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Catalonia is close to independence, despite Madrid

The greater the stubbornness of Spain’s centralists, the greater the determination of those who wish to build a free and full statehood.


Diada, September 2012

“As was the case in the Baltic republics or the Central European experiences, democratic deficits end up being a central actor in the road to independence.”

I represent the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left in Spain’s Congress. Part of my job, therefore, is trying to explain and sustain our quest for social justice and for Catalan Freedom in the Spanish Parliament. It is not an easy job, not only because the two main Spanish parties are against such ideas, but also because they oppose the notion of self-determination itself.

In contrast to the Scottish/British scenario, the Catalan/Spanish issue could seem in deadlock, since Madrid does not allow Catalans to vote on their future. There have been a number of proposals for holding a referendum among citizens living in Catalonia to ask the people about independence in a future Catalan Republic. These have always been rejected on the grounds that the Spanish Constitution prevents such a move. We very much disagree; rules for holding referendums are clearly stipulated in the Spanish supreme law, and as for the content (i.e. asking for independence), it is hard to sustain its illegal condition, when members of parliament like myself are freely going to the ballots on a clearly separatist agenda.

The Spanish ban, however, persists, and while this fact makes the prospect of independence harder to plan and develop, it also gives extra fuel to the Freedom cause, since fewer and fewer Catalans are happy to live in a political jail which will not admit basic and fundamental rights. Up to date, the threats and bans have only increased popular support for independence. According to opinion polls, backing for a sovereign Catalan Nation-State has gone up from 15 percent to around 60 percent in less than a decade.

The latest ruling from the Spanish Constitutional Court, which suspended a recent declaration of sovereignty passed by the Catalan Parliament, is a clear example of the ongoing action/reaction environment; the reaction on the Catalan side, as far as parties and civic groups are concerned, has been of greater unity, greater determination and further opposition to Spanish hurdles. As was the case in the Baltic republics or the Central European experiences, democratic deficits end up being a central actor in the road to independence. As a result of extreme nationalism and intransigence in the seat of power, peripheral countries such as Catalonia can harbour discontent from quarters which initially might not support the liberation cause.

The current crisis further nourishes the feeling of imprisonment, mainly political but also economic, within the Kingdom of Spain. The Catalan economy is, despite the ongoing depression, a fairly solid and prosperous powerhouse, and the feeling that we are ruining our prospects by paying abusive Spanish bills is widespread. In times of wealth this feeling can be tolerated, but in times of scarcity it seems unbearable.

We are unable to predict how and when Catalonia will become independent, but we can clearly state that right now the path is open, plans are being drawn and accomplished, and there certainly is no turning back to the old times of dependence.

Alfred Bosch is spokesman in Spain’s Congress for Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). 

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Published: May 16 2013
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138 Comments for “Catalonia is close to independence, despite Madrid”

  1. Hi Alfred, Alan here, we’ve collaborated before in some projects. Perhaps you remember me from the 10-A referendum in 2011, I was helping out in the press centre. We spoke in Catalan because I had no idea you have such excellent English at that time…

    OK, here’s the point. Catalans are not prepared to sacrifice everything – risking their place in the EU, their Spanish-based welfare contributions and the stability of their aleready shaky economy – in order merely to create a Catalan Republic which is merely Spain in miniature.

    If the Spanish paradigm of political control of justice and law enforcement continues in Catalonia, it simply won’t be worth it. We will merely swap a non-democratic Spanish state which works for the Madrid business oligarchy for a non-democratic Catalan state which works for La Caixa and other dominant Catalan business interests. If the justice system doesn’t become independent, we’ll see important Catalans enjoy the same kind of immunity as Princess Cristina does today.

    And that is clearly what’s going to happen. Just yesterday Artur Mas presented the San Jordi Cross to Josep Maria Bosch Aymerich, who spent many years laundering his accounts through Lichtenstein and featured in the Falciani List of tax dodgers. Felix Millet has used his political connections to evade justice for five years and counting. Duran Lleida’s party is proven to have corrupt practices for many years and evades punishment in a similar way.

