Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Flood them with signatures

[By Vicent Partal. Originally published in Vilaweb on 9 June 2010]

Less than a year has passed since the referendum in Arenys de Munt and yesterday the Parliament of Catalonia has, for the first time ever, initiated the process that can lead the Principality to an official referendum on independence. There are those who are very pessimistic and who say it won't happen, but that's not important right now. Now what is our responsibility is what is on the table. It's time to flood Parliament with signatures.

We have arrived further than ever before. The IP [People's Initiative] for the first time opens a clear and clean way toward a referendum. The more signatures that get to Parliament, the more difficult it will be for them, all of them, to say no. It's true that the declarations yesterday made by CiU don't encourage euphoria, exactly. (I think they made a grave mistake, just the same.) It's also true that Esquerra's attitude these last years has also made for incertainty. And it's true that within Iniciativa, there are those who don't like what they see. It's clear, in conclusion, that the Spanish Government will try to keep it from happening.

But all of that is just part of the process. Soon we will be able to gather signatures to ask Parliament to hold this referendum. And we will have to do it not only with the idea that Parliament will vote on it, but also that Spain will have a hand, and above all, what Europe will think.

This IP is well thought out. It has been designed so that the expected 'no' from the Spanish Government will have to be a political one and a challenge to democratic norms. It is very important, with an eye toward Europe, that the support for the initiative be massive and heterogeneous and that Spain be unable to point out any legal or procedural flaw. Because then, if we make it, the game will change definitively, and the European Union will not be able to look the other way ever again.

Let's imagine that instead of 300,000 signatures we actually gather 500,000. Imagine if we collect a million. It depends solely on what we are capable of doing. Now, a situation like this would make it very hard for our parties to oppose this and it would be a defeat for the Spanish Government, within the European context. If it goes through, let it go through, but if it doesn't, let it not be because we didn't do our part. It would be unpardonable given how far we've come already.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spanish National Court Engineer also Demands Halt to TGV Tunnel Construction under the Sagrada Família

[Originally published in racócatalà on 8 June 2010]

He wants the construction to be halted in order to analyze if the current route is the "most appropriate" for the Sagrada Familia, since it creates an "unnecessary risk" for the temple

Only four days ago, we said that the Unesco had suggested modifying the route of the TGV tunnel that goes very near the Sagrada Familia and the Pedrera in Barcelona, and yesterday it was reported that the engineer from the Spanish National Court, who has to evaluate the risk of the construction, sent a letter to the judge in charge of the case, recommending that the construction be halted. Manel Melis, who is a railway and geotechnic engineer, and professor from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, considers it essential that the construction be stopped in order to analyze if the current route is the most appropriate for the Sagrada Familia, given the unnecessary risk that it creates for the temple.

In the text of the expert, dated May 26, it says "the most important thing is to see if there is an alternate route besides that which was chosen and to carefully study the motives for which the alternate was not chosen" and demands that "instructions be given to whomever necessary in order to stop the machines until further notice". In addition, it sidesteps responding to the 32 technical questions that are currently before the judge because in his opinion, it is necessary to first see if there is an alternative that does not risk any buildings in the city, in order to avoid events like that which happened in the neighborhood of El Carmel.

As a possible alternative, the Madrid-based engineer proposes studying the route that would bring the tunnel along Valencia and Consell de Cent Streets, a route that in its day had been looked at and discarded because it required either a change in Line 2 of the subway system or a turn radius not recommended for a high speed train. With respect to the protection screens recommended by the technicians from Unesco, Melis said that "sometimes they work and sometimes they don't" because "the calculation of subsidence (shifting of the earth) and estimates frequently fail".

