe, to whom he handed power six years ago.
In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into the alleged involvement of Juan Carlos in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.
It is a humiliating exit for a king who had once seemed set to go down in history as the leader who skilfully guided Spain from dictatorship to democracy after the death of General Franco in 1975, BBC Europe correspondent Nick Beake says.
Inside Igualada — Spain’s coronavirus ground zero
The town has been on lockdown with health workers pushed to the physical and emotional limit, writes Isambard Wilkinson
(The Times) On March 12 police sealed off all exits from the small industrial town west of Barcelona, a couple of days before the government bowed to the inevitable and decreed that the rest of the country be confined.
Cut off entirely from outside contact, it took no time before the town’s hospital was on the brink of collapse as a third of its staff went into self-isolation. Within weeks Igualada registered Europe’s highest death toll per capita.
Locked down within a lockdown, the town was a microcosm of the disaster that was to befall Spain.
More than 150 people have died of the disease in the town of about 40,000, and more than 200 out of its hospital’s staff of 600 have been infected. Now, having survived the worst of the coronavirus epidemic, Igualada’s doctors and nurses are counting the cost.
In Spain 15 per cent of all infected are health workers — about 25,000 people, of which 10 per cent have been treated in hospital.
Last week the roadblocks around Igualada were lifted…and, in keeping with emergency units across Spain, the pressure has eased on its hospital as death and infection rates have slowed.
But as the government plans to ease the national lockdown and the ban on non-essential workers is lifted across the country doctors, nurses and staff in care homes for the elderly are angry about the toll it has taken on them and warn that their fight is far from over.
Spain still has the world’s highest coronavirus mortality rates among major economies — 35.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants — which epidemiological experts put down to its ageing population, a slow initial response to the outbreak, a lack of testing to isolate infected people, a habit of close physical contact and frequent interaction with elderly people.
The country has the highest death tolls after Italy and the US — 517 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, raising the total to more than 17,489. It has now recorded nearly 170,000 cases although the health ministry believes 90 per cent of infections have not been detected. Its hospitals are still at full stretch.
Spain sees new rise in daily coronavirus deaths, as total nears 17,000
(El Pais) A total of 16,972 people have died in Spain from Covid-19 since the beginning of the outbreak. But it is widely believed that the real figures are higher, as only people who have been tested for the coronavirus are being included in the official tally. This leaves out individuals with symptoms who die in their homes or at senior residences without ever getting tested.
Although the number of daily deaths has risen, the number of new infections has fallen. Total confirmed infections now stand at 166,019, with an extra 4,167 in the last 24 hours – which represents a drop of 663 on Saturday’s figures.
Spanish health officials also reported that a total of 62,391 people have recovered and have been discharged from hospital since the beginning of the outbreak, a day-on-day rise of 3,282.
The surprising similarities between the ‘Spanish flu’ and the coronavirus pandemic
The initial response to the 1918 outbreak was to play it down, and later efforts at disinfection and social distancing proved insufficient to stop the spread of a disease that killed over 147,000 in Spain in one year
Spain’s new coalition must face up to the Catalan crisis and the rise of the far right
By Pablo Iglesias, secretary-general of Podemos, in coalition with the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party
We must address the crisis facing our political system, not least the worrying surge in support for the Vox party
(The Guardian) The preliminary agreement for a coalition government that our party, Podemos, has reached with the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) does more than just open the door to the first joint government Spain has had since its return to democracy in 1977. It could also help us confront the crisis within our political system. But to do so, we in the next government will have to show ourselves capable of facing up to the Catalan conflict and to the fact that Spain is a plurinational country. That will call for dialogue and empathy.
We will also need to halt the rise of the far right through social policies that act as a safety net for the most vulnerable at a time when the economic slowdown once again threatens what’s left of the welfare state in Europe.
Spain’s Socialists promise to act fast to form government as far-right surges
(Reuters) – Spain’s Socialist party pledged on Monday to act fast to form a government after its leader and acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez gambled on a repeat election that on Sunday night resulted in no clear winner but a surge for the far right.
A polarised electorate awarded neither right nor left-wing parties enough seats to govern with a majority in Sunday’s vote – Spain’s second this year and its fourth since 2015 – although the Socialists won most seats.
With many Spaniards still remembering the Franco years, the country had long appeared immune to right-wing nationalism. But Vox leader Santiago Abascal said he would now work to build what he called “a patriotic alternative” for Spain.
