Thursday, September 21, 2017

Spanish constitutional court fines Catalonia's Referendum organisers

Spain's constitutional court has imposed daily fines of up to €12,000 (£10,600; $14,300) on top Catalan officials for every day they continue organising a democratic referendum.
Among those threatened is Josep Maria Jové, a top Catalan treasury official, who is being held on sedition charges. The Spanish court says the vote is illegal but the region's vice-president said it would go ahead if possible.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tens of thousands take to streets of Barcelona to protest crackdown on Government officers

Tens of thousands poured onto the streets of central Barcelona and further afield in Catalonia, outraged at the escalating crackdown on a separatist-led referendum on independence for the region on 1 October that saw 14 local government officials arrested, including the region’s deputy vice president.
According to police, about 4,000 demonstrators gathered near the office of vice president Josep Maria Jove, who is also secretary-general of Catalonia’s economic affairs, to chant “we will vote” in a referendum deemed illegal by the central Madrid government and Spain’s constitutional court.
Outside the headquarters of pro-independence party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), riot police were called to control thousands of mainly young demonstrators who cried “occupation forces out” and “the streets are ours”.

The arrests were carried out by Spain’s Civil Guard rather than the Catalan regional Mossos d’Esquadra force, who received widespread praise for their quick response to a pair of terrorist attacks last month. Police said they staged 22 search operations in total.
Tense scenes ensued outside one of the region’s principal local government buildings, as sit-in protesters impeded the Civil Guard from leaving the scene.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for “a return to normality and a return to common sense”.
However, his government’s heavy-handed approach has only stoked the fires of those seeking independence for Catalonia.
“They made a big mistake; we wanted to vote and they declared war,” said president of the influential pro-independence citizens’ organisation, the Catalan National Assembly.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Spain’s chief public prosecutor: We could consider detaining the Catalonia's President

Asked if arresting regional government head Carles Puigdemont was an option if preparations continued, Spain’s chief public prosecutor said in an interview: ”We could consider it because the principal objective is to stop the referendum going ahead. 
“I won’t rule out completely the option of seeking jail terms... It could happen under certain circumstances,” Jose Manuel Maza was quoted as also telling Sunday’s edition of newspaper El Mundo.

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1,300,000 Catalan referendum posters and leaflets seized

Spanish authorities on Sunday pursued efforts to block an independence vote in Catalonia, seizing campaign materials as the chief prosecutor said jailing the region’s top politician could not be ruled out.
The government in the northeastern region is intent on holding a referendum on October 1 that will ask voters whether they support secession from Spain, a ballot Madrid has declared illegal.
In a raid on a warehouse in the province of Barcelona on Sunday, police confiscated around 1.3 million leaflets and other campaign materials promoting the vote issued by the Catalan government.
The haul was the largest in a series of similar raids, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Spanish prosecutors, who have ordered police to investigate any efforts to promote the plebiscite, said last week that officials engaged in any preparations for it could be charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

700 mayors from across Catalonia headed offer their support for the democratic Referendum

More than 700 mayors from across Catalonia headed to Barcelona to offer their support for the region’s proposed independence referendum in a defiant move following strong opposition from Spain’s government. Today Catalonia’s mayors have responded boldly to the threat by heading to the region’s capital to meet with regional head Carles Puigdemont and promise supporters they will continue to back the referèndum.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

One million Catalans march for independence on national day

The crowd in central Barcelona on September 11th, Catalan National Day, has been as many as one milion, as Catalans of all ages descend on the city. Nearly 2,000 buses chartered to bring people to the rally. The crowd - many sporting T-shirts in the national colours - formes a giant cross. Catalonia has passed a law to secede from Spain if the vote is Yes.

Up to 1 million Catalans have gathered in Barcelona to call for independence less than three weeks before the region is due to hold a bitterly divisive vote on breaking away from Spain.
For the sixth successive year, Catalonia’s national day – La Diada de Catalunya – was used as a political rally by the pro-independence movement. Although organisers said that 450,000 people had registered for the event, Barcelona police later tweeted that 1 million had turned up.

