International self-determination experts to analyze Catalan case
Barcelona hosts conference on July 13 and 14 with scholars from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Slovenia and Denmark
Barcelona hosts conference on July 13 and 14 with scholars from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Slovenia and Denmark
It includes political parties and organizations that share a commitment to a self-determination vote
MEPs from different parties have criticized the way the Spanish State has used the court to tackle Catalonia’s pro-independence aspirations, particularly this week as the Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell, and other members of the Chamber’s Bureau have been brought to court for allowing a debate on independence in the Parliament. According to Sinn Féin’s MEP, Matt Carthy, the Spanish State is “undermining its reputation across Europe” by taking public representatives to court. In a similar vein, European People’s Party MEP, Sipra Pietikäinen, said the reaction from the Spanish judiciary was “very strong” and called for “mediation” instead to overcome the current deadlock. Slovenian MEP Igor Soltes also criticized the EU role regarding these kinds of conflicts and lamented that “sometimes it is easier” for EU institutions to intervene “in foreign countries” such as Venezuela rather than doing so in Catalonia.
US congressman, Carlos Curbelo, expressed his interest in Catalonia’s political situation and met this Wednesday with Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, in Washington DC. Shortly afterwards, the Republican representative for Florida stressed the importance of the “right to self-determination” and drew parallels with Cuba, where he is originally from. “I call for dialogue. It is fundamental in all countries in the world and this is what all governments do,” he said. “Dialogue is the only way to tackle differences and reach common agreements”. On Tuesday, Puigdemont met with three other congressional representatives to discuss Catalonia’s independence during his official trip to the United States. On Monday, he addressed the Center for European Studies (CES) at the Harvard Kennedy School and gave the conference ‘Catalonia, Today and Tomorrow’, his analysis of Catalonia’s current political situation and its place within the EU.
85% of Catalans are in favour of a referendum on independence, according to a poll published on Sunday by the newspaper ‘El Periódico’. Of all the respondents, 49.6% approve holding a referendum without the Spanish Government’s permission and 35% make it subject to the support of the state. Only 13.8% of the respondents are totally opposed to it. Regarding the result of the vote, “yes” to Catalonia’s independence prevails with 48.9%, in comparison to 40.3% against. The media outlet published this Monday another poll in which it points out that, in case of elections in Catalonia, pro-independence forces would maintain or even increase their absolute majority in the Parliament with between 69 and 73 seats. Currently, the governing cross-party list ‘Junts pel Sí’ (JxSí) and the radical left pro-independence CUP total 72 MPs, with 68 needed for a majority.
The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, has summoned the members of the National Alliance for the Right to Self-Determination to meet on the 23rd of December to start organising the referendum on independence. The summit, in compliance with the resolutions adopted at the general policy debate in October, will be chaired by Puigdemont and the President of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell. As sources close to the presidency have told the Catalan News Agency, the meeting will be held in the Parliament just after it has given green light to the 2017 budget. The aim of the meeting is to find political and social consensus around the organisation of the referendum to be held next September 2017. According to the Spanish Government spokesman, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, the meeting is a “symptom of unilateralism”, resulting from requests from “the radicals of the CUP”.
Anti-Catalan Nationalism Ciutadans is a party born and raised in Catalonia. Although its trajectory has been short, they experienced the highest growth in the past 27-S Catalan elections and became the second force in the Parliament, with 25 MPs. Now they are running for the Spanish Elections for the first time and many polls forecast a great result for them. “Being Catalan doesn’t mean supporting independence” stated Ciutadans’ candidate for Barcelona, Juan Carlos Girauta, and criticised current Catalan President Artur Mas for assuming “what the majority of Catalans want even before they vote”. The party’s position regarding Catalonia’s push for independence has always been clear “Spain’s sovereignty is not negotiable” warned Girauta and assured that “the right of self-determination is only applicable to colonies and countries subjected to tyranny” and therefore “not for Catalonia”.
Citizens all across Catalonia expressed their opposition to Catalonia's Supreme Court's decision to summons President Artur Mas, Catalan Minister for Education Irene Rigau and former vice-president Joana Ortega for organising the 9-N symbolic vote. This Tuesday, after Rigau and Ortega appeared before the court, thousands of people gathered together in front of their respective town halls, showing their support for the summonsed and declaring themselves guilty for participating in the 9-N consultation. The protests were organised by Alliance for the Right to Self-Determination of Catalonia ('Pacte Nacional pel Dret a Decidir'), a group of 1,500 institutions, political parties, trade unions, business organisations, professional associations, NGOs, cultural organisations and political pressure groups that support the celebration of a referendum in Catalonia.
Current Catalan President Artur Mas has been called to the court on the 15th of October for authorising and co-organising the 9-N symbolic referendum on independence that took place in 2014. Catalonia’s Supreme Court (TSJC), which pends on Spanish Administration of Justice, also confirmed the prosecution of former Vice-President Joana Ortega and Catalan Minister of Education Irene Rigau for the same charges. The official prosecution of Artur Mas and 2 other members of the Executive arrives two days after the 27-S elections and takes the current political conflict a level higher. The Catalan Government considered the TSJC decision a “democratic anomaly” and described it as a “political judgment”.
The Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, has stated that they are "sceptical" about the constitutional reform that the Spanish Prime Minister and leader of the People's Party (PP), Mariano Rajoy, is starting to consider. The Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Català, said 10 days ago that his department would "study a constitutional reform" which would not make any concession to Catalonia's demands. For the last 3 years, Rajoy and the PP have been unilaterally blocking any attempt to launch a constitutional reform debate. Now, with Catalonia's independence being a distinct possibility if pro-independence parties win the forthcoming 'de facto' referendum scheduled for 27 September, the Spanish Government has started to say it would consider a limited reform, particularly to strengthen its own powers. This Monday, the Catalan President's 'right-hand man', Frances Homs, said that they will not even consider such a constitutional reform if it does not include Catalonia's right to self-determination.
The pro-independence cross-party list for the forthcoming 27 September Catalan elections, which will be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence, will be symbolically closed by the last 3 Presidents of the Catalan Parliament and by the current Bayern Munich coach, Pep Guardiola. They will occupy the symbolic last 4 positions on the 85-name list for the Province of Barcelona, with one name for each of the 85 MPs aiming to be elected in this constituency, the main one of the 4 Catalan provinces. None of them stand a chance of being elected, as in order for one of them to earn a parliamentary seat citizens would have to vote almost exclusively for that particular list, which is very far from likely. However, their presence in the Junts pel Sí list (‘Together for the Yes’) is likely to be a magnet for attracting the support of a greater number voters. The candidature brings together the main civil society organisations supporting independence, Catalonia’s two largest parties right now and some other smaller political forces.
The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) closed the door Monday on supporting a hypothetical specific economic agreement between Catalonia and Spain, similar to the specific fiscal pact already in existence for the Basque Country, which would recognise Catalonia’s “specificities”, strengthen its self-rule and better fund its institutions, public services and infrastructure. However, the PSOE did urge the Spanish Government “to update” the current inter-territorial fiscal scheme in order to improve the funding of Autonomous Communities such as Catalonia, calling for “a fairer and more equitable model”. A majority of Catalan society has been asking for such a fiscal agreement for many years, which would help reduce the chronic fiscal deficit while keeping solidarity with poorer regions.
The Spanish Minister of Justice, Rafael Català, proposed this week "to study a constitutional reform" that is very far from making any concession to Catalan claims and meet them halfway. In fact, it seems that the Spanish Government's real intentions are to consolidate the recentralisation of powers and cultural homogenisation undertaken in the last few years that have trimmed Catalonia's self-rule and attacked Catalan culture and language. The Spanish Justice Minister stated this week that he is ready to discuss a limited reform of Spain's Constitution that would not affect its core aspects – such as Spain's territorial model – and which would apparently only address secondary matters, such as the prevalence of men over women in the Crown's succession or the definition of the Spanish Government's exclusive powers. However, the aim is to put an end to the decentralisation trend that started in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has stated that the independence process will be officially launched if pro-independence parties obtain an absolute majority of the MPs elected in the forthcoming Catalan Parliament elections, to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence from Spain. Mas emphasised that during the last 3 years, Catalan parties have been trying to organise a legal and mutually-agreed vote but that the Spanish Government has not wanted to talk even about it, despite more than 1.5 million citizens demonstrating each year on the streets and the results of the previous Catalan elections of November 2012. However, Mas stated he would still “exchange the forthcoming elections for a mutually-agreed referendum”, but highlighted that the Spanish Government has only left the transformation of regular elections into a plebiscite for Catalans to freely and democratically vote on their future as a country, an option that Mas already identified as the last resort in 2013. Therefore, according to him, “in elections, MPs are counted”, “if we were having a referendum we would be counting votes, but this is not the case”, he stressed.
The Spanish Government has presented its budget for 2016 and once again its investment in Catalonia is very far from being in line with the Autonomous Community’s GDP or population share within Spain. According to the planned budget for next year presented this Tuesday (many months in advance for electoral reasons), the Spanish Government plans to allocate only 10.7% of its territorial investment to Catalonia, even though the Catalan economy represents 19% of Spain’s overall GDP and Catalans make up 16% of Spain’s population. The amount planned for 2016 is however a bit higher than that allocated for 2015, which was only 9.5% of Spain’s total, the lowest in many years and widely interpreted to have been in retaliation for independence claims. The amount for 2015 was €1,072.3 million and that for 2016 is €1,179.5 million, which means a 10% increase (+€107 million) but is still one of the lowest investments in decades, both in percentage and absolute terms. Nevertheless, the Madrid-based media has focused on this increase, presenting Catalonia as a clear winner and forgetting about the extremely low investment levels from 2015 and 2016.