Monday, December 24, 2012

President Mas' Inauguration Speech

You can watch the speech (in Catalan).

It wasn't actually my intention to translate it all or perfectly—it *is* Christmas Eve after all—so the beginning contains quotes here and there, and as the speech progressed, I started translating more and more, until the end, where I translated much more carefully, and much more completely.

This legislature was founded on a stable pact.

11.25: There have been many pacts in the last 30 years. This one is particularly new.

11:40: The pact came out of the elections with the highest turnout in the history of the present-day Generalitat, which legitimizes the results. And the pact is made between the two parties that received the best results, Convergència i Unió i Esquerra Republicana.

13:08: This happened in Germany, 10 years ago, slightly differently, since they joined to form a coalition government. But they joined together to work together for the country.

13:38: It also happened recently in Holland, where the first and second parties have joined together to form a government. They are better off than we are, but they also have to make budget cuts, etc.

14:06: So what am I saying? That this government and this legislature are borne of great legitimacy, of a pact between the two leading parties, with an ample majority of the voters of this country, but with an added legitimacy, since their platforms were very clear. People knew exactly what they were voting for.

14:59: Any pact can generate all kinds of reactions. Doubts, questions, and these are all legitimate. And contrasting opinions. That's normal.

We should be judged by our results, and by the field on which we'll play. And if you'll allow me a soccer metaphor, we think the field is ok, it's not flat where the ball rolls along and where you can make great plays to the cheers of the fans. This field is full of puddles and divots. All of us who like sports know that when the field is full of puddles and divots, it's hard to play well. You can play, when the field is full of puddles and divots, but it's difficult to play well. You can play, you have to play. You can win, you have to win. You can give a good show. But the field is full of puddles and divots. And that, like it or not, is the field we've got. So judge what is coming on the results. I'm not asking for any leeway in this respect, but it's still important to remember.

17:25: I believe that this pact is born with firm convictions about its objectives, and I hope with all my heart, and I believe that it will also be so that this pact will be calm in manner. That was clear the other day in the Parliament. Firm in objectives, calm in manner. Put more traditionally, Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo. And that's the way it should be. Keep the objectives of the country in mind, but act in a calm, and in the peaceful, negotiating manner that is in line with the democratic principles of our people, and which I believe are a part of our collective identity.

18:20: I also want to repeat that it is an open pact. It is a pact open to contributions, to new members, even to sharing the governance more widely. It's a pact that was born open, but which requires, of those who wish to join, things that are very obvious, like for example, to be mindful of the realities that we face, to have the will to change that reality in a positive way, one thing is to see the reality and another is to be resigned to it, and also it's important to note, especially given the electoral results, that those who would join us will defend the right of Catalonia to freely express the decision about its own future.

Later, its future may take various forms, and there may be diverging opinions, and there may be different ideas, but what we do ask, is that in order to collaborate fully in the governance of the country, that there be an explicit recognition of this right of Catalonia, like any other people of the world, to exercise its right to self-determination.

19:49: I'm telling you this pact is open, because the current situation is above and beyond any leadership, any government, any government coalition, any parliamentary pact, any relationship between political parties. It is a situation that is so complex that it requires the joint effort of the whole community. It requires the joint effort of a country. A country that I believe should act together as one, or as together as it can. I know that complete agreement is impossible, but as united as we can, in that which is essential, which is fundamental.

20:38: And what is essential and fundamental? Four things.

First, we must have democracy. We are in a hall, the “Saint George Hall” of the Palace of the Generalitat, that has a very long, ancient history. It is from this very hall, in this very palace, where the royal authority was controlled and compensated, and by the way, since the [Spanish] Minister of the Treasury is here with us today, it is from here where taxes were administered. Speaking of historic rights, the Generalitat de Catalonia began as an institution whose primary purpose was to collect taxes, which were then delivered to the king, but always with pacts and compensation, and "privileges" in the language of the era. Never imposed. There was not absolute monarchy, there was a pacted monarchy. It is from here that our spirit of peace and negotiation must come, this spirit of peace and dialog that Catalans have, and that we have attempted to exercise over the centuries. So, democracy, first and foremost.

22:00: Of course, democracy, like this very building, needs foundations and pillars. This Saint George Hall began as a church, the Saint George Chapel was too small for the legislators of the era and they had the idea later of creating this hall, first as a church. Indeed, you can see when you enter, some columns, which are very wide, because they were meant to hold up the weight of all of this. It was supposed to be a church. And I explain that to demonstrate that everything needs pillars. And foundations. Including democracy. It needs its architects. It needs its jurists. And the rule of law is a pillar of democracy. Above all, democracy. Everything else can be changed. Everything else can be adjusted to the events, to the will of the people, as long as they express themselves peacefully, and non-violently. But we must underscore again, this essential characteristic of democracy, that on the other hand, is the great strength of Catalonia for the coming years. We might not have other powers, other strengths, but this one, if we know how to express it, and express it in a majority fashion, this strength, we have to know how to express it and how to exercise it.