Although the Spanish government has vowed to stop the referendum going ahead on 1 October, the Catalan regional government is refusing to back down and polls suggest a clear majority of people in the wealthy, north-eastern region want to be allowed to vote.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Spanish Guardia Civil raids aim to halt Catalan independence vote

Deeply troubling. Spanish government sending men with guns to destroy ballot papers. This isn't democracy. A Spanish judge ordered police to search a printer's shop and two offices of a regional newspaper in Catalonia as part of an investigation into alleged preparations for an illegal referendum on independence for the prosperous northeastern region.
A Barcelona-based court said Saturday that the police searches took place Friday in the towns of Valls and Constanti in southern Catalonia. The court said the searches formed part of an investigation into possible disobedience, prevarication and the embezzlement of public funds by Catalan officials.
The regional Catalan newspaper El Vallenc reported that "4 agents of the Civil Guard entered our newspaper."
El Vallenc said "the search took place hours after they had searched the Indugraf business." Indugraf is a printer in Constanti.
Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont, the regional politician leading the push for independence, said on Twitter that police weren't "looking for ballots, they were looking for a fight."
The court did not say what police were looking for in the searches. Media speculation is that the printer and the newspaper could be connected to plans by the regional government to prepare for the independence referendum.
Spain's constitutional court has suspended laws passed by the Catalan parliament this week to call for an independence referendum on Oct. 1. State prosecutors have also targeted Puigdemont and other members of his government with lawsuits for possible disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement charges.
The pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia says the vote will be binding and says if the "yes" side wins it will lead to the independence from Spain by Oct. 3 no matter what the turnout.
Spain's constitutional court has previously ruled that only the national government is allowed to call a referendum on secession and that all Spaniards in the country must have a vote when it comes to sovereignty.
Protesters wave off the Civil Guard: "Have a good time and thank you very much"

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Catalonia parliament and government approve independence referendum

The Spanish government has accused the Catalan parliament of committing a “constitutional and democratic atrocity” by approving legislation to allow next month’s bitterly disputed independence referendum to go ahead.
On Wednesday night, the region’s ruling, pro-sovereignty coalition – which has a majority in the Catalan parliament – managed to get the referendum law passed despite angry objections from opposition MPs, who complained that usual parliamentary procedures had been disregarded.
The legislation passed by 72 votes after 52 opposition MPs walked out of the chamber in Barcelona in protest at the end of an ill-tempered, 11-hour session.
The move was denounced by the Spanish government, which once again said it would do everything in its legal and political power to stop the vote from going ahead on 1 October.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, ordered government lawyers to file a complaint with the country’s constitutional court so that the vote could be annulled.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Referendum in Catalonia: sleepwalking into a crisis

Wise conservatives often quote The Leopard, the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, in which a leading aristocratic character comments that it is sometimes advisable to change everything in order that everything may remain the same.
This wisdom does not appear to have touched Spain’s Partido Popular (PP) government, led since 2011 by Mariano Rajoy. He appears so determined to change nothing at all that he may soon find major changes happening very fast.

Rajoy survived a no-confidence motion last week in which the far-left Podemos excoriated him for failing to address the corruption scandals in which so many leading PP members are mired. But since then the Socialist Party (PSOE) has taken a sharp turn to the left, raising the prospect that the PP could be ousted by a radicalised PSOE-Podemos coalition in future elections.
Meanwhile, the autonomous government of Catalonia has set an October date for a referendum offering its citizens the option of an independent republic. This is a sharp reminder that Spain is sleepwalking towards an existential crisis that no-one could have imagined 10 years ago.

 It’s not at all clear that most Catalans want independence, but it is increasingly clear that most of them want a choice in the matter. Yet this is a choice that Rajoy repeatedly refuses to even consider granting them. The irony, potentially a tragic one, is that the PP’s failure to countenance changing the Spanish constitution to include a right to self-determination only seems to make the independence option more attractive to Catalan nationalists. It is not too late for the Spanish conservatives to learn something from their British counterparts. As Scotland shows, engaging with independence movements can be much more positive than simply blocking them.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Spanish Kingdom prosecutor denounces the indyref convocation before Catalan High Court of Justice

The First Public Prosecutor Office of Catalonia has added new items to its case against the Minister for Governation, Meritxell Borràs for its demand for ballot box officers. It cannot be ruled out that there will be one single judicial case relating to everything around the independence referendum.
In its address to the Catalan High Court of Justice, the prosecution points out that, since the case against Ms. Borràs was presented on the 16th of May (it has not yet been admitted to process), several statements have been issued which reinforce the case that the ballot boxes “have no other end” than the celebration ofa referendum in which Catalan citizens are askeds on “the convenience of secession” with the rest of the State. As well, it adds that the Constitutional Court “has openly and rotundly stated that it is against the Constitution and its derived legal corpus”.