    It all adds up to: an independent Catalonia = Guatemala or Burkina Faso.And Artur Mas = European Mobutu. Not something we feel we want to sacrifice our livelihood to achieve. The result of all that is that only a third of Catalans see an independent state as achievable or desirable at this time.

    In my case, I abandoned all collaboration with independence movements and withdrew from ANC after the Pallerols Case, which proved that the Catalan establishment is no better than the Spanish establishment, and therefore would be the last group in the world to set up a truly accountable and transparent state.

    So Catalan independence will remain a pipe dream until the meaning of “accountability” can somehow be made apparent in the Catalan language. With your excellent linguistic skills, perhaps you could suggest a word that covers this all-important meaning?

    Maybe then the Catalan political class can begin to understand what’s new, radical and important about this concept, and why self-determination will assuredly fail without it.

    Simply put: why should I – a Catalan citizen – risk my economic livelihood and my diplomatic status as EU citizen in order to create a “new” state in which the same-old same-old political bosses reap the rewards? What’s in it for me?

    • Dear friend, your must accept just a vote. Then, the result of what ALL voters want will became the principle in the basis of the future of that territory. Here we dont fight against an olygarchy, but against the imperialism, and we do that with democracy. That’s the word.

  2. Hello, Mr. Bosch. I am an American living in the Midi and i applaud your courage and wish your movement all the best. In the forming of the United States some warned that if a central government tries to serve too large a geographic area it struggles and the people suffer. We have found that to be the case. Our 50 States are thousands of miles apart both in actual miles and also in cultural differences. The one-government-fits-all idea doesn’t always work well. Catalonia has a rich history and deserves to have control of its own destiny. I wish you well.

  3. Dear Mr Bosch, words like “freedom” and “liberation” sound so well, and one might want to join you in that quest. However, one would like to see some clarity first.

    Let’s take the central word of your article, “Catalonia”. It is never clear what territory you mean when you speak about it. There is an Autonomous Community of that name, which is well defined. On the other hand, in a recent video you labelled as “Catalonia” a far greater area. Let me link to a video reply of mine which, using you original material, makes that clear.

    The credo of your party, and of basically every other Catalan separatist organisation, sees the “Catalan nation” in these larger borders, which you call Països Catalans and can be translated as Catalan Lands (or Countries).

    You speak of “self-determination”, obviously in reference to the principle of international law that says “all peoples have the right of self-determination”. Then you should seek to fulfil that right for all those you call Catalans.

    Instead, you speak of opinion polls from only Catalonia proper.

    Indeed, there also is the “nation of Catalonia”, which is Catalonia proper, and for which you demand a referendum on independence. Nevertheless, you do not give up on the final goal of unifying all Catalan Lands at a later stage. This would come into conflict with another, main principle of international law, that of territorial integrity.

    Double standards abound.

    Instead of coming clear and offering one single definition of “Catalonia”, you take the easy way out bashing Spain as “a political jail which will not admit basic and fundamental rights”. I wonder, which fundamental rights do you mean?

    Are you not allowed to speak your mind freely? Are you not allowed to freely organise? You say “Madrid does not allow Catalans to vote on their future”, there we have another well-sounding word. Behind it stand the current demands for a so-called “right to decide”.

    The Catalan government, supported by your party, has so far avoided to put together a delegation to negotiate with Madrid. Instead, it puts much effort in building up “structures of a state”, prejudging the outcome of the referendum it has been elected to conduct. One gets the impression that it is aiming for what you describe as “extra fuel to the Freedom cause”, getting into conflict with Madrid on a daily basis without really trying to make the referendum possible -just yet.

    Apparently, time is needed for negative propaganda to work both on the domestic and the international front. Domestically this might work, yet I doubt that this kind of maneuvering will show the desired effect internationally.

    “Freedom”, “liberation” and “future” are empty words when lack of clarity and double standards abound. This is a strategy that might in the end disenfranchise those whose “right to decide” you now defend, because it brings you into conflict with not only domestic and international law, but with democracy itself.

    There is no such “right to decide”, because there is no absolute right. There is always a context within which any right is being upheld. The “right to decide” is a democratic principle, which if set as an absolute collides with other principles, indeed with democracy itself.