In the past decade Spain has suffered from austerity and near financial collapse, and saw a PP government ousted over a corruption scandal.
But this time the Catalan independence drive, which turned violent following the jailing of separatist leaders in October, was at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Spain’s election candidates clash over Catalonia in TV debate
(Reuters) – The main candidates to become Spain’s next prime minister clashed on Monday over how to handle Catalan separatism, as they tried to woo voters ahead of a repeat election that opinion polls show could be as inconclusive as the one in April.
Opinion polls suggest a third of voters are still unsure who they will vote for on Sunday, meaning Monday’s tense televised debate could be decisive. At this stage, polls point to a stalemate, with no party or bloc of parties having a majority.
Catalonia’s regional capital, Barcelona, has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent protests since nine separatist leaders were sentenced to jail in mid-October for their role in a failed independence bid.
Franco’s Body Is Exhumed, as Spain Struggles to Confront the Past
(The New Yorker) A year after the Spanish Civil War ended, in 1940, General Francisco Franco decreed that, to honor those who had died fighting for the nationalist cause, he would build a mausoleum possessed of “the grandeur of the monuments of old, which defy time and forgetfulness.” …
Franco died in 1975, and until this week his body lay in the mausoleum, beneath a three-thousand-pound slab of granite. There are no written records attesting to his wish to be interred there, but it became an issue after democracy returned to Spain—and was an oddity in Western Europe, where wartime Fascist leaders had been defeated and died in disgrace. When Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, took office, last summer, he pledged to move Franco’s remains, arguing that “no democracy can allow for monuments to exalt a dictatorship.” The exhumation was approved by the Supreme Court last month, after a yearlong legal battle. On Thursday, members of Franco’s family and their lawyer carried his coffin out, and a helicopter flew it to a cemetery thirty miles west, where he was buried among the tombs of his wife, several of his ministers, and the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujill
Gwynne Dyer: No end in sight to unrest in Catalonia
The demonstrations, some of them violent, are still going on in Catalonia a week after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition
This was the last thing Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez needed three weeks before a national election in which his Socialist Party was already losing ground to right-wing nationalist parties.
Catalan separatists are convinced that the evil Spanish state as a whole is conspiring to crush their movement, but the court had little choice because those leaders deliberately broke the law. They held an illegal independence referendum two years ago in which few people except the separatists voted, and used that “victory” to proclaim independence.
Opinion poll always show that a majority of people in Catalonia don’t want independence, but 92 per cent of those who participated in the referendum voted for it. It was cynical manipulation that exploited the fact that the anti-separatist parties in Catalonia all told their supporters not to vote in an illegal poll.
The bid for independence failed when Madrid dissolved the regional parliament and removed the separatists from office. In the subsequent provincial election in December 2017, the pro-independence parties got 47.7 per cent of the vote, so the separatists would probably have lost a real referendum by the same margin.
Yet it was the separatists who formed the next provincial government, too, because they enjoy strong support in rural constituencies where almost everybody speaks Catalan. As in most countries, the system gives more weight to rural voters, so the separatists won five more seats in parliament than the pro-Spain parties and are still in power.
Catalan jailed MPs attend Spain parliament opening
(BBC) Five Catalan separatist politicians – currently on trial accused of rebellion – have taken their seats in the Spanish parliament under discreet police guard.
It is the first time that Spain has admitted elected detainees into parliament. The move was denounced by Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, a fugitive in Belgium.
Four of the Catalans are lower-house MPs and one is a senator.
After being sworn in they are expected to be returned to prison.
Want to build a far-right movement? Spain’s Vox party shows how.
(WaPo) The speed of Vox’s rise is, in many ways, a uniquely Spanish story, one of nationalist reaction to a regional separatist crisis, the growth of polarization and the fragmentation of what used to be a two-party system. The economic crash of 2009 undermined faith in the mainstream parties and led to a strong, far-left backlash. Vox is the counter-backlash.
But the story of Vox also belongs to a larger global story about the online and offline campaign tactics developed by the American alt-right and the European far right, which are now used throughout the world. The use of social media marketing to exacerbate polarization; of websites created especially to feed polarized narratives; of private fan groups that pass around conspiracy theories; of language that deliberately undermines trust in “mainstream” politicians and journalists: Fans of the party that wants to “Make Spain Great Again” used all of these tactics to move its message from the fringes to the mainstream. They also used funding, including foreign money, that doesn’t go directly to Vox but rather goes to organizations that share some of its views — a form of political finance familiar to Americans, but new to Europeans.