In this document, which has been officially entered into the High Court Registry, it is highlighted that Puigdemont’s statement of “his steadfast will, solemnly expressed” together with the Government, to carry out the referendum on the 1st of October and “even sets” the question to which Catalans will answer “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?”.

“Enormously transcendent” data
The incorporation of the question and date to the case highlights that “even though the announcement may not have been accompanied by any resolution”, it is “without doubt, an enormously transcendent data”, in order of evaluating “the illicit use of the material”.

Puigdemont’s announcement, points out the text from the prosecution, is completed with the political act of last Sunday, organised by pro-independence civil society entities in which the government in full participated, including “the defendant, Borràs” and in which “the decision which was took past Friday, was reaffirmated”.

The Public Prosecutor also lets the High Court know that the tender for ballot boxes has advanced and two companies have shown interest which “could be able, with their intervention, to facilitate the ends” pretended by Borràs. The Office asks the High Court for these facts to be taken into account.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Convoys of Spanish military vehicles moving on Catalan roads

Several convoys of Spanish army militar vehicles were seen moving on Catalan roads at different points. Many followers of Twitter have shared photos of these vehicles accompanied by comments of surprise and indignation as the multiple presence of these vehicles –not a regular event by any means- coincides with the day that the president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, announced the date and question of the Referendum.

The convoys were seen circulating on roads leading into Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, such as the Martorell motorway toll point, Ronda de Dalt,  Gran Via or Diagonal. This last point –Diagonal- is a specially sensitive point since in the Catalan popular memory, the imatge of Francoist tanks and troops entering Barcelon, at the end of the Civil War (January 26th 1939), is especially associated with this avenue. Amongst the vehicles yesterday, there were ambulances for the conveyance of the injured, lorries, 4x4s and tank-carriers with small tanks.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

30,000 rally in Barcelona to say that Catalonia will decide our future, even though the Spanish state doesn’t want to

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City FC, today issued a powerful call to arms for Catalonia’s independence referendum, urging the international community to support the Spanish region in defying “an authoritarian state” in Madrid.

The former captain and coach of Barcelona made the unusual public appeal two days after the Catalan president announced an independence vote for October 1, a move that the Spanish government insists is illegal.

Speaking to a crowd of 30,000 from the steps of Barcelona’s National Palace, Mr Guardiola said Madrid was “persecuting political debate” in “a threat that affects all democrats”.

“We Catalans are victims of a state that is carrying out political persecution unworthy of a democracy in 21st Century Europe”, the football star insisted. Reading a referendum manifesto in Catalan, Spanish and English, he declared: “We are here to say clearly that on October 1 we will decide our future, even though the Spanish state doesn’t want us to.”

The vote was announced by Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, on Friday after attempts to negotiate a way out of the secession crisis fell apart in recent weeks.

The government of Mariano Rajoy has consistently rejected all attempts to hold a referendum, insisting a vote would be unconstitutional and ordering the country’s Supreme Court to focus all its efforts on the issue.
Amid an increasingly vicious war of words, Madrid has accused the Catalan government of mounting a “coup” in the Spanish autonomous region. Mr Rajoy has compared its push for secession - even if unilateral - to that of “the worst dictatorships”, and warned a independent Catalonia would be immediately thrown out of the EU. The exchanges have escalated to veiled threats of confrontation: after the Spanish government last month vowed to stop a referendum “by any means”, Mr Puigdemont challenged it to explain if the state was “willing to use force.”
Spanish state interference is a deeply sensitive issue in Catalonia, where the legacy of General Francisco Franco and his brutal attempts to crush Catalan identity still loom large in the public memory.
On Sunday, to cheers from supporters waving Catalonia’s flag, Mr Guardiola accused Madrid of trying to destroy the Catalan movement by blocking infrastructure investment, bringing politically motivated prosecutions against its leaders and undermining the region’s school system.
“We appeal to all the democrats of Europe and the world to stand up to the abuses of an authoritarian state”, he said.

