Friday, August 19, 2011

Spaniards and Catalans: a New friendship

Citizens' Voice Series
Enric Molina
Sales Manager
Borders in Europe have been moving a lot, often causing serious trouble under the form of civil wars, world wars, terrorism, invasions... In some other cases, though, borders have been changed through peaceful agreements.

Even nowadays, European borders are not definitive yet. Scotland seems to move towards independence. The Basque Country is looking for it too. Apparently, Wallonia and Flanders won't stay together for long... And what is happening in Catalonia?

300 years ago Castile won the Spanish Succession War, (Bourbons against Habsburgs), Catalonia lost it's own self-government and became a part of a State called Spain.
For 300 years, Castile has tried in vain to transform Catalonia into an Spanish province. Catalonia has tried, also in vain, to transform Spain into a multi-national, multilingual State.

Catalan is a language spoken by more than 10 million people. It’s not official in the European Union, though. The reason is that Spain has never applied for this right. Maltese (spoken by 370,000 people) is official. So are Estonian, Irish or Slovene for instance. But not Catalan.

Catalan language has been banned many times and for long periods of time. The Catalan Parliament has been dismantled and reinstated several times too. Nothing worked.

Franco's dictatorship tried to solve two problems at the same time (famine in the south of Spain and the strength of the Catalan identity) by promoting massive migrations of Spaniards to the more industrialized Catalonia during the 50's and the 60's. The huge efforts of old and new Catalans to live together in peace, and specially the fighting together against Franco, are the clues to understand why still today there are not two separate communities in Catalonia. Political ideas or even the language spoken don't depend on family origin. Most of the sons and grandsons of those Spaniards who had to migrate to Catalonia feel themselves Catalans and, in a good number, a lot of them are even now working for the independence of Catalonia.
After about 300 years, Catalonia is looking for its own place in the world. Isn't it time for a referendum on that matter?

The Spanish Constitution reserves to the Spanish Government the legal capacity to organize referendums. But it obviously has no interest in such a thing as a referendum on the independence of Catalonia. Spain collects all the taxes. A 10% of the Catalan GDP is invested in other regions of Spain never to return to Catalonia. That's 22,000 million euros every year. A quarter of the total cost of the financial rescue of Portugal. Every year.

But Spanish Law could not forecast nor ban that independent citizens in every town and city of Catalonia could ask their neighbors in unofficial polls whether they would agree with Catalonia becoming independent from Spain. So that's exactly what we did.

In more than half of the villages and cities of Catalonia, including the capital city of Barcelona, some ordinary people, most participating in politics for the first time, organized these unofficial polls. More than 60,000 volunteers organized the polls. More than 800,000 voted yes for independence, perfectly aware that these polls don't have any legal validity—just to make the world listen to their voices.

Catalonia is ready for independence. Non-violently. In a peaceful manner. Ready to negotiate the terms and the conditions with our Spaniard neighbors, under the supervision of the EU and the UN.

Your support is welcome, and necessary. Europeans must accept that the borders in the south will soon change. And that’s for good. An independent Catalonia would be a net financial contributing country for the UE. Our GDP per capita is similar to Germany, Belgium or Finland. Strong enough to participate actively on the EU expenses. The freedom of Catalonia would help Europe to overcome the crisis and to grow. Be selfish: part of the taxes you pay are aimed to support weak European economies to develop. Mind for some help?

A last question may arise: What about our relations with our Spanish neighbors? Our strong ties, in many cases even at the family level, guarantee a real and effective co-operation in the future. A new friendship, based on equality, but no longer an unacceptable submission.

Enric Molina

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