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Is Catalonia going the way of Slovenia?

Spain’s restive northern region is talking of independence. But besides the political obstacles, the legal ones are substantial.

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poster consulta e1335167555594 275x300 Is Catalonia going the way of Slovenia?

A Catalan referendum poster highlighting the "Catalan lands" in red. Recent referendums held on Catalan independence have been unofficial and non-binding.

When, at his party’s congress on March 28-29, the former Catalan president Jordi Pujol exclaimed that “we live in a state that has no Constitution”, he touched the nerve of a Catalan nationalism that has become increasingly belligerent. It’s a nationalism that openly defies court sentences it believes threaten the nation it claims to represent, such as the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the region’s Statute of Autonomy (or Estatut) in 2010 or more recent ones by the Supreme Court related to language use in Catalonia.

No wonder that at the same congress, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) adopted a strategy that, even though it avoids the word “independence”, strongly argues for secession.

One had to wonder, however, what effect such an absence of the rule of law must have on the citizen, for whom the law means protection, first and foremost against any arbitrariness on the part of the government. What does Pujol’s disciple, Catalonia’s current president Artur Mas, intend to replace Spanish law with? Or will he keep the people in a legal limbo?

The coordinator of CDC’s strategy paper and Catalan government spokesman, Francesc Homs, has now addressed issues of legality in an April 22 interview with Catalan newspaper Ara: “In legal terms, before a law of the Parliament of Catalonia that hypothetically contradicts a law of the Spanish Parliament the Government [of Catalonia] will follow the legality of the Parliament of Catalonia. And we will not be told that it is not legal what we are doing, because we defend that we are a nation and we understand that the democratic will expressed peacefully by a people is above everything.”

Remembering Yugoslavia

Having followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, it’s tempting to remember how differently things were done in Slovenia. This might be a difficult comparison, but it is precisely the differences that count. The first one, that Spain is a democracy whose Constitution was approved by referendum, while Yugoslavia was a dictatorship whose four successive Constitutions emanated from a one-party system, tells the story of which legality one can legitimately rebel against, and which not so much.

Secondly, the Constitution of the old Socialist Republic of Slovenia was “based on the right of every nation to self-determination, which also includes the right to secession”. Catalonia’s Estatut offers a different situation, in legal terms: “The self-government of Catalonia is based on the Constitution, and also on the historical rights of the Catalan people…”.

Thirdly, Slovenian citizens were never exposed to any legal void as a result of the democratisation process. From September 1989 until the declaration of independence on June 25, 1991, a series of amendments were made to the Slovenian Constitution that bit by bit replaced federal legislation, culminating in the so-called “independence amendment” XCIX of February 22, 1991. Thus independence was, with a referendum in favour, not only possible. It was also legal.

What the Catalan government offers are no duly approved legal measures that would change present legality according to the expressed will of the people, but a spokesman with law studies who stops at the simple claim of “we are a nation” to describe what, for lack of a better word, is the legal philosophy of his government.

But the comparison with Slovenia, a country Catalan separatists themselves have often liked to see as mirroring their own situation, can and must continue. The document with which Slovenia declared its independence did not leave any doubt about the territorial ambitions of the new state: the borders were not to be changed. And there are Slovenian minorities in neighbouring states.

The Catalan vanguard

Catalan separatism, on the other hand, is trying to unify all Catalans in one country, and it is in this sense much closer to Serb rather than to Slovenian conceptions about statehood. Mas himself last year voted for independence of the “Catalan nation” in an unofficial referendum that understood the term “nation” in its most ample sense, including every territory where Catalan is historically spoken.

However, those parts of the “nation” that are outside of Catalonia were only asked about, but not asked; the referendum was only organised in Catalonia proper. An indication that separatists see Catalonia as a kind of vanguard, the part that goes independent first, and other parts should follow.

Mas is presently cultivating a certain ambiguity and making everybody guess what he is really aiming for: a new fiscal pact with Spain – or independence itself. It is nevertheless his own actions and the words of his closest associates that do not point towards a very promising future, or present for that matter. With regards to both its internal and its external organisation, Catalonia under Mas is at odds with principles that are the backbone of democracy as we know it.

