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Controversial historical symposium begins by praising Catalonia’s affection towards Spanish society

An enormous controversy has been raised around the academic symposium ‘Spain against Catalonia: An historical overview (1714-2014)’ that kicks off this Thursday in Barcelona. At the opening session, the Catalan Minister for the Presidency highlighted the “great affection” that Catalan people feel “towards Spanish society and its plurality and richness”, but not towards “the Spanish State and its institutions”. Furthermore he pointed out that the symposium does not aim “to impose anything”, but “to offer arguments” while “knowing that one single truth” does not exist. The event aims to reflect on the political, economic, social and cultural repression that the Spanish State has inflicted on Catalan people and institutions over the last 300 years. Prestigious university experts will give lectures on specific issues. However, the People’s Party, which runs the Spanish Government, and two other Spanish nationalist parties took actions aimed at cancelling the event.

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12 December 2013 03:16 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- An enormous controversy, mostly spurred by Spanish nationalist media and politicians, has been raised around the academic symposium ‘Spain against Catalonia: An historical overview (1714-2014)’ that kicks off this Thursday in Barcelona. At the opening session, the Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, highlighted the “great affection” that Catalan people feel “towards Spanish society and its plurality and richness”, but not towards “the Spanish State and its institutions”. Furthermore he pointed out that the symposium does not aim “to impose anything – that has never been our way of doing things neither our goal, but to offer arguments to our fellow citizens and others, to discuss them, to corroborate them, while knowing that there is not one single truth, and even less an absolute one”. Homs hoped the symposium would enable “a serene debate” and he stressed the “academic rigour” of the participant historians. He highlighted that “history should not be a rock to throw at each others’ heads nor used to legitimise a [political] stance”. In this vein he criticised those politicians who “are trying to achieve a position that could not be reached by democratic means”. He said “nobody can think that nowadays the population can be Christianised”, as the Spanish Government intends when it “talks directly about Hispanicising” Catalan pupils. Besides, Homs said that people would be mistaken if they believed that the current independence movement is only based “on the collective history”.


The event aims to reflect on the political, administrative, economic, social, cultural and linguistic repression that the Spanish State has inflicted on Catalan people and institutions in numerous episodes over the last 300 years. It is organised by the independent Catalan Academy of Science and Language (IEC) and by Catalonia’s Centre of Contemporary History (CHCC), which is linked to the Catalan Government. Prestigious university experts – many of them, such as the UPF’s Emeritus Professor Josep Fontana, holding chairs – will give lectures on specific issues.

The People’s Party took actions aimed at cancelling the event

However, the People’s Party, which runs the Spanish Government, and two other Spanish nationalist parties – Ciutadans (C’s) and UPyD – have forcefully criticised the event and they even filed a judicial complaint against it accusing the organisers of “spreading hate”. Ironically, the leader of UPyD, Rosa Díez, compared the symposium with Nazism. Furthermore, the PP made cancelling the event a condition for the Spanish Government to hold a dialogue with the Catalan Executive on Catalonia’s political situation. On top of this, on Wednesday, the PP’s Catalan leader, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, announced that her party would organise its own “symposium of the truth”, which would take place in January or February, and asked the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and C’s to participate in it. The PSC officially rejected and belittled the idea the same evening.

The symposium director says he is “immune” to “insults”

At the opening session, historian Jaume Sobrequés, who chairs the symposium and directs the CHCC, explained that he was the one who had chosen the symposium title, since “the repression of the Spanish State” is “an unquestionable reality”. He thanked the participants and the Catalan Government for not having asked for a change of title despite the pressures they were put under. There has been “an animadversion” against Catalan people and institutions “by Spanish Governments of all political colours, different regimes, communication media, cultural sectors and sectors of Spanish society, who had been subjected to malicious campaigns”, said Sobrequés. About the great criticism received, the veteran historian said he was “immune” to “insults” and that he was “totally indifferent”. However, he said he had “a deep civic disappointment” because “the passing of the centuries” had “not erased the confrontation between Catalans and their enemies”.

The IEC President criticises a biased and interested controversy

The President of the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC) – Catalonia’s Science and Language Academy, Joandomènec Ros, regretted “the gratuitous controversy” that has been generated.Ros pointed out that the controversy is only “based on the symposium’s title”. In addition, he stressed that “the excellence of the lecturers is out of question”. Finally, he pointed out that the criticism “coincides with a political situation” and “a will to freedom that many people have great interest in putting down”.

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  • From left to right: Ros, Homs and Sobrequés at the symposium's opening session (by P. Mateos)

  • From left to right: Ros, Homs and Sobrequés at the symposium's opening session (by P. Mateos)