UNESCO advises against routing the TGV underneath Gaudí's Sagrada Família

[Originally published in racócatalà on 4 June 2010]

A report by Unesco's Council on Monuments declares that the temple "is not prepared to withstand with any confidence any unforeseen disasters"

Unesco has advised that the route of the TGV tunnel that currently passes close by both the Sagrada Família and La Pedrera in Barcelona be modified. The International Council on Monuments affirms that the high-speed train tunnel "fulfills the typical requirements" but that the temple "is not prepared to withstand with any confidence any unforeseen disasters, like the sudden collapse of the structures next to the tunnel". Per the visit last February to Gaudí's works, the experts Rolf Katzenbach and Wolfgram Jäger propose a "preferred solution" of modifying the route and moving it farther away from the Sagrada Familia and the Pedrera, or to prepare more safety fallbacks for the route (like a double protection wall) so that the temple is not affected. Another proposed measure is freezing the area when the tunneling machine goes through so as to avoid water filtration.

Despite the publication of this report, the definitive position of the Unesco will not be official until the end of July, when the committee meets that is in charge of following the World Heritage Sites.

Parliament accepts submission of a People's Initiative for an Official Referendum on Independence

[Originally published in Vilaweb, 8 June 2010]

The organizers need to gather at least 220,000 signatures within six months so that the Parliament will vote on the convocation of a referendum

The plenary of the Parliament of Catalonia accepted the submission of the People's Initiative (IP) for an official referendum on the independence of Catalonia, thanks to votes in favor by CiU, ERC, and ICV-EUiA. Uriel Bertran, one of the organizers of the IP remarked on the "historical transcendence" and declared his satisfaction. Now that the proposal has been accepted, the organizers have six months to gather the 220,000 signatures needed to convene a full parliament which will vote on the convocation of an official referendum on independence.

Once the organizers get the necessary amount of signatures, the Parliament will have to convene a session, and it will be then that the Members of Parliament will decide whether to approve the convocation of the referendum. La referendum question will be "Do you agree that the Parliament of Catalonia should take the necessary measures in order to effect the popular will, so that the Catalan Nation becomes a democratic, independent, and social Legal State, and a member of the European Union? And voters will have to choose between 'yes' and 'no'.

Of course, the Spanish government has the last word, and "would have to say whether it will let people vote or if it will deny us that right," as Alfons López Tena said in his presentation of the IP to Parliament.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


by Vicent Partal. Originally published in Vilaweb 26 May 2010

Zapatero says (audio) that the era of self-government is over. That we have reached the end. Wow! And who decided that? Him? Have we returned to an era of absolute monarchy and I didn't get the news? And in Zapatero's case, maybe he will change his mind again, but wow, wow, and wow...

What an attitude—that of the Spanish government's president—for the love of God. He says that the era of self-government is over, that it has reached its peak, and I suppose he hopes that his wish comes true. Just like that. Maybe he doesn't know that that's how emperors and absolutists monarchs worked in the past, but that Paris' guillotine ended that joke and the people became the sovereigns, little by little, and thus, the ones who called the shots.

Zapatero can not say this. Because it is up to us to decide if the era of self-government is over or not. When all is said and done, if he is now the president of the government it's because we voted him into office, and if we want to remove him from office, that's what we'll do. But who does he think he is? In a democracy, these big decisions are proposed and the people vote on them, they accept them, or they don't, but they are not announced as if it were a decree that must be followed. That is just not OK.

But perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised because, really, it's just like old times. Joan Fuster used to explain years ago the weariness with which a member of the anti-franco opposition received, in the middle of one of Raimon's concerts in Madrid, the claim to Valencian autonomy, made by the writer himself. "Come on, we'll give you autonomy one of these days..." he said, as if he could take it out if his (opposition) pocket and make us a present of it. They have no options, that's clear.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Catalan News Agency

I've just noticed that Saul Gordillo's Catalan News Agency is publishing much, if not all, of their news in English. Excellent! I've been swamped so am happy to point you there instead.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An economic model for a developing country

Albert Montón is a producer and screenwriter of documentary films. This originally appeared on his blog.
Making a country starts with making companies in your country: globalization is comprised of people and companies that share globally but live locally. —Manuel Castells

From Thursday to Sunday. It's already been 4 days and you can still hear the clamor of the economic data, the clarifying explanations, the suggestive ideas, and why not say it?, the indignant evidence of the plundering of Catalonia and the (alas!) Catalan Countries. The presentation by the Cercle Català de Negocis (CCN) [Catalan Business Circle] gives us a lot to sink our teeth into.