    And you do not ever adhere to it! There are now more than 700 municipalities in Catalonia (I mean Catalonia proper) that have declared the separatist flag as “official”, without consulting the population. Those local governments, always with the support of your party, overstepping their authority and in contradiction to your very own demands that the people should vote, are now using all their powers to one-sidedly prepare their local populations for the referendum on independence.

    700 (out of 947) is an awfully great number, but it has to be pointed out that they do not represent even half of the Catalan population.

    All these propaganda efforts and the social engineering hugely degrade a political cause that is as respectable as any other. They have already lead to deep rifts in Catalan society, and they might lead to an outcome that is unacceptable for Catalonia’s neighbours and the international community at large, and thus, feeding back into Catalonia, ultimately taint the “independence process”, as your side likes to call it, in such a way as to make it fail.

    • For readers who are interested in my original video and not the manipulated fake Candide suggests, here is the link:

      • I did not manipulate your video, I quoted and commented it. And I also linked from my video to your original. But whatever your problems, it remains true what I say above: you label territories with “Catalonia” which go far beyond what one currently knows as Catalonia. That’s right there, in your own video, at 00:37.

        I just thought that the international audience you addressed yourself to, and who might not recognise the local maps as easily as you and me, deserved this information. So I gave it, in detail. If at any point I was incorrect, or committed a mistake, please do tell.

        • Candide you are wining your spanish gov money! We know CNI have a big budget for unionist propaganda…. but lies are lies…
          I’m really tired to listen words about manipulated percentages.. .
          If spaniards thik there is not a majority of catalan people that wont to be free of Spanish state, why not a referendum? BECAUSE YOU LIES…

  4. I assume Alfred Bosch will reply to your lack of familiarity withCatalonia and your several problems with Catalonian freedom but I’d like to jump in here with my perspective simply as an American. In 1776 the American British colonies declared in our Declaration of Independence that there indeed ARE certain Inalienable Rights, among them the right to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness. You are dead wrong when you say: “There is no such “right to decide”, because there is no absolute right.” The right to decide under what government you will be willing to submit any of your natural rights is paramount. The Spanish government has no right to deny Catalonia’s freedom of choice except by using force, The adage that “Might Makes Right” is not well founded and will surely reap a harvest of willing supporters who would defend Catalonia against such a wrong.

    • Please note that there is a difference between “absolute” and “inalienable”. Even the right to life is not absolute, as someone might rightfully get killed in self-defence.

      • Let me share what one of Merkel’s advisers decleared two days ago, as regards to the right of self-determination: “Any State is based upon a common agreement between people, and if one part decide to terminate such agreement, are free to do so unilaterally”.

        If the majority of Catalans are convinced that they are better off without Spain (me included), the least to expect would be to have the democratic right to be asked, that is to say, to vote.

        As well as Spain, the Canadian Constitution does not foresee any legal mechanisms to enable one part of the State to become independent. The magistrates nevertheless considered that the will of the people was more important that the law itself and granted the right to vote. Québec has, in fact, celebrated two referendums so far and will soon celebrate a third one. That is what democracy and common sense is about. The only actual situation that I can think of whereby a text is given more importance than the will of the people and is perpetually enforced is the Sharia…

        Arguably, most European States are not keen to recognize newly created states because of the precedent created, which in terms can encourage other regions to pursue identical goals. I do not see, however, any reason why the States are to be bound eternally… Norwegians decided that they did not want to be Swedish any more, in 1905. The same occurred with Iceland, and more recently with Slovakia, Slovenia, the Baltic Countries and so on. For us Catalans, European interdependency means to be at the back of the Spanish row on infrastructure expenditure, among many other things ranging from culture, language, education to ressources in general…

        We are being constantly said that we will no longer be part of the EU. While it is the European Counsel and not the Commission who is the competent body to raise such a statement, the issue might as well be resolved politically and Spain has a strong dependency on Catalonia, given its geographical situation (not to mention the Vask Country, which has not yet raised the voice, yet). But even if Catalonia is to be separated from the EU it is by all means worth the uncertainty, as far as I am concerned.