Spanish Election Shows Left Can Resist Europe’s Nationalist Wave
(New York) …just as the Democrats could end up handing Trump another four years in office next year if they don’t find a compelling answer to his voters’ legitimate concerns, Europe’s left-to-center politicians need to come up with real solutions to the problems driving voters there into the arms of neo-fascists.
Sánchez’s victory in Spain may be instructive in that regard, as he has managed to walk the line between activating his left-wing base with anti-inequality government policies and placating the business community with a technocratic approach to filling key Cabinet positions. If he can navigate the thorns of the Catalan separatism crisis, keep the unemployment rate on its downward trend, and keep the far-right wolves at bay, he just might build a model for progressive European government in our populist era.
Spain election: Socialists win amid far-right breakthrough
(BBC) PM Pedro Sánchez’s party polled 29% and will need the help of either left-wing Podemos and regional parties or the centre right to form a government.
For the first time since military rule ended in the 1970s, a far-right party is set to enter parliament.
Vox opposes multiculturalism, feminism and unrestricted migration.
With almost all the results in, Vox was on more than 10% of the vote, which would give it 24 seats in the 350-seat parliament.
Spain’s populists are set to change the country’s politics for good
(The Spectator) The idea that Franco’s memory had immunised Spain from a wider European trend stood up until December’s local election in Andalusia. When Vox won 11 per cent of the vote in the southern region, giving it 12 parliamentary seats, the theory shattered. Now polls are predicting that the party could replicate that success in this weekend’s general election; Vox are predicted to win 11 per cent in Sunday’s vote.
While Europe’s immigration debate was not able to stir Spanish nationalism, it seemed the Catalonia issue could. “Catalonia is key to understanding the rise of Vox,” says Dr Manuel Arias-Maldonado, political scientist at the University of Malaga. “Vox has grown because of Catalonia. Vox was founded in 2013, before the Catalonia issue, but it was nothing. Only afterwards, did it start attracting voters.”
On Catalonia, the party found its voice in Spanish politics. Its 42-year-old leader Santiago Abascal stands firmly in opposition to Catalan separatists, chastising Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s negotiation tactics. “Catalan is not a nation! It is something much more important; it is a part of Spain!” he told a small but jubilant crowd in March.
As it found success with this issue, Vox began honing its own brand of nostalgic, Spanish nationalism. The party …vows to protect bull-fighting and released a campaign video of Abascal horseback riding through the Spanish landscape with his posse, declaring a new Reconquista of Spain.
Much like Ukip with Brexit, Vox has used Spanish sovereignty as its entry point into national politics but is using its influence to drag other issues – more typical of right-wing politics – into the mainstream.
Mariano Rajoy to step down as leader of People’s party
Announcement comes days after he was ousted as Spain’s PM by a vote of no-confidence
The party’s executive committee is due to meet in the next few days to call a conference to elect his successor and begin what Rajoy termed “a new phase”. He will remain in position until his replacement is chosen.
Sanchez takes charge in Spain as tarnished Rajoy departs
MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish socialist Pedro Sanchez was catapulted to power on Friday, taking over as prime minister from veteran conservative Mariano Rajoy, who lost a no-confidence vote in the wake of a corruption scandal.
Lawmakers stood and cheered in parliament as the untested 46-year-old – a pro-European lawmaker who has never been in government – became the country’s seventh head of state since its return to democracy in the late 1970s.
Rajoy’s departure after six years in office may lead to a spell of political uncertainty in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy, just as the third-largest – Italy – pulls back from early elections.
5 takeaways from the overthrow of Mariano Rajoy
The new prime minister will have an even weaker minority government than his predecessor, but won’t be in a hurry to call elections.
The fall of Rajoy: how Gürtel affair defeated Spain’s great survivor
Deposed PM took his own advice and stayed strong – but in the end he was powerless
Catalan pro-independence parties keep their majority in snap poll
Result a severe blow to the Spanish government which had hoped the vote would halt the push for secession
Catalonia secessionist parties declare victory in regional elections
(The Guardian) Between them, the three [pro-independence] parties will have enough seats to reassemble the parliamentary majority that put them into office after the 2015 elections if they can agree a new coalition. … The vote …attracted a record turnout of more than 80%, dispelling fears that holding the election on a weekday rather than the usual Sunday would hit turnout.
