The Catalan Crisis
by cedleonard on November 3, 2017 - 11:52pm
The Catalan people have a distinct identity, which dates far back even before Spain formed, from that of Spaniards. They are one of the most distinct peoples in Spain, which led them, after the Franco dictatorial regime where its autonomy was suspended, to be one of the most self-governing regions of Spain, alongside with the Basque Country. On October 1st of 2017, another referendum, this time binding, was held by the Catalans, again with Spanish constitutional court opposition because steps toward independence are unconstitutional to an “indissoluble unit” Spain. Since the Catalan police couldn’t peacefully prevent voting by 6pm, the Spanish government then proceeded to send the national police to raid polling stations to try to prevent people from voting, and there was police violence resulting in more than a thousand injured on both sides, and 92% favourable votes to independence at 43% turnout. After the independence declaration, suspended by Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to invite negotiations with Spain, an ultimatum to abandon the declaration under the consequence of Catalonia’s independence suspension from the latter followed, but dialogue requested by Puigdemont wasn’t called by the Spanish government and both parties followed their intentions: the Catalan government to declare Independence again, and the Spanish government to suspend Catalonia's independence through the Spanish constitution’s article 155, dissolving the government to take it over until new snap elections on December 21.
This brings us to more recently. Puigdemont intended to bring the international community into the crisis to mediate and pressure Spain for its excesses. He came over to Brussels to hold a press conference about the Catalan crisis with some of his government, seeking a political solution to the crisis. “We will respect the results of the elections called on 21st of December, as we’ve always done, no matter the result. I’ll ask a question to the Spanish government: will it do the same? Will the article 155 block respect the results of the ballots? I want a clear engagement from the Spanish government”, he continues. He also addresses himself to the international community especially for Europe to “react. You must understand that the Catalan cause is of values on which Europe was founded: democracy, freedom, free expression, welcoming, and non-violence. To permit the Spanish government to not dialog, to tolerate the extreme-right’s violence, to impose itself militarily and put us in jail for 30 years [for rebellion], it would be to end it with the idea of Europe, and would be an enormous mistake, for which not only us, but everyone, will pay.” He also says he will come back to Catalonia if Spain extends guarantees for a fair judicial process.
On the 1st of November, the Spanish came back on its intention of not suspending the autonomy of Catalonia under the condition of it agreeing on new elections on December and not declaring independence. It also imprisoned eight Catalan politicians on political charges.
Most of the EU argue that the Catalan crisis is Spain’s constitutional problem, but it may be Europe’s problem too. There’s many other peoples, such as the Basques, the Bavarians, the Bretons, who watch closely, and this could have great influence on their country’s politics in terms of more demand for autonomy and smaller power scales. The domino effect might set forth change on nationalist issues of these peoples. Old tensions might resurface in light of the current events, and since Europe relied on self-determination for stability, it would perhaps raise controversy about the EU, and now it will need to define self-determination for levels of autonomy for each new separatist state that may emerge.
If Catalonia was being a rogue state or Spain is being the Franco regime’s echo is up to debate, but I can’t steer away from the fact that unionist forces end up strengthening independence. The police violence sets a favourable moral position for the Catalans, barely-democratic suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy and imprisonment of political leaders doesn’t suggest a commitment to human rights for the Spanish government, whose only stance seems to be to uphold legality under its constitution, with a flaw: preventing a distinct people from going independent removes a lot of debate about it and it’s not entirely democratic if the whole of Spain, most of whom are not Catalans, opposes Catalans. Self-determination through democracy and peace because it’s the best way to negotiate and keep civility is preferable to an armed conflict which would end in a bloody war which isn’t tenable because we’re not in a primitive, barbaric world. To me, only with discussion and the democratic process does decisions turn out best. But if Spain tries to stifle Catalonia’s democracy and autonomy, it goes contrary to the European Union’s, which Spain is part of, principles of democracy and freedom. I believe people should be allowed to get together and unite under a fundamental human right non-violating common cause. Also, it’s not like independent groups can’t cooperate with other nations or groups. It makes me curious about what could come out of such a political world configuration. Do you think smaller decentralized states would be more prosperous and democratic?