23:22: Second thing. Social cohesion. The country must stick together. I know it's very difficult. Because the political dynamics, the dynamics in the Parliament, often lead to confrontation. But the country must be united with respect to maintaining social cohesion. And this social cohesion, let's be clear, has possible fissures. If we express ourselves in terms of events that happened years ago in this country, there are threats of "aluminosis"* in our building of social cohesion. They weren't so obvious some years ago, but the harshness, magnitude, and length of this financial crisis, are provoking, to some extent, these fissures. We will have to create new budgets. And it's important that it be understood that in order to preserve social cohesion, there are people who have had to get used to receiving less than they received, and it's also important that there are people who bring more than they brought previously. The two things form part of the reality. A reality which we hope is temporary. That's not permanent. Both from the point of view of those who receive less, who can once again receive their share, and from the point of view of those who will have to bring more, from both of those two points of view, we hope we will return to normality. But now, that's where we are. It will be important to properly divide the sacrifices and maintain the treasure, which is very important, that is, the social cohesion of the country.

25:08: Third essential point. Economic recovery. And because we cannot count on great growth, the objective will have to be a change in the direction, that instead of heading downward, as we have, we'll be able to say that we are improving, and heading upward. This won't be in the very short term, there won't be a huge effect on employment when the direction changes, but it is fundamental to, as they say, hit bottom, and then begin to grow again, even if at the beginning, we do so slowly. Why do I say that? I say that because beyond the budget cuts, which have become very famous in common speech, there is a more brutal reality, which is our unemployment situation. It is even more grave. Because it is that they undermines expectations, undermines hope, and can even undermine families themselves. Therefore, economic recovery is absolutely essential, so that the country is as united as possible.

26:14: The fourth and last essential point with which the country must be as united as possible is that Catalonia can decide its own future. Changing the direction of history of a country, as we surely are about to do at this moment, changing the direction of a country is like turning a transatlantic ship, especially we're talking about the history of the country that is Catalonia. It is a long history, a very long history with very deep roots, indeed it's is a thousand year long history, it is not an improvised history, nor was it borne of a constitution, nor did it come from a statute. This all comes from way back.

Therefore, changing Catalonia's direction, as is happening right now, and indeed that a significant portion of the Catalan population is asking us to do, is like changing the direction of a transatlantic ship. You can't turn it on a dime. It's a maneuver that must be handled properly. It's important, therefore, for us all to have that very clear in our minds.

27:23: It's for that reason that I have spoken so often of "national transition". It's not a sudden change, it's not a sudden shift of the rudder, but instead the change in direction is a gradual transition. I think that this is well stipulated in the agreements that we have established in the current Catalan political situation. Agreements, that I insist, must have more participation than they have had up til now. Therefore, with an outstretched hand, I hope we can encourage more participation.

27:54: There may be people who may think that this new era of Catalan politics, that this change of direction in our history, if you'll allow me a maritime analogy, it's as if you jointly took the helm. Imagine two ships, which at the current trajectory, are headed for a collision. There's clearly a risk. And the idea is that the people in the ships, and the people driving the ships avoid a collision at all cost, because a collision isn't good for anyone. But remember that if nothing is done, if there was not a desire on the part of Catalan political spectrum to change directions, in that case, we would be adrift. And when you drift, the most likely outcome is to end up against the rocks.

28:53: Therefore, is there risk of collision? Of course. We have to make every effort to avoid one. Obviously. We must commit ourselves to avoiding a collision. But the rest? To do nothing, to be impassive, to look the other way from a comfortable position, etc etc., will set us adrift, and there is generally a very short distance from drifting to running aground on the rocks.

So, it's essential that the country be united, that Catalonia can freely decide its own future, and it would be good in that respect, let me say, that the State to which we currently belong, the Spanish State, try not to keep Catalonia from exercising its right to self determination or to cage the will and freedom of expression of the Catalan people.

29:49: This is a country that has considered itself a nation for many centuries, that has always been open to negotiation, that has always behaved loyally, with a desire to collaborate. These will continue to be our defining characteristics, they are part of our collective identity, that these walls have been a witness to over many years, but we find ourselves obliged to demand, especially since all of us worked hard, struggled for, and consolidated the democracy, at this time, it should be democratic values that lead the way.

30:19: The last thing that I wanted to tell you. I believe that we are, all of us, not just the President, or the Generalitat, or the President of the Parliament, we are all protagonists of a unique moment in our history. A unique moment that will put us all to the test. It will test us all individually, each one of us, and it will test us collectively, as a country. A unique moment, as you will note, does not mean a placid moment. It doesn't mean an idyllic moment. And certainly not a rose-colored moment. A unique moment is none of that.