The first surprising thing is the absolute lack of any mention of identity. It was all figures and objective economic data and thus, as equally contested as it could be accepted. That shouldn't be surprising—it is the Catalan Business Circle, right?—but it turns out that they are in favor of an idea, independence, that in this country has only been discussed to date as a sort of folkloric and emotional pie in the sky.

As Ireland and Finland, among others, have shown in this globalized world, countries prosper if they have a clear economic model to apply. A State, therefore, has the obligation of guaranteeing the resources for its own development. And that is exactly what is keeping Catalonia from becoming a developing country, because the foundation of the incompatibility between Spain and Catalonia is the economic model itself.

Let's be clear: Catalonia has been good at taking advantage of certain values like work, effort, savings, entrepreneurial spirit, risk and innovation, all mixed together with a dash of creativity that has resulted not only in material but also cultural and artistic wealth. It's not peculiar then, that the country went through the industrial revolution at the proper time and forged an economic fabric—that continues to this day—woven from small and medium businesses.

Can we say the same thing about Spain?

Spain didn't even have an industrial revolution, has not benefited from the agrobusiness sector, doesn't know how to take advantage of the privileged geographic position that it occupies. Instead, it is currently looking to lead a great European bank—a strategy which is more monetary than entrepreneurial—and continues to congratulate itself on its past tied to Latin America, by attempting to be a service provider (of telecommunications, energy...). Spain is a country that makes misfortune out of virtue: in the corner of the world that it is, with all of the advantages that come from belonging to the Mediterranean, it's content to be nothing more than a sunny beach resort for retired folks.

Why then, should we sacrifice ourselves to a model that doesn't satisfy our needs?

The day that Catalonia becomes independent, the day that we can bet on favoring the strong points of our own economy, that day we will develop the model that we should and we will become a developing country. Catalonia is prepared to convert itself, taking advantage of the geostrategic position that it occupies, in the doorway to Europe from Asia and Africa. We will be able to develop a logistical sector that allows us to receive components from the Orient, transform them with a high added value, and send them on to the European Continent. It must be our goal to convert the Catalan business community into a world leader in the biotech, pharmaceutical and agrobusiness sectors, among others. And, then, in addition, we will be able to compete in the new market of cultural and high quality tourism.

Can anyone doubt which of these two models will favor the Spanish State?

Only if we are independent will we be able to develop ourselves. And it's starting to become urgent, because the current Spanish economic situation in Europe is deplorable, and Catalonia resents it. Businesses at home, that were already hurting, cannot support very many more years of the weight of a State that strangles its potential and refuses it any support. It's not the threat of a boycott that should worry us. In fact, the boycott of 2006 against Catalan Cava was barely felt, and in the end, the rise in exports finished off the whole exercise with a rise in sales. It's also not very likely that any of the large Spanish companies in the strategic sectors (telecommunications, energy, etc.) would be willing to forego Catalonia as a market.

The real boycott is not against cava, it's that of a State that cruelly tries to squash the Catalan economy, that doesn't allow us to have a decent network of infrastructures, that gets in the way of our needs, that prioritizes Madrid as a center of communications, that keeps the Barcelona Airport from becoming the hub of the Mediterranean that it is destined to be, that trades—with Maragall's complicity—the high-speed train for an Olympic Games that, let us say again, chains us to fiscal deficit.

With just the 22,000 million euros that Madrid steals from us every year, the country would rise to take the fourth position on the list of GDP in Europe. And that would only be the beginning.

That said, the question has already shifted from "why are you an independentist?" to "why the hell aren't you an independentist?"

