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.