One thing is certainly similar: as in Yugoslavia, ethnic disputes are taking place against the backdrop of an economic crisis.





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Published: Apr 23 2012
Category: Featured, Politics, Spain News
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34 Comments for “Is Catalonia going the way of Slovenia?”

  1. Yugoslavia was in a religious issue (Orthodox / Catholic / Islam), such as Northern Ireland. Catalonia has a “language problem”. But there are always politicians pull that new boundaries in a common Europe will, as in Scotland.

  2. Religion was not the decisive factor in Yugoslavia, really. It was an ethno-national issue. Not all Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats are even religious, and yet they have separete national identities. As for Albanians, some of them are Catholics and that doesn’t prevent them from sharing a national identity with Muslim Albanians. And the level of religious service attendance in ex-Yu is not even that high. If anything, religion sometimes served as a sort of symbol, as a flag you wave. Religion played a decisive role in the ethnogenesis of some of the peoples in the past, but the national identity exists separately from it now, although it is somewhat affected by it.

    To put it in other words: The conflict had as much to do with religion as the Argentina-UK conflict had to do with the British being Anglicans and Argentinians being Catholics.

    As for language issues, they were a problem in Yugoslavia as well. Especially as far as Slovenes are concerned, whose language is similar to Serbo-Croat, but nonetheless different. And the Slovene language is extremely important to Slovene national identity. This was very obvious in the JBTZ trial. Look it up, if you want.

    • Pastor de cabras

      I think the real issue in Yugoslavia was every federal republic having its own army able to fight each against others and against Federal Yugoslavian Army. Spain has only one army. That makes secessionist movements very unlikely.

  3. The Northern Ireland issue has nothing to do with religion. It is a conflict between nationalists/republicans vs unionists/royalists or plainly put it Irish vs British, has always been, will always be.

  4. The article points out some similarities without explaining why indepence sentiment is growing in Catalonia: “It’s the economy, ******”.

    • Thanks, Antonio, but combine it with another article that is also linked to, The solution to the Catalan problem?, and you have that issue somehow covered. Especially taking into account the last sentences of this article.

      But I agree that this aspect should be covered even more.

  5. One issue that the growing ploitical devolution and secession movements we see in Europe, In Spain Catalonia, in the UK Wales and Scotland, and we have many more moving in the obscurity away from mainstream media, is the question on EU membership and currency.

    Is this something you have any lights to shed on the stand on these in Barcelona?

    • Sorry, Anthony, I’m a bit dense today. Are you asking me if the mood in Barcelona/Catalonia is rather for or against EU membership. incl. currency?

  6. Yes, especially in view of a possible future devolution of Catalunya from Spain. In Scotland and Wales the movement for a complete independence from the United Kingdom is rather strong and must be seen as a real possibility.
    This would the of course lead to the question on membership in the European Union, since it is thye UK that holds that membership, and an independent Scotland or an independent Wales, that would be a completely different issue, aswell as the currency. Independence would lead to a new currency for the new states.
    I see the same thing in other areas of Europe that has a strong independence movement.
    A completely independent Catalan republic would of course also need to take a stand on both EU membership and the currency issue.
    I imagine that such independence movements can grow quite strong jsu due to the Euro/EU mess.
    So my interest is to see what lines the independence movement is going in different parts of Europe on these issues that comes popping as a consequence of separation from the central state, that de facto is in the case of Spain/catalunya, is the member of both the EU and the Euro.

    Anthony

    • I’ve so far only read one article in which the author wondered if an independent Catalonia should join the EU but stay out of the Euro. People and politicians are pro-EU, but like elsewhere here, too, some have started to wonder if the Euro will or should survive; but that debate is rather general and normally not linked to the independence question. Catalans are Europeans and they want to be part of Europe, that’s mostly it. The debate is centered on the question if Catalonia can be independent and if this independence would be recognised by the EU.

      And not even this one is a real debate, as it is rather one-sided. The separatist movement is very visible and brings its arguments forward every day. There is no opposing movement with slogans like “we want to stay in Spain”.