31:00: Unique means transcendent. It means it goes beyond our day-to-day. It goes beyond a legislature, and beyond, in many ways, an entire generation. A transcendent moment is that. I don't want to make is more solemn than it deserves, but I think it's good to note the transcendent moment that the country is going through, to underscore the unique moment that it is up to us, all together, to protagonize.

And let us all remember, in the history of countries and nations, big changes have almost always come against the current. If you take a look, you'll see that it's normally that way. Big changes have come at complicated moments in time, and almost always, against the current. Because it's been necessary to struggle against the established status quo, that must be turned around, from many points of view, and it's very difficult to turn around, because the easiest thing is to give in to inertia.

But a unique moment requires a different attitude. How do I face them myself, if you'll allow me a very small personal reference? How do I face this unique moment, in which I am made President of the Generalitat for the second time in my life, two years after the first investiture?

I face it with a complete commitment to overcome all of the difficulties that we will face in the future. I face it with an iron will to overcome the obstacles that we will find ahead, that we are sure to find. And in addition, I will face it, if you'll allow me, with words that were uttered in this very Saint George Hall, by someone who is no longer here, who was Josep Maria Ainaud de Lasarte, who in this very hall, upon receiving the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya, stood up, despite his very precarious health, tremendously precarious, with a weak body but a great spiritual strength, that man stood up in front of the whole auditorium, and said something which I already quoted a few weeks ago, in the Catalan Parliament: "Have faith in Catalonia. Above all, have faith in Catalonia." And this faith in Catalonia, this great faith in Catalonia, well, there is nothing and no one who can take it away from us.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas to all.

*aluminosis was a structural problem in some buildings in Catalonia which caused them to break down and even fall apart.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Catalonia Independence Referendum news roundup December 20

Yesterday, December 19, President Mas (ERC) and Opposition leader Oriol Junqueras (ERC) signed a historic agreement to ensure the stability of the government, approve the budget, and hold a referendum on independence by 2014. It strangely was little reported on in the English-language international press yesterday, but today, there are several interesting articles. Here's a roundup.

Wall Street Journal: Catalonia Sets Independence Referendum
"Catalonia's nationalist leaders have said they would seek legal support in European Union or international law"

Financial Times: Catalonia referendum set for 2014 (free registration required)
"Mr Mas hailed the deal as a “call to hope” that would ensure a “future of freedom for Catalonia”. But he also warned of the political challenges ahead: “We will have many enemies, and many of them are very powerful and act without scruples.”

The American Interest: Spain on Track for Major Crisis in 2014, (also quoted in The Daily Beast) by Walter Russell Mead
"The fact that they are now uniting suggests that Catalonia is getting serious about independence."

Reuters: Catalan separatists push referendum, Madrid will try to block
"Spain signed that pact." [Ferran Requejo on UN agreement in force since 1976 that allows for self-determination]

New York Times: "Separatist Parties in Accord", by Raphael Minder
"The two main separatist parties in Catalonia signed an agreement on Wednesday to form a government, as well as allow the 7.5 million citizens of what is Spain’s most powerful economic region to vote in 2014 on whether to secede."

Russia Times (RT): Madrid threatens to block Barcelona’s ‘illegal’ independence bid [with video] [gotta love those scare quotes!]
"We aim to put the future of Catalonia in the hands of the citizens of Catalonia, and to do that we want to consult them democratically," said Junqueras."

AP (e.g. Montreal Gazette): Deputy PM says Spain has sufficient laws to halt planned Catalonian independence referendum

The Moment We've Been Waiting Centuries For

by Vicent Partal. Originally published in Vilaweb on 18 December 2012

The massive demonstration on September 11th has had direct and concrete results three months and one week later. The agreement signed between CiU and ERC means that the cry of the people on the streets that day in Barcelona has now been transformed into ACTION, with a capital A. And thanks to the agreement, the citizens of the Principality of Catalonia will vote on independence, in 2014, if nothing goes wrong. It is, therefore, a historic accord, that was difficult to construct and that will probably also be difficult to hold together. But I insist that above all other considerations, it is a historic accord: this agreement marks the end of the autonomous government and the immediate beginning of the possibility of becoming an independent Republic. Which is nothing to sneeze at.

It is also a historic accord because it underscores the fact that independence is the country's objective, and not the objective of one group or another. Clearly, CiU and President Mas are the ones who have committed themselves most. But it is very important that they have come to an agreement with the leader of the largest opposition party, Esquerra Republicana [Republican Left], despite obvious differences between the two. ERC has exercised historically remarkable discipline and responsibility that must be applauded and recognized for its enormous significance.