P.S. This article was written collaboratively with Montserrat Badia i Capdevila, who scolded me for not adding to my earlier post the rich presentation of the CCN. Even though I haven't yet finished with this theme, I have to agree that two heads think better than one.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Catalan Reality versus Spanish Spin

Albert Montón is a producer and screenwriter of documentary films. This originally appeared on his blog.
The 28th of February has gone by, the second wave of referendums on independence with a slightly lower turnout, and the Spanish media—the media, not the State, which has decided to be symptomatically quiet—has come back again with their habitual litany of slights and sarcasm. "Emaciated" and "ridiculous" are the kindest adjectives that the turnout received in the headlines (!) They even dared to declare that the turnout had reached just 21%, "despite the fact that anyone over 16 and even registered immigrants could vote". As if the fact that making the census bigger would facilitate a bigger percentage, which of course, is always relative. It's obvious that allowing immigrants to participate must always bring with it a lower turnout by percentage, since their connection with the country is lower. But this is the level of discourse that the brunete* offers its disciples.

What it seems that they don't get is that comparing the turnout of the referendums with any election promoted by the State and then boasting about data pre-cooked to their taste is nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion that can be very dangerous for those who practice it. And it is then that the Spanish spin differentiates itself slowly from the Catalan reality. A reality that is light years away from a supposed radical minority that throws bricks and burns dumpsters and pictures of a Borbon. In that sense, this documentary that we will premiere soon called “Vilafranca says YES” about the referendum on December 13 in Vilafranca del Penedès, shows the reality of a socially diverse independence movement that is nourished by the most prepared and involved members of society.

That the Spanish spin resists looking at the reality in Catalonia without prejudice needn't worry us unduly, rather the reverse. Each time more Catalans will find the version of events that arrives from Spain so distorted and offensive that it will be hard not to end up embracing the sovereigntist path. I said, though, that the State has been quiet, because there are people there thinking, and a lot at that. And they see that in a series of referendums organized with not a few well-known problems, that one of every four Catalans still said yes, without reservations, to independence. Not even the most optimistic polls have given results like these in the past five years. And the movement is growing by leaps and bounds, because the people feel assailed by the Spanish spin.

In Valencia, during the last 30 years, a saying has been going around that Eliseu Climent—as the principal representative in the media of Catalanism—made 100 blavers for every Catalanist that he converted, they call them "valencianistes", without blushing, despite the fact that they rarely speak in Valencian. And although it's a bit of an exaggeration, the refrain holds a grain of truth. Throughout the twentieth century, Catalan consciousness in Valencia Country has been rather meager. It was pretty easy for the Spanish to scare the people with the specter of Catalan imperialism. Many Valencians—or "valencianos"—felt assailed, in the same way that Catalans now feel attacked by Spanish spin. All things considered though, the difference is that in the Valencian case the supposed aggressors were in the right and in the case of the Catalans, it is the other way around.

It's for that reason that I always like to remember an article by Joan Francesc Mira—even though I don't know where I found it—where he detailed one of the realities that most affirm the "everything's fine" attitude of the valencianos: 60% of Valencians consider Valencian and Catalan to be different languages. And Mira had another piece of data: 100 years ago, except for a few intellectuals, almost all Valencians lacked a consciousness of linguistic unity. In fact, they had never even thought about the problem. Despite the lack of resources and political power a century later, concludes Mira, he would be more worried about Valencian nationalism if he was a blaver*. Reason wins out in the end, sooner or later.

In Catalonia right about now, we're counting on reason, and with the natural reaction of one who feels attacked. And the State is quite worried. In Spain, though, the common folk, and the media that feeds them, act like they don't get it, or that they don't want to get it.  It's easier to hunker down in their prejudices. We shouldn't be worried. The fall will be worse. We're doing fine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Parliament approves giving support to the referendums of April 25

Originally published in on 3 March 2010
By a resolution of ERC • With votes in favor from the Republicans and CiU, the abstention of ICV, and votes against from PSC, PP, and C's

The committee on Institutional Affairs of Parliament approved today a bill presented by Esquerra on the right to self-determination and about the recognition of the popular referendums on independence. The bill, that in the end contained a few amendments from CiU, had votes in favor from Convergència and ERC, abstention from Iniciativa, and votes against from PSC, PP and Ciutadans

The spokesperson for Esquerra in Parliament, Anna Simó, denied the declarations of some opposing parties that "this does not trivialize self-determination, just the contrary. We believe that the exercise of democracy is not trivial and the desire of the people to participate politically that has been demonstrated by the referendums is not either."