Video in English

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Spanish Goverment says that the Catalonia's Democratic Referendum is not going to take place

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, signaled that Madrid would persist in resisting the move of a Catalan democratic referendum. “They can announce a referendum as many times as they want and put it back as many weeks as they want, and hold as many events as they want, but the referendum is not going to take place,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Catalonia's independence referendum to be held on October 1st

'Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?' will the the oficial question.

“The problem is real and profound,” said Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont in a statement on Friday morning at the Catalan government’s headquarters in Barcelona in which he outlined the details of the planned referèndum.

The pro-sovereignty leader said that his administration has attempted to reach a negotiated deal with a hostile central government in Madrid “up until the last day” and “repeatedly.”
“We sent proposals to agree on holding a negotiation,” he said. “We have explained it all over the world, but we are reaching the end of the term and we are still without an answer.”

Puigdemont’s announcement of the date and the question of the referendum on Friday morning comes in the face of unwavering opposition from the central government of the conservative Popular Party (PP) which has consistently appealed to the Constitutional Court in a bid to block a referendum it believes is unconstitutional, arguing that the sovereignty resides with all Spaniards.

It also comes several weeks after this paper revealed secret Catalan government plans to unilaterally declare independence in the event that a referendum is not held – a decision labeled by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as “intolerable blackmail.”

But Catalan government spokeswoman Neus Munté recently justified the move citing Madrid’s “refusal” to negotiate a legal referendum that all parties could accept.
Rajoy’s position throughout the Catalan nationalists’ independence drive has been that Spanish Congress must approve a referendum on self-rule, as its outcome affects all Spaniards, not just Catalans.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spanish Imperialist detained in Gibraltar for unfolding an 18m Spanish flag near the top of the Rock

Members of the Vox party carried out the stunt which left the large flag on display for some 20 minutes, shouting ‘Gibraltar Español’.  Spanish Imperialist party Vox issued a statement ‘With this act, Vox has wanted to claim we will never relent until we recover plain Spanish sovereignty on the Rock, the usurpation which has led to the unacceptable financial paradise, and has prejudiced our fishermen, the economic depression in the Campo de Gibraltar and the conversion of workers in the zone into hostages of the pirate Picardo’, written by the leader of the party, Santiago Abascal.

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Scandal: Spanish Minister and Anti-fraud Office Director plot against Catalan pro-independence parties

Current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs and governing People’s Party candidate to run for the Spanish Elections in Barcelona, Jorge Fernández Díaz, has been involved in a conspiracy scandal.

According to Spanish newspaper ‘Público’ Fernández Díaz and the Director of the Catalan Anti-fraud Office, Daniel de Alfonso Laso, allegedly plotted to find different ways to accuse and discredit Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties left-wing ERC and liberal Convergència.

The conversations between Fernández Díaz and Laso which ‘Público’ published this Tuesday are said to have taken place in 2014. Catalan Government spokeswoman and CDC member, Neus Munté, has called for Fernández Díaz “to offer explanations” and other parties are already urging him to resign. The revelations come five days before the 26-J Spanish Elections.

“I will not resign, it is the Minister [for Home Affairs] who should do so”, stated the Director of Spanish Anti-fraud Office, Daniel de Alfonso Laso, in a radio interview this Tuesday, after the scandal was made public.

The recording suggests that both Fernández Díaz and Alfonso de Laso were allegedly trying to find suspicious dealings, business or family connections to discredit members of ERC and CDC. “Don’t do it yourself; selling it to the press and always naming the Spanish Police’s division for Economic and Fiscal crimes (UDEF) you will lose favour”, suggested Alfonso de Laso to current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs on the recording, “give the information to me instead”.