Catalan leader’s farmhouse pact to make last stand in Brussels
(Reuters) – Twenty-four hours after Spain removed him from power, Catalonia’s leader had resolved to leave the country and take his independence campaign to the heart of the European Union, but first he needed to tie off an important loose end.
Carles Puigdemont’s secessionist alliance was threatening to unravel, with the region’s biggest grass-roots independence organization unhappy about his plan. So he called a meeting of political allies on the eve of his departure for Brussels, according to three sources with first-hand knowledge of the events.
Catalonia: None of Europe’s business
Intervening in Spanish politics undermines foundations of European democracy.
(Politico Europe) …granting more autonomy (or not) to a region — be it Catalonia or the Basque region or any of the other 15 autonomous entities in Spain — should be a decision taken by Spanish voters and their elected representatives.
At its heart, devolution is about the right to raise and keep a portion of taxes. Unlike the Basque region, Catalonia does not raise its own taxes; the central fiscal authority does it and then refunds part of the revenue to Barcelona. The Basque region does the opposite; it raises taxes and then sends a small portion of the revenue back to Madrid. This is clearly a model that could be applied to Catalonia — if the majority of Spanish people wish.
The move would have important fiscal and political implications for Spain. Madrid would have to either break from its austerity budget — a key element of its bargain with the rest of the EU — or increase tax revenues from other parts of Spain. The only two regions that could take on this extra burden are Madrid and Andalusia. The former is Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular stronghold, while the latter is the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party’s (PSOE). To make such a concession to Catalonia, the country’s two main political forces would have to go against their strongest constituencies, a year before the general election. Politically, this would be a stretch.
Catalonia’s ousted president turned himself over to Belgian authorities.Carles Puigdemont and four former ministers were granted conditional freedom within the country, where they fled after Spain issued an arrest warrant against them. They could face extradition back to Spain to face charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds.
European arrest warrant issued for ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont
Spanish judge’s move comes day after former members of Catalan cabinet remanded in custody over independence push
(The Guardian) A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for Catalonia’s ousted president a day after she jailed eight members of the region’s separatist government pending possible charges over last week’s declaration of independence.
In the latest twist in Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades, a national court judge on Friday issued a European arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont in response to a request from state prosecutors.
Puigdemont flew to Brussels earlier this week with a handful of his deposed ministers after Spanish authorities removed him and his cabinet from office for pushing ahead with the declaration despite repeated warnings that it was illegal.
Ousted Catalan leader agrees to election, summoned to Madrid court
(Reuters) – Catalonia’s ousted leader Carles Puigdemont agreed on Tuesday to a snap election called by Spain’s central government when it took control of the region to stop it breaking away, but he said the fight for independence would go on.
How cities succeed while regions try to secede
The interests of cities are never synonymous with the interests of regions and recognizing those differences is critical to long-term economic sustainability and prosperity.
(Brookings) Barcelona is the latest European city to find itself at the epicenter of multiple political fervors and fevers: nationalism, secessionism, and populism.
As this story unfolds, it is important to differentiate the stakes of Barcelona from the broader region of Catalonia.
The city is literally built for global integration and connectivity. Within an area of 3.1 square miles, it boasts an international airport, a sophisticated port, trade fair facilities, the Zona Franca free trade zone and a major logistics platform. The city hosted around 51 million air passengers in 2014, ranking 34th among 123 global cities. It consistently ranks high on key metrics of global competitiveness, including foreign direct investment, higher education attainment, and knowledge intensive employment.
Barcelona, in short, is driving Catalonia and is one of Spain’s greatest assets. But history tells us that even a flirtation with regional secession can have real costs.
Cleo Paskal: Catalan crisis tests EU’s limits
(Sunday Guardian) Response from the EU has been subdued. President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk tweeted: “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.”