  7. Two things:

    Candide, it seems you are not aware of the Wall Street Journal piece, authored by Raymond Zhong, “Why Spain won´t Reform”. You´re late, now,

    Anthony, on April 1st. an European Cititzens Initiative on EU internal enlargement was delivered to the European Comission. It is pending of registration by Brussels people. If you want to know more about it, please click its website at http://www.euinternalenlargement.org/

    • Josep, I wonder how I could be aware of a WSJ article that was published after mine. Apart from that, the two articles address different aspects, one is about legality, the other about economics. (As I have mentioned in another comment above, I did touch on the debate about economics in an article from last November called “The solution to the Catalan problem?”)

      Futhermore, I did reply to Mr Zhong’s piece, however not on Iberosphere, which would not have been the adequate forum in this case. I did so via Twitter, a comment on the WSJ site and on my blog (click on my name, there’s the link).

      Let me also mention that the WSJ article presents two political activists as academical experts, thus denying its readers a crucial piece of information.

      As a matter of fact, Mr Zhong might have wanted to read Iberosphere, I hope he does so in the future.

      For the sake of providing transparency in information, you, Josep, might have wanted to mention that euinternalenlargement.org was created by a staunchly separatist Catalan party called Reagrupament.

      On a personal note, Josep, I’d like to point out that many arguments that are now presented in the debate in Catalonia defy logic -see the above article and Mr Homs’s stance on legality. Maybe one should not go as far as confusing cause and effect, especially when a clear timeline is given. Arguments thus presented do not have the habit of being very convincing.

  8. Candide,

    As you may know, ECI cannot be submitted by political parties or organisations, but by a Citzens Committee. And it is not a top secret information that Reagrupament sponsors this Initiative. So what? It’s obvious. Or do you think independentists must shut up? No way. Let´s get Loud!

    • It’s obiously not a question of shutting up, but of providing clear information.

      Let me do this for the case at hand by quoting from that ECI’s website: “On April 12tn, in Barcelona, Dr. Joan Carretero, leader of Reagrupament Independentista, and representative of a committee formed by citizens from seven European states, presented in front of the media, an European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) [...]”

      That means this initiative has not only been set up by Reagrupament, its president is also involved in its daily business in a prominent position. The figure of the ECI was created to further direct democracy, and a citizens’ inititive controlled by a party is not direct democracy. It’s a case of false labelling.

      I find this to be just another example of Catalan nationalists/separatists not having learned anything about the importance of basic democratic consensus, to the extend of not only not walking the walk, but not even being able to talk the talk.

      The same happend with Mr Homs as shown in the article. It is most evident that what he defends “in legal terms” is neither legal nor legitimate. Yet, and in spite of his law studies, he is unaware of it. I think he is a product of his society: the fact that his words have not caused any (well deserved) uproar demonstrates that in this aspect there is a certain anything-goes attitude in Spain.

      This attitude permeates both public and private life, and it is sometimes quite useful, as in the case of the high unemployment being mitigated by a significant black market. But it is shocking when it shows too much in politics, and very basic principles of democratic rule of law and good governance are being put at risk, replaced by a sense of entitlement.

  9. Mas wants; first the money, after independence.

  10. Portugal support independence of Catalonia. Spain is a colialista state, Catalns, basques and Galicians deserve de independence.

    The end of the castillan empire is comming.

  11. Candide:

    Democracy in Spain is only a word. By now you should already know it. The Holy Sacred Constitution of 1978 was “voted in referendum” under not democratic conditions, such as fear, as the attack in the spanisch parliament by Tejero three years later demonstrates. After 300 hundred years of Catalonia loosing wars against Spain and 40 of heavy repression under Franco, do you call that referendum “democratic”? Further, Franco died peaceful and quiet in his bed, nobody killed him. What means that all his supporters were still there, ruling Spain, starting by his successor king Juan Carlos. They would not give their privileges up just like this. Is democratic a constitution that threatens its own people in case they start thinking differently as the spanish constitution? Art. 2: “The [spanish] Constitution is fundamented on the indissoluble unity of Spain, common and indivisible homeland of all spanish [...]” In a normal country, would be needed to be said so many times “unity” and “indivisible”? Art. 8.1: “The Armed Forces, comprising the Army, Navy and the Air Force, are to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional order.” what explains all the recent statements of militars claming to a militar intervention in case of (pacific and democratic) secession.
    Is Spain a democracy?