Some parts of the conversation also reveal how de Laso considered some information to be “too soft” and Fernández Díaz suggested going further so as to involve former Catalan Ministers, Convergència’s Felip Puig and Francesc Homs. Other pieces of the dialogue point to the brother of Catalan Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras, who was ERC’s leader at the time.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

500 members from the Spanish Legion Rally in Barcelona

Members of the Spanish Legion organized a demonstration against Catalonia's self-determination and independence in downtown Barcelona, which was backed by a local councillor from People's Party (PP). However, the unionist demonstration was smaller than expected. Today, around 500 people demonstrated in Barcelona for Spain's unity, according to different sources. Fascist chants and simbology spread in the rally as usual in Spanish Unionist marches. The slogan of the march was "We Will Fight, We Will Die".

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Catalan President rules out independence during mandate

Carles Puigdemont was elected president of Catalonia's semi-autonomous government in January with the task of fast-tracking the Spanish region towards independence from Madrid within around 18 months.

But asked whether he would actually be declaring independence within that timeframe, Puigdemont told Spain's economic daily Expansion that he would not.

"Because it's not planned and it's not our commitment," he said in an interview on Monday.

But "we will do all the work necessary for this country to become an independent state," he added.

Catalonia's predominantly pro-independence parliament is currently working to put in place administrative organs such as a regional treasury and social security system in view of creating a separate state.

But until Puigdemont's comments, it had always been unclear whether they would actually declare independence at the end of the 18-month timeframe.

According to sources within Catalonia's executive, who refused to be named, the regional government plans to call new parliamentary elections when the 18 months are up.

The newly-voted regional parliament - which they hope will be composed of a majority of pro-independence lawmakers like it is now - will then be tasked with writing a constitution for a new Catalan state.

A referendum will be called, and if the region's 7.5 million inhabitants approve the constitution, Catalonia will officially declare independence from Madrid.

However the Spanish government is likely to challenge these planned steps in court.

For the moment, Spain is locked in political deadlock as parties struggle to form a coalition government following inconclusive December elections.

But all the main parties involved in negotiations for a future government oppose independence in Catalonia, although far-left Podemos supports holding a Scotland-style referendum on the issue.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

US Human Rights Policy and Weapons Transfers: White House directive Puts Question Mark on Defense Cooperation with Spain