        • Let my reply with yesterday’s entry in my blog. I’m sorry, it’s in Spanish and I have no time to translate it:

          Let me add that it is a lie (see the original Rac1 radio piece) that Mr Vaubel is personal advisor of Merkel. In fact, he has personally campaigned against her.

          Vaubel has no clue what he is talking about, and his democratic credentials are more than dubious. There’s quite some in the German press about him. And while he is right that it will ultimately be the member states of the EU who decide, let me add in unison, about new applications, the Commission is surely competent to speak about the basic rules that underlie any such decision.

          The first statement you quote is utterly ridiculous. It deserves no further attention.

    • I agree with your fundamental point Tom, and in fact my great-grandparents did exactly that when the Irish people unilaterally declared their independence from the UK. A people does have the right to determine its own governance, but nobody is going to give it to them, they have to struggle for it in some way.

      But the problem which Candide is pointing out is a real one – what is the Catalan people? You need to define clearly what people you’re talking about before you talk about self-determination. Many Catalanists do indeed delight in muddying the water here, chucking into the Catalan basket people from Sardinia, France and other sections of Spain.
      It certainly looks like territorial racially-based pan-nationalism and though I don’t agree with Candide’s assessment that it’s a dangerous phenomenon, it is disgusting and underhanded. And it’s one reason why I stopped collaborating with them, the dishonesty and double-dealing really is too much to handle.

      BTW don’t make the mistake of assuming Candide is ignorant of Catalonia. Though I disagree often with him, I respect his deep understanding of Catalan language, culture and politics. Whatever his problems are with the Catalanists, they are not driven by the kind of brutal ignorance that prevails in most of Spain.

      • Murph, can we agree not to speak of a racial divide, but of an ethnic one? I do think that would be more precise.

      • I think Mr Bosch has had enough time to come up with a reply. So let me get back into the fray.

        Murph, irredentism has enough historical precedents to be worrying, and territorial claims have often enough led to war. It is that serious, and that is why territorial integrity is one of the most basic principles of the UN. Even though I don’t think that Mr Bosch will take up arms to fulfil his claims, the mere fact that he -and basically all Catalan separatist organisations- happily put themselves outside of such a well-established principle makes me shiver.

        So what else don’t they get? Do they understand the principles of democracy? Obviously not! See those municipalities for independence I have mentioned before.

        Would they adhere to any law or treaty they don’t like? Are they fit to join the UN or the EU? I don’t think so.

        You use the word “dangerous”, this is where I see the danger. The danger is not an independent Catalonia per se, or independence in principle. It is these present leaders of that separatist movement who are unwilling or unable to recognise and respect very simple things that make up human civilisation. They live in a parallel universe that is bend on colliding with ours.

        Instead of offering a positive alternative to all the things that are indeed wrong in Spain, they offer an even bigger mess. This is the danger, and the first to suffer it are those Catalans who want independence and are being misled to a degree that, as I said before, they might be unable to achieve their goals. Because these leaders, and their attitudes, are ruining it for them.

        • Candide, as a Spanish supporter your perspective is unaccurate. The only “leaders of that separtist movement”, as you mention is the people of Catalonia, who marched in Barcelona on the 11th of September. There are some politician who joined the Catalan people, and some other politician who denied our right to be what we want to be (Catalan) and want to force us to be what we do not want to be (Spanish).

        • What a load of bull. So you are saying that it is Catalonia who has to find a way to stay friends with the same guys who are stealing from you €16bn of Catalan tax money— and that YEARLY; the same guys who find it offensive that some Spanish citizens may speak a language other than Spanish; they guys who think from Mexico to Argentina it is all the same one and only glorious language, but if you cross the water from Barcelona to Palma it is another planet; the same guys who happily hand out diplomas to Franco’s volunteer unit in Hitler’s Werhmacht?

          Despite all your hollow and sophisticated rhetoric, Mr Candide, let me tell you, YOU REALLY DON’T GET IT DO YOU?