    Not long ago I found a tweet resuming the spanish posture: “Oops, the catalan want to run away. Let’s insult them until they want to stay here”

    • Toni, (territorial) “unity” is found only twice in the Spanish Constitution, the second time being somewhat a repetition of the first, and “indivisible” is found only once.

      And you do know what Tejero’s attempted cout d’état wanted to abolish, right? Democracy.

  12. Candide, enough times to be suspicious, if everything was alright it shouldn’t have to appear a single one.
    Regarding the coup d’état, I know very well what Tejero wanted to accomplish, so I don’t need that explanation. I just name it to let you realize that the catalan fear was completely justified, and so illustrate my affirmation of the undemocratic conditions of Spain in general and the referendum on the spanish constitution in 1978 in particular.

    • French Constitution, Article 1: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic.”

      German Constitution, Article 21 (2): “[Political] parties which according to their aims or the behaviour of their adherents intend to compromise or abolish the constitutional order or endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany are unconstitutional. [...]”

      Italian Constitution, Article 5: “The Republic is one and indivisible. [...]”

      Slovenian Constitution, Article 4: “Slovenia is a territorially unified and indivisible state.”

      Kosovan Constitution, Article 1: “The Republic of Kosovo is an independent, sovereign, democratic, unique and indivisible state.”
      Article 2 (2): “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo is intact, inalienable, indivisible and protected by all means provided in this Constitution and the law. “

  13. Going on with the spanish lack of democracy, the figure of Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón: I repeat, he was designed by Franco as his successor. Later was said of him that he took care of democracy, precisely on 23F1981… And not long ago a former german ambassador who was in that time in charge revealed a conversation that he had then with Juan Carlos, where the spanish king showed simpathy for Tejero, saying that Tejero tried to accomplish what actually “everybody wanted”…

    Well, if Juan Carlos was a real democrat, in some moment he would have recognised himself as Franco’s successor and because of that an illegitime head of the state, and in consequence, abdicate. But no way, he’s still there, killing elephants and writing letters…

  14. Thank you for the comparisson with other constitutions, Candide, now I’m a bit less angry to the spanish :)

  15. The Catalan nationalism has always been always a way of control. First it all at the schools and during the last 25 years or more the official language has been the Catalan, many teachers have explained the history of Spain inventing part of it and under the control of a radical nationalistic minority in power and transmitting hate to everything related to Spanish. I agree the Catalans if you compare are similar to the Serbs because they will not close the border if one day they get the independence. They will claim also for more territories like northern France, Valencia, Murcia, the Balearic Island and probably the Alghero in Sardinia, Italy as well. So another kind of conflict can be come soon of unknown consequences in Europe. I hope is not going to be similar to the one Yugoslavia had in the 90´s but who knows. For me is clear, Spain has a democratic constitution and all the regions have human rights to live in Freedom.

  16. My sympathies are with the Catalans, having lived 6 years in Barcelona and nearly 20 in other parts of Spain – including 5 years in Madrid. Frankly, what the Constitution says is irrelevant and is open to amendment as and when circumstances change. A referendum should be held, of the Catalans and not of Spain as a whole. Obviously, the rest of Spain would be unlikely to vote in favour of losing the large net budget contribution that comes out of Cataluña, even though they frequently express a grotesque hostility towards Catalans.

    As it is, the “debate” in most of the Spanish media is conducted in a hostile way, with the Catalan nationalist point of view rarely represented. The Spanish government arguments usually amount to little more than threats – to veto an independent Cataluña´s membership of the EU, to erect a border with Cataluña, to boycott Catalan products etc. .

