27-S electoral campaign: More than just parties involved

Not only parties have taken an active role in this intensive electoral campaign: the banking sector, Spanish diplomacy, the European institutions, international leaders, businesspeople associations and even the sports and scientific fields have had their say. Some have softened their warnings, some have signed joint letters, but all of them have reinforced the historic element of the upcoming 27-S elections. Whatever the situation may be, what is certain is that the moment is exceptional and that the elections are being closely watched internationally.

Massive rally on Catalonia's National Day (by ACN)
Massive rally on Catalonia's National Day (by ACN) / ACN / Sara Prim

ACN / Sara Prim

September 25, 2015 06:47 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- Not only pro-independence forces have attributed an exceptional importance to the upcoming 27-S elections. Other parties have claimed the historic nature of the 27-S and have asked for the highest participation ever “in the most important elections since democracy was re-established in Spain”, as Unió’s lead candidate Ramon Espadaler put it. Other parties have gone even further and have described the upcoming elections as “the last” before “the first elections of a new country”, as ‘Junts Pel Sí’ candidate Raül Romeva stated. But not only parties have taken an active role in this intensive electoral campaign: the banking sector, Spanish diplomacy, the European institutions, international leaders, businesspeople associations and even the sports and scientific fields have had their say. Some have softened their warnings, some have signed joint letters, but all of them have reinforced the historic importance of the upcoming elections. 

The so-called “campaign of fear”

Grave statements have been made by several Spanish institutions and associations warning about the risks of  Catalonia’s hypothetical independence, especially regarding its financial stability.

A week before Election Day, the Bank of Spain warned about the risk of “frozen bank accounts” if Catalonia were to become independent. Its Governor, Luis María Linde, stated that “situations of grave tension”, referring to Catalonia’s push for independence, may lead to ‘corralitos’ a word popularised in Argentina which refers to frozen bank accounts. President Mas described the statements as “irresponsible, immoral and indecent” and accused Linde of behaving like “a PP candidate” instead of someone in an “institutional” position. A few days after, Linde corrected himself and admitted that freezing bank accounts was “a very improbable, almost impossible situation”. Linde’s warning was responded to by a joint communicate written by a group of six prestigious Catalan economists in which they attributed Linde’s statements to “political motivations” and asked for his resignation.

Following this, the Spanish banking sector warned that all banks with a presence in Catalonia “would face severe problems of judicial insecurity” in the event of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence after the 27-S elections. “Any political decision which would imply breaking the rules in force” would result in “exclusion from the EU and the Eurozone”, the Spanish Bank Association (AEB in Spanish) and the Spanish Confederation of Saving Banks (CECA in Spanish) declared. They emphasised that many banks would have to “reconsider” their services in Catalonia and that there could consequently be a reduction in the bank’s offering in the territory. The Catalan Finance Minister Andreu Mas-Colell described the Spanish government as “being irresponsible” for pushing the banking sector to be against the independence of Catalonia. He regretted that such “a delicate sector” was used as an “artillery weapon”.

Employers and scientists have their say

Catalonia’s employers and chambers of commerce reinforced their commitment to Catalonia’s right to vote and expressed their wish to give “unconditional” support whatever the result of the upcoming Catalan elections on the 27th of September. The president of the employers’ association CECOT, Antoni Abad, said that “the right to decide is a structural element of a democracy”, adding that “we must re-establish Spain or found a new state”. The 17 employers’ associations and the 13 chambers of commerce had already pledged their support to Catalonia’s process of sovereignty in the ‘Manifest del Far’, a document signed in 2014. The President of the Catalan Parliament Núria de Gispert  stated that such a process was “necessary” and added that “the time of ambiguity is over”.

More than 10 Catalan scientists of international prestige signed a joint document entitled ‘A good opportunity for our science’ in which they assure that ‘Junts Pel Sí’ “is the best option to maintain the good work and the consensus achieved through many years”. Oncologist Joan Massagué and assisted reproduction expert Anna Veiga, to name two of the scientists involved, assured that voting for the pro-independence unitary list will “increase the resources that science requires and provide the state structures to guarantee the consolidation and growth of the research system”. The text outlines Catalonia’s commitment to being a knowledge society and criticises Spain’s cuts in the scientific field and their “old-fashioned” working system.  

Fitting into Europe

Catalonia’s push for independence and its place in the EU if it were to become an independent country have been an important part of the electoral campaign. The European Commission declared that Brussels had no intention “of influencing votes in member states and regions”. European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis stated that if Catalonia were to become independent it “will become a third country and may apply to become a member of the EU”. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s position.“It is very important that international law is respected. Here there is no difference,” she stated at a bilateral summit. Following this, UK Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted that “countries, governments, Prime Ministers and indeed those who want to take a different path have to obey the rule of law”. When asked about Catalonia’s place in the EU in the event of an independence declaration at a joint press conference with Rajoy, Cameron stated that “if one part of a state secedes that state is no longer part of the EU”. He emphasised that in this case, Catalonia would have to “take its place at the end of the queue behind those other countries that are applying to become members of the EU”.

On the other side, Norway’s European Affairs minister, Vidar Helgesen, said that he was “confident” that Spain “had the democratic procedures” to deal with Catalonia’s independence process. Following this, the Swedish Parliament’s Committee of European Affairs’ President Carl Schlyter stated that Catalonia’s place in the EU “should not be used as an argument” in the independence debate, “if a new state wants to apply for membership, why would we deny that?” he said and emphasised that to be part of the EU depended on many democratic criteria and “Catalonia will for sure fulfil them all”. Catalonia’s push for independence was also discussed at the Swiss Federal Council. Swiss MPs from all parties, except from the RL, which may join the proposal later, have asked their government if they can “mediate between Madrid and Barcelona”. The representatives also lamented Spain’s position as it seemed “to be doing the opposite of the international procedures expected from democratic countries”.

The debate on keeping the nationality

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy exposed himself when failing to answer how he would remove Spanish nationality from Catalans. In an interview with Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Rajoy stated that if Catalonia were to become an independent state, Catalans would lose their Spanish nationality. Spanish journalist, Carlos Alsina, corrected him and said that it is specified in the Constitution that everyone who is of Spanish origin and wants to keep their nationality has the right to do so. Rajoy then asked what would happen with their European nationality and Alsina pointed out that as Spain is an EU Member State, Catalans would keep their European nationality as well. Catalan Government spokeswoman Neus Munté stated that Rajoy had exposed himself and made it clear that “he doesn’t know the Constitution that they mention and exhibit everywhere”.

Following this, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, asked if the Spanish parties would reform the Constitution in order to remove Catalans’ right to keep Spanish nationality. He highlighted that Latin Americans can apply for Spanish nationality “because of their Spanish origins, sometimes distant relations” but that the Spanish government will remove it from Catalans even if they are “Spanish by origin, by birth”. Mas also emphasised that “Spain’s threats turn against them like a boomerang” and ironically named the nationality issue that Rajoy had “already resolved” as an example.

Former general secretary of NATO, Javier Solana, admitted that Catalans won’t lose their Spanish nationality or their European citizenship unless they ask to do so. “Somebody who is Spanish doesn’t lose his nationality unless he wants to, it is very clear in the Constitution” he stated. In any case, Solana admitted that they don’t know what exactly would happen in the event of Catalonia’s independence, “nobody knows for sure; neither us, nor them” he said and added that “those who try to explain what would happen with nationalities aren’t brilliant in their explanation either”.