  5. Dear Alan,
    The independence movement is something more than a mere economic issue, first of all. So if you have not even a little love or care for catalan culture the sentence “what is in it for me” might make some sense. In any case, if you want we can focus on money too.
    What’s in it for you:
    A smaller community is easier to manage, the mechanisms of democracy have a chance to work better because there are not so many “macro-structures” and they are closer to people’s knowledge.
    2. In the same way, democratic participation, and therefore control, is bound to increase as all those people who usually don’t vote in autonomic elections or the one who don’t in the general will start voting at the same time, thus keeping a “closer” watch on politics.
    3. New institutions are a great opportunity for change. Rebuild means build anew and thus there is the possibility to better build. If you are up to it, of course. Improvement always comes with a lot of effort.
    Why don’t you join the “Procés Constituent” from Teresa Forcades? Might an answer for you.
    With kind regards,
    Joana from Switzerland

    • Hi Anna: What exactly is my level of love or care for Catalan culture? I think it’s about the same as everybody else. I speak Catalan, I have a Catalan wife and two Catalan kids. My favourite thing is hiking through the Catalan countryside. Col.lectui Emma recommend my articles sometimes. That enough for you? Have I established that I don’t hate you now?

      So the question is – What’s in it for me (and all the other normal people) as a Catalan citizen? As opposed to what’s in it for the corrupt political class, who obviously would gain a lot from a full independence process which they can carefully model on the Spanish state, with political control over the judiciary and all their fraud networks immune from investigation and prosecution.

      Re smaller communities being more democratic: have you ever heard of the phrase Banana Republic? With Cas Pallerols, Cas Palau, ITV and the long list of other scandals I think we’re only about two millimetres away from a Butifarra Republic. The transparent and democratic society we wish for won’t evolve from that by electoral magic and an indefinite “closer watch”. It has to be put in place before independence is even in motion.

      In summary: accountability first, independence second. Nothing would persuade me to support a Catalan state under the present leadership because I simply have no confidence that they want a democratic state.

      Re Forcades: Nuns and priests shouldn’t be in politics. That’s just Third World. Not even in my benighted homeland of Ireland do people in religious orders enter politics. For obvious reasons. If she wants to be in politics she should leave the church.

      • Dear Alan,

        My name is Joana.
        I never meant to say you hate catalans. Just that, it is not the same for you when you hear that the minister of education wants to “españolizar” the catalan kids than for many people of Catalonia. Otherwise, it is impossible that you wonder “what is in it for you”. The answer for me its obvious: self-respect is in it.

        But back to the democracy and corruption issue: change is difficult. Change for a 40 million people is almost impossible. Change for a 7 million community might happen with the work, effort and “il.lusió” of that people. There is chance. Take Iceland as an example.

        In any case, I’d rather be have to deal with the local oligarcs than having to take care of all the thieves in Spain.

        There are not many oportunities to achieve something like the independence of Catalonia in history. Very little that it happens while one is alive. And you plan to let this train pass by you because, as in any other land, there are thieves amongst the power elites. I don’t see neither the point or the relation. Seriously.

        I also don’t understand why nuns should not be in politics. Me myself I am an engineer and I am affiliated to a party and it never crossed my mind that one thing is related to the other. If I told my boss that I collaborate with a party and he kicks me out for that, that would really piss me off. I thing it’s even illegal. I don’t like miss Forcades weither, but that’s besides the point. I clearly don’t see how you relate things.


        Visca Catalunya Lliure!


  6. Alfred,
    why don’t you tell the world Catalonia has its own language?? If Catalans don’t explain that they are like, say, Portugal, everybody will think that they want independence just to get more money and this will not find solidarity anywhere in the international community. Everybody has to know that Catalans don’t speak Spanish, the world has to know that Catalans speak an ancient language called Catalan, if they have to feel that Catalan independence is a natural thing, and Catalan political parties don’t explain this fact satisfactorily. It’s an strategic thing.

  7. Candide,

    I’ll try to settle the Catalonia vs Catalan Countries discussion. It seems to me is a very simple question, in spite of all the fuss you seem to make out of it.

