Catalan independence is not a democratic option –says Spanish Government report
The Spanish Government has written a 210-pages document to brief its staff and diplomats abroad on the arguments opposing the Catalan Government’s plans to hold a referendum on independence in 2014. The document argues that “it is inappropriate to talk about a democratic principle” when discussing the possibility of Catalan independence. The text, seen by Spanish newspaper ‘El País’, claims that independence would certainly imply an “economical decline” and would put to an end the “Catalan European vocation”. Sources from the Spanish ministry of Foreign Affairs have confirmed to the CNA the existence of such a document but explained that it is for “internal use” only. According to the sources, it is “usual” to send reports dealing with such “specific issues”.
Madrid (ACN).- The Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent an internal report to its embassies and consulates to brief its staff on the arguments opposing Catalan independence. The document claims that independence would “certainly” mean an “economical decline” for Catalonia and would end the “European vocation of Catalonia”, according to the Spanish newspaper ‘El País’. Sources from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs have confirmed to the CNA the existence of such a document but explained that it is for “internal use” only.
The 210-pages report has been sent to 118 bilateral embassies, 11 multilateral embassies and to more than 90 Spanish consulates from all around the world. Its purpose is to brief diplomatic staff that might be asked about the political situation in Catalonia when participating in international meetings or seminars. The text says that since it had regained democracy, the Catalan society has “never suffered as many episodes of social divide and risk of confrontation such as now”. “United we all win, divided we all lose”, the text argues.
According to the report, in the case of Catalonia “it is inappropriate to talk about a democratic principle” because the goal of pro-independence parties is “to put an end to the coexistence” in Spain. ‘El País’ newspaper says that the team of the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, has been working on the document over the past year. However, they have decided to send it now because six Catalan political parties, ranging from the Christian-Democrats to the Extreme Left, and including Liberals, Social-Democrats and Greens, have agreed on the date of the referendum and the wording of the question. Such parties are the CDC, UDC, ERC, ICV, EUiA and CUP.
The Spanish Government says in the text that Madrid would be pleased to negotiate with the Catalan Government at any time –but it is happy and willing to negotiate anything but a referendum. In fact, the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, said in a press conference that a referendum in Catalonia is “beyond all discussion and negotiation”. The Catalan parties in favour of a referendum have proposed the date of November, 9th, 2014 to hold a consultation and have urged the Spanish Government to negotiate a legal settlement to let the Catalans vote. They plan to ask Catalans: “Do you want Catalonia to become a state? If yes, do you want this state to be independent?”.
The Catalan President, Artur Mas, as well as the leader of the opposition, Oriol Junqueras, have both said they would be happy to negotiate the wording of the question with Spain in order to get an agreement to hold a vote. However, the Spanish Government and opposition reject the idea of a referendum and they will most likely veto it in a vote in the Spanish congress next year.
The Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy stated that he cannot discuss “the sovereignty of all Spaniards” and that independence is not allowed by the Spanish constitution. However, legal experts in Catalonia argue that Madrid could authorise a referendum by transferring the power to hold it using article 150.2 of the Constitution. Therefore, the issue is a political one, and not a legal one, they say. In the absence of an agreement with Spain for a referendum, Catalonia might hold “plebiscitary-style” elections to let the people decide whether they want to be independent or not.
The text of the Spanish Foreign Ministry also denies that the right to self-determination could be considered in the case of Catalonia because “it only applies to very specific situations: old colonies, oppressed peoples or massive and flagrant violations of human rights”. The document argues that in Spain it is “basic” to consider the internationally recognised “principle of territorial integrity”.
The document says that an independent Catalonia will be “de facto outside of the European Union”. “It would be a new state and would have to apply for membership. Its accession would have to be approved by unanimous consent, which means that any of the current 28 member states will have a right to veto. In light of the precedents, the negotiations could take years”, says the memo.
“Solidarity” with the rest of Spain
The memo is particularly long compared to the usually two-page documents send to brief diplomatic staff. It rejects the idea that Catalonia suffers from a long and harmful fiscal deficit which reached €8.3 billion, according to the Catalan Government. On the contrary, the text says that the transfer of money amounts to regional “solidarity”, is part of the “contribution” already foreseen by the Spanish constitution and “affects many other autonomous communities”.
The Spanish Government criticised the figures published by the Catalan Government, saying that the €8.3 billion are calculated using a method that offers the “most negative” results. According to the report, this is not “the only scientifically acceptable” method to calculate the fiscal deficit. The text says that the deficit has been of around €6.9 billion every year. This figure has never been published officially by the Spanish Government.