dilluns, 10 de setembre de 2012

A European Catalonia

Josep Bargalló Valls
First Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education of Catalonia 2003-2004
Councillor in Torredembarra Town Council (1995-2003)
President of the Ramon Llull Institute (2006-2010)
From 2010 he is Professor at the University Rovira i Virgili

On September 11, Catalonia celebrates its National Day. On this day, Catalonia commemorates the fact that on September 11, 1714 Barcelona was taken by the Bourbon king's troops after an endless siege, as they had done before in other cities of our nation during a long and bloody war. A little while later, the Spanish monarchy would abolish Catalan liberties and laws. However, we do not celebrate a defeat—no nation does. We remember our liberties and how we lost them at a time of crisis and confrontation between the main European powers. In that war Catalonia would side with the Austrians, and would get Britain's support. However, we ended up being defeated. Our allies abandoned us, and this led to bitter, fruitless controversy known as “the Catalan Case” (for more on this read my article published by Help Catalonia, Heirs of a Defeat). Catalonia became isolated and was left to its own devices. The Spanish-French army pummeled Catalonia. In the end, Catalonia would also lose on its attempt at creating a more diverse, less absolutist Europe, with better prospects for developing a prosperous economy and social environment.

This time around, when we approach the 300th anniversary of those events, Catalonia is facing a new crossroads. We either leave things as they are and remain a part of Spain, or we boldly move towards freedom so as to develop as a free nation. Everybody knows that Spain is in the business of smothering Catalonia's economy. What's known as fiscal deficit (the difference between the taxes Catalonia pays to Spain, and the investments it receives in return) has remained steadily at 10% annually—or some 20 billion euros, every year! This 10% of fiscal imbalance is way more than the 4% stipulated by, say, Germany's Constitution, or the 2% defined in Canada's and Australia's legislation. This imbalance is not only a clear sign of Spain's predatory ways, but it hinders Catalonia's economic growth and investments for the future. No European country would be willing to put up with this situation. Indeed, none could withstand it.

What's more, Catalonia's fiscal imbalance has been used by Spain during decades to prop itself up artificially. As a result, Spain has done nothing to develop its infrastructures. All it has done is get fat with this loot. This has led to its current economic collapse, and is sending Catalonia down the drain as well. Just recently the Catalan government was forced to request a recue package of 5 billion euros from the Spanish government. This money does not even make up for the additional 16 billion euros Catalonia will end up overpaying—even in the midst of a recession. Spain's attitude is completely reckless, and is only compounding Catalonia's troubles.

Catalonia needs to recover its full sovereignty to redress its economy. An independent Catalonia would not need to be rescued and would not be part of the regions facing serious economic crisis. What's more, Catalonia would be able to establish its own socially progressive policies, and would not be forced to backtrack on welfare advances. Also, it would be able to strengthen its culture and language, a true testament to Europe's diversity. Catalan has been repeatedly threatened by a Spanish government that has refused to make any revision of Franco's genocidal past.

This coming September 11, the people of Catalonia will express their will. Europe owes us our freedom. What's more, Europe needs to encourage the creation of cohesive, creative, and entrepreneurial states which will be the foundations for a better future for all. Catalonia wants to be, can be, will be such a state.

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