On 15 January 2014 the White House issued a new Presidential Policy Directive on “United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy”. This new regulation, replacing a 1995 text, refers among others to the “need for restraint against the transfer of arms that would … serve to facilitate human rights abuses”. This provision may pose an obstacle to future weapons sales and other forms of cooperation with Spain, given that Madrid is repeatedly threatening Catalonia to use military force to prevent the exercise of the right to self-determination. The threats come from both officials and military personnel, with none of the latter having been court-martialed. The very real prospects of a coup could be deeply embarrassing to the United States, should Madrid employ US-made or designed weapons. Already, low-level flights by US-made F-18s have been reported in Western Catalonia, although they have failed to intimidate the civilian population. Although the 15 January 2014 Presidential Directive does not provide for a straight ban on sales to non-democratic regimes, its provisions clearly point out that it is not US policy to transfer conventional weapons for use in political repression. Furthermore, in the case of Spain, being a security consumer and unreliable ally, there are no strategic reasons to turn a blind eye to potential human rights violations. The White House would do well to suspend any conventional weapons sales to Spain pending a public commitment by Madrid not to employ them to repress Catalans.
Spain conquered Catalonia in 1714, opening up three centuries of human rights abuses which continue to this day. Repression, exile, linguistic persecution, and all sorts of restrictions, have characterized these three centuries. Despite partial democratization following Franco's death in 1975, and a measure of autonomy for Catalonia following the return of exiled Prime Minister Tarradellas in 1977, the dream of a fully democratic Spain, respectful of Catalans' civil rights, has gradually revealed itself as no more than a utopia. Catalan citizens, organizations, parties, and institutions, have repeatedly tried to seek a compromise solution whereby Catalonia would remain in Spain albeit with legal guarantees of self-government and human rights. The latest attempt, the 2006 reform of her Statute of Autonomy (laying down the powers of Catalan institutions and the basic human rights of Catalans), unleashed a political storm, with a strong Spanish reaction against and a counterattack seeking to put an end to the limited post-Franco concessions. This includes, among others, an attempt to stamp out Catalan from schools. As a result, a growing majority of Catalans decided it was time to go to the polls to decide their future, in accordance with the internationally-recognized and US-supported principle of self-determination, laid down in President Wilson's 14 Points and the Atlantic Charter, signed by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill. A semi-official referendum took place on 9 November 2014 but Madrid, instead of democratically campaigning to convince Catalan voters to choose to remain in Spain, launched a wave of cyberattacks against Catalan Government websites, targeting among others the public healthcare system, and charged President Mas and other officials. In the wake of the vote, and the later 27 September 2015 single-issue election (resulting in a pro-independence majority), newspapers have kept reporting subtle and not so subtle threats to employ military force to retain Catalonia, the same military force that secured Spanish sovereignty over the country in the first place.
The question is thus: does the 15 January White House Directive prevent future weapons transfers to Spain? In order to answer, we have to examine two different aspects. First, whether such weapons may be used to commit human rights abuses. Second, whether there may be other policy considerations, contained in the 15 January Directive, which may allow the White House to disregard the former and proceed anyway with weapons transfers or cooperation. Let us have a look at both.
Concerning human rights, both threats and actual instances confirm that Madrid is ready to use force.
With regard to other policy considerations, it is a complex area, since Washington may legitimately be concerned that making Madrid lose face may prompt a further radicalization of Spanish authorities. The United States may also be worried about Spanish contributions to international operations, such as counterpiracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and intelligence sharing in the fight against international terrorism. These contributions are already limited, given that Spain has persistently excluded itself, for example, from successive editions of BALTOPS. Furthermore, a significant portion of Spanish naval capabilities are employed to harass Gibraltar, rather than being available to NATO.
A possibility would be for Washington to prepare a package of limited, perhaps informal sanctions, and inform Spanish authorities that they will be implemented unless they commit themselves not to use force. This would send a shot across the bow to the Spanish military, warning them that repressing civilians is not only not in line with US values and interests, but a distraction from what their role should be at a time of growing tensions on a number of fronts, including Russia. It would also be very positive for the US Navy to increase naval visits to Barcelona, ensuring a regular presence in Catalonia's capital city. The US Navy already sent a ship in the run up to the 9 November 2014 referendum, in a move widely noted by Catalan observers.
Beyond purely military matters, there is another reason why it is clearly contrary to the US national interest to see Spain employ force in a desperate attempt to retain her hold over Catalonia. This would harden Catalan attitudes towards Spain's national debt, which at 100 percent of its GDP is clearly unsustainable. Should Catalonia recover independence without taking up a share, Madrid would default, threatening the euro's very existence and with it the stability of the world financial system. Rather than face this prospect, it may be better for Washington to discreetly intervene, ensuring that force is not used by Spain and that Catalonia reacts by refusing to take up a share of this unsustainable debt.
To conclude, the 15 January 2014 Presidential Policy Directive on “United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy” does not provide a detailed set of criteria regulating weapons transfers to semi or non-democratic regimes, but makes it clear that subject to national security considerations it is US policy to try to avoid indirectly facilitating violence against civilians. America has legitimate reasons to try to prevent Madrid from moving even further away from NATO, and can thus be expected to be prudent when it comes to dealing with the Spanish military. However, failing to act now may prompt an even greater diversion of already limited resources towards repression, weakening the Atlantic Alliance at a time of growing tensions with Russia. Furthermore, moving beyond threats to actual widespread resort to violence may prompt a Catalan refusal to take up a portion of Spain's national debt on recovering independence, with the resulting default by Madrid and negative impact on international financial stability. For all this reasons, the best solution could be for Washington to discreetly press the Spanish military to renounce the use of force against Catalonia, backing this up with necessary with limited, informal sanctions, such as restrictions on exchange programs. A more regular naval presence in Barcelona could also help send the message that what Madrid must do, is to close ranks with NATO, start taking part in BALTOPS, and cease and desist in the use of actual or threatened violence against Gibraltar and Catalonia.

By Àlex Calvo

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Economics of a Catalan secession from Spain

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about a hypothetical future, but the impact of independence on economics –for both the newly created State and what remains of the older– is a foreseeable outcome in the light of more than 150 secessions occurred  in the last hundred years, backlashes and black swans –for better or worse– excluded.
First things first, here you have a table with some fundamentals since you are not supposed to know them at your fingertips. Be aware that when we say Spain, it means the nowadays Spain excluding Catalonia. All data, even €/$ exchange rate, are 2014’s.