  17. Very interesting article, making several important points (speaking as a Slovene with a certain knowledge of Catalan & Spanish realities). However, when you say: “Catalan separatism, on the other hand, is trying to unify all Catalans in one country, and it is in this sense much closer to Serb rather than to Slovenian conceptions about statehood.”; this is partially true, insofar as Slovenian secessionism was consciously sticking to the constitutional boundaries and even abandining the traditional Slovene nationalist focus on national minorities in Italy & Austria (to the extent that these minorities were, until 1991, largely hostile to the idea of Slovenian independence; they saw it as something going against their interests). This would certainly be an important point to make to the Basque secessionists. However, in the Catalan case, in the last years, we have seen a sharp demise of the discourse of “Catalan Countries”; nowadays, all the discourse on independence focuses on Catalonia proper; this is obvious for the group around Lopez Tena (who is, accidentally, Valencian of origin), for Mas’ CDC, less obvious for the independentist left; the far left CUP are now the only ones bringing this issue to attention. The “Paisos Catalans” are out of the picture, when speaking of independence. So, I would nuance the statement. However, it is true that there is an ambiguity in the discourse on the Catalan Countries that needs to be solved, disentangling the legitimate stress on cultural affinity and linguistic unity (which can imply a certain solidarity and collaboration) from the political notion of nationhood, where the Catalans from the Principality have no right to speak on behalf of other Catalan-speakers. But I dare to say that, although never really articulated, this consensus has been implicit. Even the most radical groups who advocate the political unity of all Catalan-speaking areas (like the CUP), always stress that this unity can come about only through democratic process of self-determination. Although I agree this is a potentially dangerous rhetoric, one has to recognize that it is very different from the violent expansionism of Serbian nationalism in the late 1980s and 1990s.

    • Hvala lepo, ampak ne strinjam se.

      I do not agree that the Catalan Lands are out of the picture. ERC has just used an election video (mind: for the elections in Catalonia) in which it showed the Catalan Lands while saying “Catalonia”. Tena’s Solidaritat includes the PSAN, who is as pancatalanist as you can get. The CUP’s program calls for taking the Catalan Lands into account in every policy decision. And as to CiU, I have to take the exceptional measure and point you towards a blog entry of mine: http://cataloniawatch.blogspot.com.es/2012/11/where-will-it-end-reply-to-guardian.html

      Then there are also the dedicated NGO’s, basically all of them pancatalanist. Like Soberania i Progrés, who’s quite a big player, e.g. in the unofficial referendum 2009-2011 and the ANC.

      It helps little that they insist that there will be no unification without the consent of the other parties, Valencia, Mallorca etc. Well, obviously! Or else they’d have to force them.

      The simple existence of this irredentism is a source for future tensions that cannot go down well with Spain, France and, therefore, Europe. Its useless and dangerous.

      I certainly did not say that Catalan separatists are using the same means as Serbia in the 90s. I was talking of the conceptions of nationhood/statehood being similar, hoping that Catalan separatists finally wake up and see the mess they are creating. I do refer to Serbia v Slovenia because their standard comparison is that they are like the Slovenes, and Spain is like Serbia. Which is comparing democracy to dictatorship, and that is an insult to all those who were fighting for democracy in old Yugoslavia.

      Slovenes were, and are, realists. And that’s the way to go. That’s my very point here.