"Achieving a state of its own for Catalonia"
The approved text states: "On December 13, 2009, 166 municipalities of Catalonia were host to the celebration of popular referendums, organized by local civic organizations, in which citizens of these communities were asked their opinion on the constitution of Catalonia as an independent, democratic, social state, integrated into the European Union.

"These activities, in accord with the existing rules, were able to achieve a resounding effect and high turnout, given the fact that out of 700,000 people called to participate, close to 200,000 actually did. This is an important result given the non-offical nature of these referendums, the fact that they were organized by grassroots, civic organizations and not by the government, and their non-binding status.

"In addition, the fact that participation was open to youths between 16 and 18 years of age and to people who did not have the right to vote in other electoral contests shows the will of incorporating all of the citizenry in a civic, democratic, and inclusive process.

"The wide participation and majority vote in favor of independence among the participants shows that a growing part of Catalan society desires the constitution of an independent state for Catalonia. Additionally, these referendums that have been organized by the grassroots are a remarkable exercise in civic participation and demonstrate a profound interest in the questions that affect all of our citizenry.

"This process should encourage our public institutions to reflect on the future of our national liberties, the reach of democracy, and the participation of our citizens in public affairs."

Having presented these thoughts, the text approved by Parliament establishes:

1. The Parliament of Catalonia confirms once more the validity of Resolution 98/III, on the right to self-determination of the Catalan Nation, adopted on 12 December 1989, as well as Resolution 679/V, adopted on 1 October 1998, which ratified the previous one.

2. The Parliament of Catalonia declares its recognition of the referendums celebrated on 13 December 2009 and 28 February 2010 in more than 250 municipalities as an expression of the will of the citizenry to participate politically in the configuration of the future of Catalonia and in the reaffirmation of its national reality, and is grateful for the work of volunteers in those municipalities in which referendums have been organized and to all those who participated.

3. The Parliament of Catalonia encourages the grassroots organizations, the local officials and the individual citizens in the municipalities which will hold referendums on April 25 and June 20 of 2010 to work together so that they can again count on the sizable participation of the people.

4. The Parliament of Catalonia supports the will of using all of the judicial and political tools available in order that the people of Catalonia may exercise their right to decide.

The first point also received a favorable vote from Iniciativa and an abstention from PSC.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Barça president Laporta aspires to a central role in Catalan politics

Originally published in Vilaweb on Wednesday, February 3, 2010

By Pere Cardús

The jump into politics by the president of F.C. Barcelona shakes up the current political map • Laporta's advisers study their options for success and prepare an effective strategy • He might present himself as a candidate on a "Laporta List"

The participation of Joan Laporta in the fall parliamentary elections, although still an unconfirmed hypothesis, may unleash a seismic shift in power between the current political parties. The difference between this case and those that have tended to appear on the edges is that Joan Laporta has the capacity to take center stage in the Catalan political spectrum, especially in terms of issues of sovereignty. The strategic key that his advisers and inner circle are studying is a platform of centrality that remains profoundly transforming. The fear of the traditional politcal parties is that his popularity will allow him to attract followers from every corner.

Laporta has said explicitly on more than one occasion that he would like to lead a new campaign that is the spearhead of the emerging expression of modern and unabashed independentism. This new sovereigntist movement has showcased itself these last few years with grass roots mobilizations that culminated last year in the referendums for the independence of Catalonia. Up to now, the blaugrana [blue-and-red*] president has resisted joining any political option with parliamentary representation and has partied with Joan Carretero's new Reagrupament [Regrouping*]. A radio appearance on RAC1 by Carretero (àudio) and declarations by Laporta in certain media make one think that this alliance is getting stronger and may begin to crystallize.

Joan Laporta will make the jump into politics after finishing his time at FC Barcelona, including renewing Coach Pep Guardiola's contract, setting the election date of June 13th for the new president, and presenting his successor, Alfons Godall. This has been made evident as the current Barça president has been dropping clues that are more and more clear, now that he has been able to put these three affairs in order which had been making it difficult for him to focus his attention on politics, and is advised by Joan Oliver and Xavier Sala-i-Martin of the Fundació Catalunya Oberta [Foundation for an Open Catalonia] and colleagues in the Barça front office.

