Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Open letter to the signatories of the Declaration of Barcelona


Dear Messrs. Albert Peters, Erwin Rauhe, Gerhard Esser, Sebastián Trivière-Casanovas, Carlos Wienberg, Andrés Gómez and other signatories (up to 54, according to the media reports),

My name is Thomas Spieker. I am a German citizen of 43 and I live and work in Catalonia. I have done so at times as a self-employed entrepreneur and at others as an amployee. I have for several years also been a columnist for several regional media in the country. Not belonging to any German club or association, I have always wanted to integrate into local society, though never hiding my roots. Today, my sentiment is that of a Catalan of German origin because, like many others, I have also learned to love the country after becoming familiar with it. Catalonia has become my homeland by choice.

Your “Declaration” has surprised me. While studying business in Berlin, my teachers had warned me to walk on eggshells if mixing politics with business. This has in fact been confirmed to me by professional experience. And it seems I'm not the only one who considers this manifesto more deserving of a monument to unwanted interference, rather than winning the sympathy of the Catalans, as otherwise BASF would have not distanced itself the very day after its presentation. You will surely have noticed that the reactions from both politicians and citizens have been from anything between mixed and vehement.

Left-wing Catalan politicians —among others, Joan Tardà of the Republican Left (ERC)— have even accused them of comparing Catalanism with German National-Socialism. This may seem a bit over the top, but nothing less was to be expected after the superficial, loose warning of the “hazard of nationalist fervour, which in the last century brought boundless suffering upon Europe and will bring nothing good to Catalonia.” Because above all, their fingers pointed only at Catalan nationalism. If they had observed the political climate a little closer, they would surely have noticed that Spanish nationalism is much more aggressive. Just imagine what would have happened in Germany if the federal government had compelled by law the regions —the Länder, for example Bavaria—, to expel its own dialect from the schools, to teach thenceforth maths or history exclusively in German neutral? Well, this was precisely the aim of the government in Madrid when his minister of culture, José Ignacio Wert declared to Congress that their intent was to make the children of Catalonia "more Spanish". And even if a tiny minority of Catalans cheer this milestone (as I'm sure there would be people in Bavaria who would applaud if their children were to be educated in German 'neutral'), use this argument to encroach on a responsibility that had been transferred to the Catalan Government over 30 years ago and has until now been a total success, as is multilingualism in Switzerland, for example.

Your statement has offended many people in this country. This is what happens, as a rule, when looking at only one side of the coin. And so it has been with the Madrid correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Leo Wieland, who never misses an opportunity to deliver blows to the wish for freedom of the Catalans. In the same way the Madrid radical right-wing media have also used the manifesto for their own ends. Even Catalan President Mas has had to intervene with a statement to try to analogise your text, which unfortunately is not considered an analysis, but an attack.

Obviously, nothing is further from my intention than to question your freedom of opinion and legitimate concern for the economic stability of Catalonia. What I question, however, is your lack of objectivity, unequivocally taking sides for one political option, the Spanish Popular Party —which some of you decided to campaign for in the last elections— which in the land in which you live as people and work as entrepreneurs or executives of leading German and European firms, is supported by only a tiny fraction of the population. Or do you think you represent the only international companies with interests in Catalonia? What about the Hyatt hotel chain, which has just invested €200 million Euros in the acquisition of the Agbar Tower, or the Chinese Hutchinson consortium, which intends to turn the port of Barcelona into the biggest semi-automated container terminal in southern Europe with an investment of €420 million, or billionaire Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara, who has over the past few years bought land and buildings in the Barcelona city centre worth over €500 million? Do you think the managers of these companies have not assessed the implications of the Catalan independence movement?

It is obvious that capital, as well as pursuing profitability, also seeks a stable environment. But if you had worked a little harder on your analysis, you would no doubt have noticed that both stability and growth is precisely what is at the core of the Catalan people's aspiration for independence, a people noted precisely for their entrepreneurial spirit. And in the opinion of world renowned macroeconomics experts, the lack of investment in Catalonia by the Spanish government, which prefers to invest in high-speed rail into the wilderness of Extremadura or in a new, unnecessary ring road around Madrid to buy votes, has harmed the Catalan economy far more than the separation of a union will. Spain has over the last 35 years of democratic rule handled the relationship with Catalonia much like a milkmaid and her cow than between two governments with equal legitimacy. And to all this must be added the cultural and linguistic domination, whose sole purpose is to repress any sign of Catalanness.

I very much regret that your letter has offended prcisely that people of Southern Europe which most resembles the German people. Perhaps one day you may wish to rebuild the bridges you have broken so lightly and decide to promote a new Catalan-German friendship. If you decide to do so, I will be happy to help.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Spieker

German

Spanish

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