However, the EU has quietly pointed out that if Catalonia goes independent, it will no longer be a member of the EU. But it hasn’t explicitly said what this means. It hasn’t said Catalonia will have to put in hard borders on its frontiers with Spain, Andorra and France. That the port of Barcelona will need an entirely new set of security procedures and will be outside the customs union. That Catalonia will have to assume some of the Spanish debt and due to the EU. That Catalans will need visas to visit their neighbours. That they will have to get their own currency. That they won’t even have WTO tariffs to fall back on for trade, because they aren’t members of the WTO. …
An independent Catalonia will have to negotiate from scratch membership in the World Bank, WTO, United Nations, Interpol, etc. All while dealing with a resentful Spain on the other side of the negotiating table. Meanwhile, many other states will also have to play hardball in dealing with Catalonia because of concerns a Catalan success will spur separatist movements in other parts of the EU (Flanders, Lombardy, Basques, etc.) and further afield (Quebec, New Caledonia, Bougainville, even Kashmir).
The Catalan Martyr vs. the Spanish Strongman
The big loser is the people of Spain, including the majority of Catalans, who throughout this ordeal have consistently called for the one thing that neither martyrs nor strongmen are particularly good at: dialogue and compromise.
By Omar G. Encarnación
(NYT Op-ed) The drama between the Spanish government in Madrid and the pro-independence government in Catalonia, which reached a new stage of tension Friday when the separatist government in Barcelona declared independence, has featured two characters familiar to students of Spanish politics: the martyr and the strongman.
Carles Puigdemont, who was until Friday the Catalan government’s president, has suggestively cast himself in the role of the martyr. In the weeks since the Oct. 1 referendum, in which some 90 percent of voters chose independence, Mr. Puigdemont has portrayed himself as the victim of a villainous Madrid administration. Never mind that the referendum was unconstitutional and that only 41.5 percent of those eligible to vote bothered to do so.
For his part, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is acting as the keeper of the rule of law and the protector of the homeland, a role reminiscent of a long line of autocratic figures (the so-called Caudillos) in Spanish history, most notably Franco himself, who ruled with an iron fist from 1939 until his death in 1975.
What makes Catalonia so different from Spain? A lot.
(Quartz) After scenes of jubilation on the streets of the Catalan capital Barcelona yesterday, the stage is now set for major tensions as Madrid starts to take back control of the region. Catalonia’s fiercely independent people won’t be ready to give in easily—their struggle for independence is centuries old, and complex. (The BBC has a handy timeline, dating back to the 9th century)
But what makes Catalonia so different from Spain anyway? We’ve taken a look at a few of the aspects of the region that make it unique, from its language, to its pioneering achievements in art, architecture, gastronomy—and human towers.
Catalan leaders removed, Spain asserts control over breakaway region
(WaPost) Spain on Saturday began to assert control over Catalonia, sacking the region’s president, ministers, diplomats, police chiefs and transferring all authority to the central government in Madrid.
But it was an open question as to who was really in charge of the breakaway “Republic of Catalonia” in the hours after a divided Catalan Parliament declared independence.
Catalan independence declaration tips Spain deeper into crisis
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy takes direct control of region, dissolves assembly and calls election.
By Diego Torres
(POLITICO eu) — Spain descended into to a full-scale constitutional crisis on Friday after the Catalan parliament declared independence and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by dissolving the region’s assembly, firing its Cabinet and calling an election there for December 21.
With major nations coming out quickly in support of Madrid and Rajoy getting ready to take control of the northeastern region, the newly-declared Catalan republic looked set to be extremely shortlived, yet its proclamation presented Spain’s democracy with its gravest challenge of the past four decades.
Catalan VP says Spain ‘gives us no option’ but to secede
By Aritz Parra |
(AP via WaPost) Spanish authorities are leaving separatists in Catalonia with “no other option” but to push ahead with declaring independence for the wealthy northeastern region, its vice president said Wednesday.
Spain has announced plans to fire Catalonia’s government and directly manage its affairs after it held an independence vote that was declared illegal by the country’s constitutional court.
He said he was speaking only on behalf of his Republican Left party and not for the regional government. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is to address regional lawmakers in parliament Thursday evening.
On Paper, Spain Is Ready for Showdown With Catalonia
The constitution allows the government to act when a region goes rogue. The question is whether the fallout can be contained.
(Bloomberg) Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is playing with fire. Over the weekend, he announced he would invoke a never-used provision of the Spanish constitution to remove the elected leaders of Catalonia from office because of their support for Catalan independence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
By Daniel Hannan
(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.
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.
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”.
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.
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….
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.
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
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.