On one hand, Laporta's strategy might point to grabbing followers of Convergència i Unió [Convergence and Union*]. Showing off his image of efficiency and professionality of the lawyer cum successful sporting club president would let Laporta seduce a significant portion of CiU's traditional base. The executive tone and the presentation of his successes managing Barça might attract many of those who earlier relied on Pujol* and Mas* for their managing skills. But he might also get support from CiU's base, which has evolved toward a sovereigntism that is expressed openly in favor of independence and that has participated in the referendum movement without the presence of Mas or his team.

The Laporta option also has possibilities of getting support from ERC* voters who have been disillusioned with the Republican role in the tripartit* [tri-party coalition]. An openly independentist stance that opts for a schedule of emancipation in the short term may well call the attention of Esquerra's base that just four years ago gave its support to Carod and to Puigcercós, but for whom the luster has dimmed somewhat given the long horizon in which this party situates Catalan sovereignty. After some years of speeches about balance and calls for small incremental changes*, an unabashed Laporta might pull a good portion of weary ERC voters to their feet.

Without parliamentary representation, the CUP* may see that a good portion of its municipal voters will now opt for supporting a choice headed by Joan Laporta. The CUP decided not to present its party in the parliamentary elections and has left its supporters without any political direction, and these may now feel attracted by the direct and simple talk of Laporta.

Surprisingly, Laporta may also erode some of PSC* and ICV's electoral base in the metropolitan area.
Sovereigntism has always had difficulties attracting significant support in Barcelona and especially in the metropolitan area. But the popularity and leadership of Joan Laporta may be key in entering this area in which PSC has had almost exclusive control for decades.

Finally, Laporta may collect the support of the majority of platforms and grass roots organizations that have taken the initiative in the struggle for independence. You only need to remember the reaction the blaugrana president received upon going to the September 11 demonstration in Barcelona last year. In this area, Laporta can use his image as a "political outsider" as well as his widespread appeal in order to offer a political choice to a constellation of entities, platforms, and groups that have appeared in the last few years. The president of FC Barcelona can also get the attention of the motivated sovereigntist citizen who has abstained in the last few elections and who can see confiding in a breakaway option that has emerged from the civil society where he had taken "refuge".

Politics is not a completely new business for Laporta. Note that he already participated in the adventures of Àngel Colom and Pilar Rahola's Partit per la Independència (PI) [Party for Independence], in the 90's. Laporta joined PI through Albert Perrin, with whom he also coincided on the Board of FC Barcelona.

*blue and red are the colors of F.C. Barcelona, Barcelona's premier football team.
*Reagrupament is the new independentist political movement/party headed by Joan Carretero
*Convergència i Unió (CiU), often abbreviated as just Convergència, is a federation of two political parties: Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya i Unió Democràtica de Catalunya
*Pujol is Jordi Pujol, long time leader of CiU, retired in 2003
*Artur Mas is the current leader of CiU.
*ERC is Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a leftist independentist party
*tripartit is the coalition of PSC (Socialist Party of Catalunya), ICV-EUiA (itself a coalition of Initiative for Catalonia Greens Party and United and Alternative Left Party), and ERC, formed in order to take the presidency of the Generalitat, despite that fact that CiU was the party with the most seats.
*This strategy in Catalan is called "fine rain"... like a mist that gently creeps into your bones without drenching you all at once, ERC's strategy is to pursue small, incremental changes that in the end add up to fundamental differences.
*CUP - Candidatura d'Unitat Popular, or Popular Unity Candidates party, a Catalan Indendentist party
*PSC - Socialist Party of Catalonia
*ICV - Initiative for Catalonia Greens

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Germà Bel: "There's not a bit of difference between this plan for managing the [Barcelona] airport and nothing."

