Catalunya, Escòcia i Madeira: una conversa europea

Els comentaris que segueixen es van fer a Presseurop, un excel·lent metadiari electrònic que, a banda de recollir articles de la premsa europea, constitueix una de les àgores ciutadanes més vives d’Europa. La conversa ha tingut lloc entre un portuguès (NunoD), un anglès (AnotherTommy) i un català (antonilb, jo mateix) arran de la publicació a Presseurop de l’article del Financial Times Artur Mas – the man with Spain’s future in his hands. Curiosament, la traducció al castellà de l’article és més completa que l’anglesa publicada a Presseurop.

1013 | 03.10.2012 | 01:22
To Jose

Jose, Não estou, como é óbvio, a comparar a Madeira à Catalunha. Como já aqui disse, tenho muito respeito pela “questão” catalã. E o caso da Madeira é uma anedota. Mas às vezes a irresponsabilidade e os calculismos políticos podem tomar proporções muito perigosas. Principalmente quando os políticos são incapazes de pensar em termos estratégicos e de longo prazo, como parece ser o caso da generalidade dos políticos europeus. Andamos a brincar com o fogo.

17 | 03.10.2012 | 16:53
To NunoD

Excuse me for not writing back in Portuguese, but I’d like to make the point that the reasons for the Catalan Government to head towards independence are strategic and based especially in the long term. Catalonia is becoming a residual economy because of Madrid’s centralism, our culture and language are constantly threatened, and after 300 years, the moment has come.

It’s not a coincidence, of course, that the moment is in the middle of a big crisis. And don’t be confused, it’s not the strategy of one party. It’s also the will of Catalan society (as polls show) and 3 political parties. All we ask is to vote on our future. The portuguese should understand it: your rebellion agains Castille was successful because the Catillian troops went busy mitigating the Catalan rebellion.

1013 | 03.10.2012 | 21:39
To antonilb

Excuse me for not writing back in Portuguese

No problem! You could even write in Catalan, it’s not difficult for me to understand. Don’t get me wrong. As I told here before, I have nothing pro or against the Catalan independence. On the contrary, we Portuguese sympathize with Catalonia and the Catalans because of 1640. Since your demonstrations last month, a lot of people has been talking about Catalonia here in Portugal. Some people even want Portugal to be the first state to recognize an independent Catalonia. I love Barcelona and I have a number of Catalan friends (and some Portuguese living there). And at the same time, I can’t imagine Spain without Barcelona or even Catalonia. It would be an incomplete Spain. Well, but it’s up to you, of course. If you choose independence, I’m sure Portugal will be your friend and ally.

I was talking about Mas and this specific moment. If his aim is just to seek a majority for CiU and get full control of Generalitat, then he might be playing with fire. The situation can perflectly escape from his control.

Well, since you’re Catalan, let me ask you something. Your plan is to be a fully sovereign nation or to be a sort of “half Portugal” (words used by La Vanguardia’s director). That’s something I can’t understand. There is no half way. Are the common Catalan aware that independence means full statehood (ie, an army, a navy, embassies, perhaps a currency…)?

17 | 04.10.2012 | 11:03
To NunoD

As far as I see it, every party has a different view. In concrete, CiU is still a bit ambiguous: they talk about “state structures”, “our own state”, etc. Mas has declared he’s not afraid of the word “independence” but he prefers not to use it. Other parties like ERC and SI promote independence very clearly. And I’d say that society does not want a “half Portugal”: at least 51% would vote YES to full independence according to the latest poll. One of the cries in the demonstration (in fact, a classical one) was “The autonomy we need is that of Portugal” (in Catalan: “L’autonomia que ens cal és la de Portugal”). Nobody said “half of it”. I also agree that there is no half way.

Even though, the socialists in PSC propose some kind of “third way”: a federation with Spain (which has proved historically impossible, of course). My opinion is that Catalonia should not accept any agreement of federation with Spain that was not accepted by Portugal too.

I’m not sure if people are aware of what full statehood means, but they will be, I’m sure. The debate is very intensive these days.

577 | 04.10.2012 | 17:39
To antonilb

I was asked by an Italian forum member above to draw parallels between the Catalan and Scottish situations. I did so according to what I know, or think I know. I am not sure that the things that I said about Catalonia’s situation are totally correct, however. I lived in Madrid for three years in the early 2000s and really I was maybe repeating old news.

What would be of interest is if you could answer one point that I raised: to what extent might there be support in Castillian Spain for blocking Catalan independence? In my memory of my Madrid days, some but not all Castillian Spaniards had an aggressive attitude to any separatism. I was making the point that in my view this is very different to Scotland’s situation. What is your view, please? You have been informative and interesting about the Catalan view. What do you expect from others outside Catalonia in terms of opinion, action etc?