The main difference between secessions has been, and always shall be, if they are a covenant’s upshot or they are won against the —often furious— will of the former State, so let's go by parts, as Jack the Ripper said:

1. Velvet divorce scenario: agreed secession.

The independent Catalonia is recognized by Spain, becomes a full EU member- state, enters the UN and all the international organizations, assumes its rights and obligations under the existing treaties, etc.
In this case few are the economic impacts on economics since almost everything goes on as usual. Catalonia would gain full control of its own taxes, hence around €16 billion ($21 billion) wouldn’t be siphoned off by Spain every year; economic policies best suited to Catalan needs may be developed if voters choose wisely; and both parts take their fair share of former Spain’s public assets and debt in application of the Vienna Convention of 1983.
Spain’s only loss should be the fore-mentioned Catalan taxes, around 2% of Spanish GDP every year: a big but not an overwhelming blow.

2. Sour divorce scenario: unilateral secession.

If Catalonia succeeds to become, against the Spanish opposition, an independent State whose central authorities exercise effective control over population and territory within defined borders, and it overcomes the difficulties involved –such as raising taxes and making public and private services work–, the effects on economics are closely related to Spain’s success or failure to expel Catalonia from the single European market and the euro.
The only way to deprive European businesses and people of the single market rights they now have in Catalonia, and strip Catalan businesses and people of their single market rights all around Europe, is an unanimous decision of the 28 member-states. Otherwise these rights cannot be forfeited.

There are two sub-scenarios:
2a. From impact to wallop: Secession inside the European single market.
If Spain fails to get Catalonia off the European single market and the euro, but blocks its membership as an EU member-state –that requires an unanimous decision–, its reprisals against the independent Catalonia would be similar to the Spanish policies on Gibraltar and China’s on Taiwan: to make Catalan life inside the European single market and the euro highly bleak and rueful, and doing its best to clog any Catalan endeavor to become international organizations' and treaties' member.
Spain wouldn’t even recognize the existence of independent Catalonia, it wouldn’t agree to negotiate any partition of public assets, and it surely wouldn’t accept the former Spanish and now foreign pensioners’ entitlement to be paid their earned pensions.
In this case Catalonia should just take the Spanish public assets that dwell in its territory, and pay its pensioners with its own raised taxes, as Spain nowadays does in a pay-as-you-go pension system.
The main impact would be on debt: Spain retains all its €1 trillion debt ($1.3 trillion) with a shrunk GDP after losing Catalonia’s GDP, that is 19% of the nowadays Spain’s GDP –therefore its debt-to-GDP ratio would soar to 114% from the currently 100%.
Catalonia’s debt is €64.5 billion ($85.8 billion), 30.9% of its GDP, and Spain owns 60% of it. This is a powerful tool in Catalan hands to retaliate against the Spanish reprisals –such as behind-the-curtains officially-sponsored commercial boycotts doomed to end quickly: not to pay the former Spanish Catalonia's debt owed to a rowdy Spain.
Whence a not-agreed independence inside the euro and the European single market should be an acrimonious but manageable scenario, with huge but limited economic damage for both Catalonia and Spain.

2b. From wallop to Armageddon: Secession outside the European single market.
A completely different outcome will arise if Spain succeeds to implement an unanimous EU decision to wipe Catalonia off the euro and the single market, hence to impose tariffs on Catalan goods and services as a third country.
A Spanish commercial war would follow to take Catalonia out of the Spanish market, where Catalan goods and services are sold up to €39 billion ($51 billion),  18.5% of Catalan GDP. Since even newly independent countries are not prone to turn the other cheek to their would-be ruffians, those Spanish moves would surely provoke akin Catalan measures to wipe  Spain off the Catalan market, where Spanish goods and services are sold up to €27 billion ($36 billion),  3,1% of Spanish GDP. Catalonia could also block or otherwise clog the main land Spanish connections with Europe, that happen to pass through Catalan territory.
Hic sunt leones, sailing uncharted waters in an Armageddon scenario for both Spain and Catalonia.
These are the likely scenarios of the economic impact of secession for both players, a high-stakes game for strong nerves’ people.
Whoever blinks first loses. A lot.

Alfons López Tena and Elisenda Paluzie
Business Insider

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