Originally published in Vilaweb on January 13, 2010

The economist Germà Bel examines the airport management model proposed by the Spanish government

Germà Bel, economist who forms part of a group of business leaders and experts that asked that Catalans be allowed an individualized and territorial management of their airports, spoke very negatively in this interview with VilaWeb about the proposal put forth by the Minister of Public Works and Transport, José Blanco. He argues that "this maintains the centralized system" that we have now. And he believes that now is the moment for a reply by the Catalan political establishment, that needs to show whether it will accept that it be treated like a "purely symbolic element" or not.

How do you see the airport management proposal suggested by Spanish Minister José Blanco?

That which was explained today, consists basically in maintaining a centralized and unitary system that controls the strategic decisions about the management of the airport, while introducing the word "individualized". Indeed, the system has been defined with rather unexpected clarity. It's quite clear that it consists of a change of nomenclature, and in a very few modifications of some very minimal points, in relegating the territorial parts to a position of "no, no, and no" and basically maintains the existing system.

Do the changes in nomenclature, the appearance of subsidiaries and the influx of private capital in the overseeing company translate to more eficiency with respect to the current management?

You have to keep in mind that the majority of subsidiaries will still belong to AENA and that the territorial parts will be able to say "no" to the price of parking, Coca-Cola, newspapers, and baggage service. And they will only be able to say, "no". That is, they can only veto. The territorial parts will not end up even using their veto because you can't construct an airport project on the foundation of a veto. In the end, and in reality, negative vetoes are not exercised because they destroy the company.

Would the territorial committee on the development of routes that Minister Blanco is proposing help to make Barcelona airpot (El Prat) an intercontinental hub?
There already was a Routes Committee working in Barcelona and doing a reasonable job. But, if the airport of Barcelona cannot make decisions about investments, taxes or commercial policies in general, and instead AENA must manage those tasks, the committee will have no mandate and whatever powers they do have won't be worth the paper they're printed on, since they won't have the resources to bring them to fruition. In fact, the Routes Committees are a peculiarity of Spain. In normal countries, there are no Routes Committees because the management of the airport itself makes its own commercial policy. This is a clear demonstration of the absolute ridiculousness of the Spanish system which imposes Routes Committees when there is already a manager in place.

Can the system made public today be compared to that of any other country?
It continues to be comparable to the management system of Romania, although, probably, from a technical point of view, it's a bit more complex. Obviously, we're talking about big countries. In the case of small countries where all the air transit is concentrated in a single airport, like Finland, then the system is centralized. But, if we are talking about France, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands or Australia, it's not comparable. In other words, it continues being as incomparable as before. In short, the airport of Marseilles is managed in Marseilles, the Lyon airport is managed in Lyon, the Paris airport in Paris. Here, the big fundamental decisions continue to be made by this centralized system, and on the minor decisions, AENA would still have the majority vote.

Does the Spanish system differentiate between airports that are "complicated to manage" and airports that are "more simple to manage"?
That's ridiculous. Those are words that were invented and put on the table in order to keep from having to broach the subject of how many and which airports will be managed by subsidiaries of AENA. There is no substantive difference in managing an airport with 2 or 3 million passengers than in managing one with 8 million, at least from the point of view of a non-centralized system. This is terminology that doesn't exist in the rest of the airport world; it is Spanish terminology created expressly for use in the Spanish political debate.

What steps should citizens who mobilized for that demonstration* at IESE take, now that it is clear that the Spanish government refuses to accept its demands?
My opinion is that now, the answer should be given by our Catalan elected representatives. In whatever case, the society will express its opinion. My personal opinion is that if this is the best system they can offer, it'd be better not to accept it and instead wait for other circumstances in order to achieve a better result. Because between this option and nothing, there is absolutely no difference. Now, Catalan politicians should speak up, because if they want to be treated like a completely symbolic institution, they will get their wish by letting themselves be treated in this way.