17 | 04.10.2012 | 23:23
To AnotherTommy

The Spanish reaction during the three weeks after the demonstration has been: 1st, to ignore us; 2nd, to repeat the reasons why independence is not convenient or not possible. As you may know, a retired colonel has suggested the intervention of the army (a military association as well). Today, the Spanish government has reminded us they can just cancel autonomy. The use of force is unlikely but cannot be fully discarded. Honor is still a high value in the Spanish mind. But the paradox would be that everything here is very peaceful, even in the hugh demonstration of 1.5 milion people there was a scent of celebration in the air and the absence of any hate to Spain. We are confident in Europe and the world. That’s all I can say.

Of course, in this sense it’s a radically different situation compared with the Scottish. We want to hold a referendum and the Spanish government says it’s not legal according to the Constitution. Our president said he would find a way to hold it, even if it’s not contemplated in the constitution. And some voices from Spain have suggested he should go to prision. My feeling is that we’re a piece of Europe trapped in an country that does not know about dialogue or democracy. Let’s see.

17 | 04.10.2012 | 23:32
To AnotherTommy

Regarding numbers, the latest official polls about Catalan independence show that 51% of Catalans would vote Yes, 21% would vote No, and the rest are still undecided. The numbers supporting independence seem to be raising but the most surprising thing is that people agains independence are becoming a very small minority (some more recent poll shows a 18.5% now).

The reason behind it, appart from the economic crisis, is the resolution of the constitutional court (TC, Tribunal Constitucional) against the Catalan Statute in 2010. There’s also the feeling that Madrid is not investing in Catalonia (there are concrete facts people know well: airport, ports, etc.). As a result, there is something new that never happened before: the middle class, usually very moderate and not enthusiastic of “adventures” is now supporting independence. The “Eixample”, the big grid that conforms most of Barcelona (the homeplace of the middle class) is now full of “estelades” in the balconies, that is, of Catalan flags with an added star asking for freedom.

1013 | 05.10.2012 | 03:49
To antonilb

My opinion is that Catalonia should not accept any agreement of federation with Spain that was not accepted by Portugal too.

I see. As we say in Portuguese, for a good listener, half word is enough. 🙂 Regarding federalism, even though it was possible in Spain, is such a system that different than the current situation? Theoretically, it could be. But in practice… You’re already one of the most autonomous sub-national entities in Europe, even though you don’t have full control of your taxes, like the Basques and Navarra. Logically, I would say that the next stage should be… statehood. I have a theory: since a territory or region gets some degree of autonomy or self-government, if there is a strong regional identity, it will always seek for more and more transfers of power.

1013 | 05.10.2012 | 04:13
To AnotherTommy

if Scots want expensive autonomy inside the UK, England could decide for them and push them out?

For me there’s a weird thing in your system. OK, two things. 1) You still have a house of Lords 🙂 2) You have autonomous governments in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. What about England? I suppose this means that the UK’s Parliament has more power over England than over the other nations. But if this is true, then when the Parliament addresses English affairs, you’ll have the Scottish, Irish and Welsh MP’s participating in these decisions?

In Portugal we could have a similar problem, since we have only two autonomous regions. But Madeira and Azores have only 200,000 inhabitants each (5 MP’s out of 230). They’re not a Scotland…

17 | 05.10.2012 | 16:38
To NunoD

Regarding federalism, even though it was possible in Spain, is such a system that different than the current situation? Theoretically, it could be. But in practice…

It’s funny but nobody defines federalism in Catalonia or Spain. One point that is mentioned is that the Senate should, in a federal system, be a chamber for territorial representation. And, appart from the taxes that you mentioned, there is something else. In a federal system, it should be clear who is in charge of what. In the autonomies system we have now, we have a descentralized state plus a centralized one, both at the same time. It’s costly and, probably, one of the reasons for the seriousness of the crisis.

17 | 05.10.2012 | 16:39
To NunoD

I have a theory: since a territory or region gets some degree of autonomy or self-government, if there is a strong regional identity, it will always seek for more and more transfers of power.

You may be right. But in Spain, the right-wing party PP wants more centralization. Everything that is gained for Catalonia when PSOE is in power is lost when PP takes power again. This is the cycle we’re living now, and that’s the reason why federalism is not possible in Spain. You need 2/3 of the Congress for changing the Constitution, and PP will never change it in order to “go federal”. That’s it. In comparison, full independence, even if difficult, is much more likely.

577 | 05.10.2012 | 21:28
To NunoD

What about England? I suppose this means that the UK’s Parliament has more power over England than over the other nations. But if this is true, then when the Parliament addresses English affairs, you’ll have the Scottish, Irish and Welsh MP’s participating in these decisions?

You are totally right, my friend. The British Parliament is also the English Parliament. As the Union grew, the Scottish one was subsumed into a new national one. As Wales and Scotland gained more and more autonomy, England did not.

La conversa continua a Presseurop.

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