  18. We’ll see. This is obviously not an issue that has yet been discussed thoroughly in the public sphere (differently from the language issue that has emerged in the electoral campaign). Of course, *all* modern Catalanism is, in a way, “pan-catalanist”; this is, I think, not a problem per se. The question is what role this plays in its political consideration. I would say that so far it hasn’t played any significant role in the discussion on inpdenendence (one would really have to go at the micro-level of local idiosyncrasies, like the statements of municipal organs of minuscule townships like Riudarenes :) ) However, I do believe that, as the process continues (and in a way or another, it is going to continue), the issue will come to the surface. At that point I, again, completely agree with you that some clear conclusions will have to be reached. However, if I compare the Catalan situation with the Basque context, where the notion of Euskal Herria is intrinsically linked to the independentist movement, I see a huge difference. I would dare to claim that so far, when Catalan nationalists are talking about the subject of self-determination, they have in mind the Principality alone. And this holds true to some radicals, as well. Back in January 2010, I interviewed J. M. Ximenis (the main organizer behind the Arenys de Munt plebiscite, as you most probably know); we had a long conversation, and he didn’t even mention the whole issue of the Paisos Catalans until the very end, when I explicitly asked him about it. And then he made an elaborated reasoning which to me sounded like a way to say, “Sure, I know I have to tackle that, to publicly show that I still care about the rest of the Catalan-speaking regions, but in reality we all know this is not going to happen in this lifetime.” He essentially put forward a theory of stages, stressing that the “process of self-determination” has to take place in the Principality at first; when the Principality will have reached full independence, it should leave open the possibility, in its Constitution, for other regions to join the Catalan state, *insofar as they choose to do by their own will* … Now, as we well know, this is a very remote possibility. And if look at it from a realistic point of view, this is tantamount to rejecting any notion of Catalan Countries as a collective subject of self-determination. On the other hand, would an independent Catalonia create instability in the rest of Spain? Well, that is very likely. Which is the main reason why this is such a burning issue. I honestly think, however, that the danger of the Basque Country following the same path is much more imminent than any “Valencian” or “Balearic secessionism” emerging.

    P. S. Which video do you mean? I didn’t follow so closely, I only know these two videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TyVE9hO_ig
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ihIfjDYQ3M

    • Apparently I’d have to repeat my arguments, which you prefer to make fun of by concentrating on the minor aspect of Riudarenes.

      Let me add two thoughts instead: I have observed that separatists often hide their intentions re Catalan Lands from the public, and their line very well is to downplay the issue. It nevertheless keeps coming up. So it was, most famously, in the case of the unofficial referendum 2009-2011, which actually was a referendum on the independence of the whole “Catalan nation”. On top of this article you will see one of its official posters. On the other hand, when the referendum reached its final stage in Barcelona, and the interest of the media, both domestic and foreign, was focused there, that poster was suddenly not used anymore.

      Mind that this referendum was only held in Catalonia, and that it received ample support from all separatist parties, plus CiU, and that, as I point out in the article, Artur Mas took part in it. And so did most of his cabinet and other prominent Catalan politicians such as former and long-time president Jordi Pujol. They all voted yes.

      Secondly, the other Catalan speaking territories are far from a majority for independence. But so it was in Catalonia not long ago.

      The video I referred to is this
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAbDHpUdTZo

      Mind the part starting at 0:15 min, where they talk about a “Catalan republic” while the little figures form the map of the Catalan Lands. Again: This is a video for the elections in Catalonia that were held last Sunday.

  19. Thanks for the video. It’s JERC, not ERC – a subtle difference which nevertheless makes my point. It also makes your point, I think; I suspect we are actually speaking of the same phenomenon, it’s just that we have two very different takes on it. Not only that I don’t believe in any “hidden agendas” – I strongly believe that thinking in terms of “hidden agendas” is not only an epistemological, but also a political and ethical flaw. This goes in general, and in this case in particular. Where you speak of “hidden agendas” and attempts of “downplaying the *real* ambitions”, I speak of competing paradigms of thought, different ideological traditions, alternative discursive practices: and in this case, I would use the very same facts you mention (and on which I agree), but give them an interpretative turn: isn’t that the political dimension of the discourse on the Catalan Lands is rapidly decreasing its mobilizatory force (as well as its political legitimicy) as the secessionist movement expands? I would agree, however, that pragmatic considerations play an important role here; but I fail to see why this would be a problem; rather, it proves my point, namely that Catalan political nationalism is, despite its radicalization in the past 3 years, still very much embedded in pragmatical considerations (but so was also the Slovenian independence movement in the late 1980s/early 1990s).
    As for your second point, I agree with you; however, there are two huge differences. Yes, secessionism was in a minority position until recently. However, it had existed as a strong, politically articulated minority since at least the “Crida Nacional” in the late 1980s; it has had permanent political representation in parliament for decades, and it has been a crucial political actor for a decade. Not even a hint of this can be found in either in the Valencian Region, nor in the Balearic Islands. Furthermore, the present-day majority secessionist consensus emerged out of a nationalist/Catalanist consensus that has existed even for longer. As you well know, nothing like this exists in any other region of Spain. As a consequence, the preconditions for the rise of independentism in the other Catalan-speaking countries are lacking.