    Every other region outside Catalonia will be welcomed to join the Catalan state if they wish so. This wish could be acknowledged either by the oligarcs governing them or by referendum. Note that probably the Spanish oligarcs won’t allow them to vote on it, but they’ll find a way if they wish to change state.

    Oviously we would like them to decide positivelly, as we feel we share the same culture. This is what probably confuses you all the time. We do have the catalan countries in our imaginary and we will explain to them our point of view. But this has nothing to do with taking this decision _for_ them, we _do_ know it’s up to them.

    Is this topic settled or you have other doubts _regarding this topic_?

    • The “if they wish so” is a subterfuge after Mr Bosch put them all in the same borders and labelling that territory simply “Catalonia”.

      I’d suggest to think of the reactions this provokes in the rest of Spain and in France; and, as a precedent, in the rest of the EU and the world. Maybe this will lead to understand the importance of the principle of territorial integrity.

      Some opinion polls in Catalonia have shown that under the assumption that an independent Catalonia would not be part of the EU, support for independence drops sharply. This is one of the ways how this ill-conceived and quite unnecessary Greater Catalonia dream can come back to haunt the Catalans.

      There is only one possible solution: it has to be abandoned.

      • You rise a good point about “how it looks for the rest of the EU”. Luckily for us, I don’t think you pan-catalanic vision is widespread nor in Catalonia nor in Europe. Probably this dirty strategy only worked in the Valencian Country, unfortunately for them.

        You can’t help it, you have to mix up arguments, that way the discussion can’t prospere in a constructive and “searching for the truth” way. Although I wouldn’t consider you a troll, this is rather a troll approach.

        That said, I respond to the part of your comment that regards the topic we were discussing.

        I already explained that it is in the imaginary of part of the catalan movement that of a united catalan spoken regions, but it’s very false that there’s the prentention of imposing that reunion. It’s just not true and, actually, the problem goes the other way around, that usually the catalans forget about the other comunities that are also suffering the problems of spanish nationalism and centralism.

        I believe Mr. Bosch staff did label the map in a misleading way indeed, but it’s a fallacy to derive from there that there’s a hidden agenda of imposing any region to be part of the catalan state because of that. One thing is to welcome it and the other one to impose it.

        That’s actually what spanish government is doing.

        So let’s keep developing this argument. It is ok for you to force a self-sufficent community to be part of a state, either catalan or spanish?

        Please, think about it and answer, please keep an open mind. I believe I understand your concerns, but don’t worry, the independence will go pretty flawlessly if the unity of market remains untouched, there’s where the power is, and we’re not changing those “frontiers”.

        • Mr Bosch’s staff? What, let’s blame some hapless intern? Well, the same “misleading” map of Catalonia we find in this spot for the…wait for it….Catalan elections last November:

          We also find it here, remember the poster?

          For those who do not remember it: the “consulta” or referendum it announces was only conducted in Catalonia proper. Each and every separatist organisation stood behind it. Mr Bosch was one of its spokespersons. This actually earned him his political career in ERC.

          Not to speak of the manifestos and programs of basically every Catalan separatist organisation, and most recently a declaration adopted already by some 200 municipalities in which they declare themselves “free and sovereign Catalan territory”*: I think our hapless intern is pretty busy.

          *[…] the new Catalan State shall have among its objectives to accomplish the political reunification of the Catalan Lands”

          • I’ve politely checked your links. None of them labels the catalan-spoken territories as catalonia, which is what I found misleading and I agreed with you.

            *[…] the new Catalan State shall have among its objectives to accomplish the political reunification of the Catalan Lands” — you assume violence, we assume democracy.

          • btw, you haven’t answered or counter-argumented my question. Do you acknowledge the contradictions in denouncing one imposition while defending the other?

            Again, why can’t people vote? Let the balearic and valencians vote, and the catalans, too. If you wan’t even the spanish people can have a vote on their own, maybe both referendums have the same outcome and everybody is happy 🙂

          • Please, quimnuss, please…

            The video shows the Catalan Countries formed by little figures at 0:19 while the caption speaks of a “Catalan Republic”, being this a spot for the Catalan elections.

            The poster was used for a referendum that took