*Demonstration at IESE: Meeting proposed by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and others, in conjunction with all of the major business members in Catalonia, to discuss the future of the Barcelona airport, with the title, "Barcelona airport: Key infrastructure for the future of the Catalan economy"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

40 More Towns to Vote on Catalan Independence

Originally published in Vilaweb on 12 January 2010

The secound round of referendums on independence for Catalonia will attempt to improve on the turnout from December 13

The referendums on independence in Catalonia will arrive in 40 more towns on February 28. This second round of referendums will not have the same territorial coverage as that of last December 13. On that day, there were 167 municipalities that held a referendum, but to date, only 38 have confirmed the elections on this upcoming February 28. One of the objectives of this new wave of referendums is to get an even higher turnout than the last round did.

The referendums scheduled for the first months of 2010 will occur on two days, on February 28 and on April 25. 40 odd towns have confirmed that they will give their citizens the vote on the political future of Catalonia on February 28. In total, and without counting last-minute additions, the referendums will have been able to be celebrated in 240 municipalities since Arenys de Munt first took the initiative on September 13th of last year.

The municipalities that have confirmed their intention to hold the referendum on February 28 are: Agramunt, Alella, Alforja, Alp, Begues, Bellpuig, Bescanó, la Bisbal d'Empordà, Breda, les Cabanyes, Cabrils, Caldes de Montbui, Cardona, Castellterçol, l'Escala, l'Espluga de Francolí, Gelida, Llinars del Vallès, Llorenç del Penedès, Maçanet de la Selva, Moià, Molins de Rei, Montblanc, Palamós i Sant Joan, Palau-Sator, la Pobla de Lillet, Riells i Viabrea, Sant Andreu de Llavaneres, Sant Feliu de Codines, Sant Quintí de Mediona, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Teià, Torrelles de Llobregat, Vidreres, Vilassar de Mar, Vilobí d'Onyar, Salitja i Sant Dalmai, el Vendrell and Xerta.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Wrong Road, by Alfons López Tena

Originally published in and on January 8, 2010

by Alfons López Tena

The experience of having coordinated a referendum on independence for Catalonia in Osona, where 42% of the 120,000 citizens with the right to vote actually exercised that right, despite being organized with absolutely no institutional support nor public funds, being under the constant vigilance and yet boycotted by the Spanish and Catalan governments as well as the PSC*, with the silencing of the media by the pro-Spanish and PSC-controlled media outlets, counting only on the strength of the grass-roots, from the base and with the base, engenders so many emotions and reflections, so many and such a variety of feelings, that it's difficult to describe them in a single article.

We were successful because we didn't know it was impossible, as was often said about those who struggled for the independence of the United States of America, and because we didn't listen to the know-it-alls, to the sensible, and to those who use rose-colored glasses to justify inaction. We trusted the people, and the result has been wonderful. This is the first lesson that the more than 2000 of us who volunteered have learned: without the trust of the people, without their collaboration, nothing is possible. You need organization, you need to know what you want and to never lose site of your goal, you need to work beyond tirelessly, but none of that matters if you don't trust the people, if you don't earn their trust by trusting them first.

Today, however, we must also speak of the conclusions that can be gleaned from this experience and of the repeated meditations on the history of the Nation. Those of us who have or have had a notable presence in Catalan public life—in whatever aspect: social, political, cultural, etc.—have the obligation of speaking clearly and with complete frankness, of proclaiming the truth that comes from the experience of more than a century of pro-autonomy Catalanism.

The conclusions about the national and political path that Catalonia has followed between the end of the 19th century and the present can be summed up in this opinion: Catalonia has gone down the wrong road and is now, to a great degree, a victim of her own blindness. This wrong road is "Catalan Autonomy", that is, the search for self-government by way of fitting in or with Spain.

While Catalanism bullheadedly insisted, from Almirall to Carod, from Prat de la Riba to Maragall, from Macià to Pujol, from Cambó to Porcioles, in achieving self-government within the Spanish state, one nation after another in Europe and in the world was obtaining their independence. More than 150 States in the world today did not exist when we started out on the wrong road of Catalan Autonomy. The vast majority of the States of Europe were created while in Catalonia we have only fallen again in again into the Spanish trap.

*PSC - Partit Socialista de Catalunya, Catalan wing of the ruling center-left party in Spain, PSOE.