    Although we have different opinions, I must still say I appreciate very much both your article and your coverage of the Catalan situation. Allow me to post a quote from one of my favorite political thinkers of the XX. century, the Hungarian István Bibó. Please, don’t take it as a reproach, but rather as a subject for reflection:

    “To be a democrat means, above everything else, not to be afraid: not to be afraid of people with a different opinion, a different language or race, of revolutions, of conspiracies, of the enemy’s unknown and wicked intentions, of hostile propaganda, of disdain, and more generally of all the imaginary perils that become real perils by the very fact that we are afraid of them.”

    • First of all, JERC is the youth organisation of ERC, and thus part of the party. Secondly, this video is election propaganda for ERC.

      This gotten over with, I’m quite glad that anybody interprets the facts their own way.

      I’d much debate your point that Catalan nationalists are (as) pragmatic (as the Slovene independence movement). I see no relation, neither politically nor mentality-wise.

      What I do agree with is your point that outside of Catalonia separatism is very weak, and I like the socio-political background you give. Then again, the ANC has just opened shop in the Balearic Islands, and once Catalan nationalists show some sensitivity towards Valencians, those might rethink their positions.

      But that’s all quite moot precisely because Bibó’s advice is not regularly followed by the world’s political movements, and even less by its governments. As I said before, irredentism is useless and dangerous, even if only for the reason that it makes the other party fear you. And the other parties are Spain and France. Reality is perception. Catalonia’s future largely depends on Spain and France, I think that should make Catalan separatists very pragmatic.

      Alas, which they are not. There is no hidden agenda. At times they say quite openly what they aspire for. Because irredentism is in their DNA. Mind, talking about the organisations, not the voters. The voters basically don’t care for the Catalan Lands, which makes insisting on it by the organisations so very un-pragmatic.

      It’s not a hidden agenda, but every now and then there’s some internal advice to keep it low. And then there’s the public that actually didn’t even notice what they were voting about. Because although the idea is out there, it is not being debated. Doing it would hurt “national aspirations”. And, quite simply, the general public shows no interest in the Catalan Lands.

      Yet the issue is there, and there are indeed internal debates in the separatist movement precisely about this point. And the result is always the same: they don’t abandon the idea, they only try to minimise its propaganda effects for some time, until the idea surfaces again. And right now there it is again in the latest fashion of passing motions in already more than a hundred Catalan municipalities to call themselves “free and sovereign”. A regular point of these motions is to call for the “reunification” of the Catalan Lands. The issue is keeps popping up like a bad rash that can’t be cured, only covered for some time until it breaks out again.

      This a show of improvisation and the occasional spite. Bringing up the wish for “reunification”, over and over again, in all important venues, and then playing it down as if nothing had been said, is so useless and counter-productive that I see it as the antithesis of Slovenian mentality. Slovenes can be wrong like anybody else, but they don’t do moronic.

  20. I think we agree about the main points, but we differ in details and stress. But, as we know, “the Devil is in the details” :)
    “Slovenes can be wrong like anybody else, but they don’t do moronic.” I’m not sure if I agree with that :)

    • I’m quite glad we don’t agree on every level. And my comparison between Catalan and Serb nationalism might still seem odd to you, but the comparison to Slovenia stands: Slovenia was able to publicly declare that it would not go beyond the present borders. And some years later, so did even Kosovo.

      An independent Catalonia will have to do the same. And I go a step further, Catalan nationalism, which behaves in several ways already as if acting in lieu of a Catalan state, should do it right now. It should declare -in a broad consensus among the parties and other political organisations- that it drops all aspirations to create any sort of Greater Catalonia. In the precedents we have seen that this is necessary and possible, and if, as you say, the issue of Greater Catalonia is of little importance in Catalan politics, then this should also be easy to do.

      At some point one has to draw a conclusion and make a recommendation. This is mine.

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