“The Catalan Government is older than the Spanish Constitution”, Mas replies to García-Margallo
The Catalan Executive, chaired by Artur Mas, has published a 50-page memorandum in reply to the report issued by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, in late December against Catalan independence. Margallo’s document claimed that independence was “immoral” and “not a democratic option”. The 200-page report was distributed to all Spain’s embassies as a list of arguments to be used to lobby against Catalan independence at international level. The memo was written in a condescending tone and included many judgemental opinions, half-truths, partial quotes and even lies. One of them was that Catalonia recovered its self-government institutions thanks to the Constitution, which is false. The Catalan Government has replied with its own memo and has asked the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to distribute it to all the embassies as well.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday the Catalan Executive, chaired by Artur Mas, published a 50-page memorandum refuting the report issued by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, in late December against Catalan independence. García-Margallo’s document claimed that independence was “immoral” and “not a democratic option”. The 210-page report was distributed to all Spain’s embassies as a list of arguments to be used to lobby against Catalan independence at international level. The Spanish Government’s memo was aiming at eroding the legitimacy of independence claims among the international community and cutting off any potential support. It was written in a condescending tone and included many judgemental opinions, half-truths, partial quotes and even lies. One of them was that Catalonia recovered its self-government institutions thanks to the Constitution, which is simply false. The Catalan Government – known as Generalitat – was restored in the summer of 1977, while the Constitution was approved in December 1978. This is one of the many facts that the Catalan Presidency Ministry points out in its own memo, which is written in Spanish and is called ‘Estrechar lazos en libertad’ (which would read ‘Tightening bonds in freedom’). The Catalan Government has asked the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to distribute their memo to all Spain’s embassies, which should represent a plural and democratic State and are also paid for by all Catalan citizens, as well.
The Catalan Government has decided to answer the Spanish Government, countering the arguments against independence it has distributed among the international community. The Catalan counter-memo upholds the legitimacy of the self-determination process. It points out that, in democracy, laws come from the free will of the people. In this vein, “from the fundamental European perspective, legality cannot exist without democratic legitimacy”.
The Generalitat’s memo warns that the Spanish democratic Transition is being “sacralised” as well as the resulting Constitution. It points out that Catalonia’s self-determination is a political matter that requires a political solution, and not merely insisting on a biased and restrictive interpretation of the Constitution. In this vein, it adds that many Constitutional experts such as Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer, a former Member of Spain’s Constitutional Court, say that the current legal framework totally allows for holding a self-determination vote in Catalonia. Therefore, it only depends on the Spanish Government’s will to make it happen.
Self-determination to increase cooperation with Spain
Furthermore, starting with its title ‘Tightening bonds in freedom’, the Generalitat is making the point that Catalonia’s independence is “not against anybody”, and particularly not against Spain and the Spanish people, since there are numerous bonds at personal, economic, social and historical level. In fact, Catalonia aims to continue to cooperate with Spain and strengthen these ties, but as equals and deciding freely on this relationship. On top of this, Spanish would continue to be an official language in Catalonia, since it is the mother tongue of millions of Catalans. In fact, the Generalitat frames the entire issue in a single question “Is the Catalan people a political entity with legitimacy to take a collective decision?” “The Catalan people has considered itself as a political entity and wants to exercises its democratic right to vote”, declares the Catalan Executive.
However, the Spanish Government’s document presents the self-determination process as “the extinction of living-togetherness” and “conviviality”. It talks about “social break-ups”, “confrontation risks” and an “amputated Spain”. The Catalan memo criticises the “drama” in García-Margallo’s statement. The Catalan document says the statement includes “an excess of dramatisation” and depicts “a terrible” reality. The Generalitat warns that “dramatisation” is not compatible with a “serious and serene debate”. Furthermore, it points out the danger of a true “social break-up” if the demands of a majority of Catalan citizens are not attended to, leading to a serious “democratic deficit” in Spain.
Regarding the “morality” issue, the memo by the Catalan Presidency Ministry, which is chaired by Francesc Homs, also has answers. The Catalan Executive points out that the Spanish Government has been condemned on 77 occasions for violations of human rights. It mentions the example of the people of Western Sahara, who had Spanish nationality. The Spanish Government abandoned them in 1976, after Morocco occupied Western Sahara and Spain ran away. In addition, the Spanish Government criticises the construction of borders but it has built brutal fences in Ceuta and Melilla to prevent immigrants entering its territory. These fences, denounced by many humanitarian organisations, are all covered with barbed wire, which causes serious damage to the people trying to cross them. Furthermore, hundreds of immigrants have died trying to cross them.
Denouncing false historical facts
In addition, the Catalan memo aims to point out the lies, half-truths and inconsistencies of the Spanish Government’s statement. For instance, it criticises how the Spanish Government is obsessed with claiming sovereignty over Gibraltar, handed to the United Kingdom in 1713 through the Treaty of Utrecht, but at the same time it ridicules some of Catalonia’s historical claims dating from the same period. García-Margallo’s report totally ignores Catalonia’s loss of all its self-government institutions and own laws in 1714, when it lost the Spanish War of Succession. Before that year, Spain was not a Unitarian State but the union of 2 crowns, Castile and Aragon, each having its own legal frameworks, institutions and languages. Aragon was centred around Catalonia, which had its own Constitution and self-government institutions, including the Generalitat (which is still the current Catalan Government). With the arrival of the French Bourbon dynasty in 1714, Spain was forged as a Unitarian State and a harsh political and cultural repression started against Catalonia, since it had sided with the Habsburg dynasty. The aim of the repression was to homogenise Spain through Castile’s laws and language. In an intermittent way, this political, social and cultural repression continued until the end of Franco’s military dictatorship, in the late 1970s.
García-Margallo’s report does not mention this reality, though it mentions many historical episodes, some of them dating from the times of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century. In fact, the Spanish Government claims that Spain is “the oldest nation in Europe” and insists that it remained united by the free will of its peoples, neglecting the numerous episodes of political repression and the use of military force, including bombings over the Catalan population.
However, the most striking historical falsification is the one stating that the Catalan Government is the result of the Constitution from 1978 and the Statute of Autonomy approved in 1979. This is directly false. The Generalitat was in place before 1714, it was restored in 1931 during the Spanish Second Republic and it was restored again in the summer of 1977, in the middle of the Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy. The Catalan memo points out that the Constitution would not have been possible without the Catalan Government’s restoration, as Catalan parties would have rejected it. However, the Catalan Government had existed in different occasions without the current Constitution. “Something older cannot be the result of something newer” insists the Generalitat’s report.