The citizens that voted on November 25th demanded that the independence process be spearheaded by multiple parties. CiU and ERC have been asked to bend themselves to the popular will and they have succeeded. Not only that, they have left the door open for other parties who accept the right to self-determination and for the community at large whose actions were instrumental in making this historic vote in 2014 possible. The creation of a Catalan Council for National Transition is a brilliant move; this group will surely be a key element for consolidating the civic unity that will help us become, we hope, a republic.

We are about to live two incredible years. We don't know, and we probably can't even imagine, the difficulties that we'll have to avoid. Of all types. Internal problems and external aggressions. Disagreements that will inevitably crop up here and there. Doubts about whether this person or that person is going to sabotage or undermine the process. Doubts about how far we can go and what we are able to swallow in the midst of a brutal financial crisis that has already been so damaging to the community. It won't be easy, that much is clear, and it will require a lot of generosity from all sides. But let me say that I am brimming with enthusiasm and I am convinced that this time, we will finally be on the winning side of history.

I have written it before, and I'll repeat it here this evening with much joy: it's up to us to win, or lose, if we do it wrong, but they can no longer defeat us. This is, therefore, the moment that we've been waiting centuries for.

CiU and ERC come to an agreement: Referendum in 2014

Originally published in Vilaweb on 18 December 2012

The possibility of postponing the date if both parties agree made the pact possible.

The governability accord between CiU and ERC has become a reality. Artur Mas (CiU) and Oriol Junqueras (ERC) have come to terms in a meeting at the Palace of the Generalitat. Artur Mas' investiture, for which Oriol Junqueras has once again pledged support, will take place Thursday and Friday, as was confirmed by the President of the Parliament, Núria De Gispert. The accord says that there will be a solemn declaration in the first session of the legislature with respect to the commitment to the right of self-determination; and it includes the commitment of CiU and ERC to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, with the possibility of postponing it if both parties agree.

On the referendum, Junqueras said that the accord guarantees the "necessary clauses for putting the future of Catalonia in the hands of its citizens". The commitment is to hold the referendum in 2014. But if CiU and ERC so agreed, it could be postponed.

Here is the document that lays out CiU and ERC's commitment to holding a referendum in 2014.

"There are still a few minor details that will surely be resolved on Wednesday morning," added Junqueras, who said he was very satisfied, since the accord also contained "changes in economic and social policy". And he added that a sample of this will to implement change is the announcement that the government-elect intends to apply a tax on bank deposits, just as the Republicans had requested.

Junqueras tweeted the news: "The challenges ahead are enormous. Today a new era begins: to get through the crisis and to hold a referendum on independence."

—Oriol Junqueras (@junqueras) 18 December 2012

Just before leaving the Palace, the ERC President shook hands with Francesc Homs, the government spokesperson-elect. Junqueras also confirmed that the investiture would take place at the end of this week.

Assessing the situation

CiU and ERC agree to work on consolidating a wide social majority that allows them to ensure the success of the referendum. That comes after it becomes clear that an important part of Catalanism—according to the agreement—had fully committed itself to transforming the state so that Catalonia could fit in better, but it has seen, and the "repeated negative replies" from Spain confirm, that this is a dead end.

It's for that reason that it is necessary to hold a referendum so that the people can freely and democratically decide their own future, and now we have "an opportunity that only presents itself once in many lifetimes". CiU and ERC note that various opportunities have come together: "the opportunity to construct a new country; the opportunity of the Catalan People to be the protagonist of its own story; the opportunity to put politics in the center of public debate; the opportunity to create a better society based on social justice and equality; the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment with democracy, with peace, and with Europe."

"Catalonia must have tools of state," continues the agreement, so that Catalonia can "develop its own nation building project to the widest degree". Both parties underscore that Catalonia could live much better off than currently if it had full access to the resources generated by its citizens and businesses and if it had the power to make decisions over what belongs to it and affects it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Catalonia's Two Top Parties Agree on Independence Referendum for 2014

Here is the official agreement for convoking a referendum*, agreed to and released on December 17, 2012 by CiU and ERC. You can find the original Catalan version here.

Annex 1: Process for convoking the referendum on the political future of Catalonia

Over the last 30 years, a large part of Catalan society has fully committed itself to transforming the Spanish state so that Catalonia could fit in well without having to renounce its legitimate national aspirations, its determination for self government, and its continuity as a nation. But Catalonia's attempts to fit into the Spanish state, thanks to Spain's consistent and reiterated negative responses are, today, a dead end. It is for that reason that CiU and ERC believe that Catalonia must begin a new era based on the right to self determination in order to guarantee social progress, economic development, a strengthening of the democratic process, and the promotion of our native culture and language.

To this end, CiU and ERC hereby manifest their explicit commitment and their political will to hold a referendum so that the People of Catalonia may democratically and freely decide their collective future.

Catalonia finds herself faced with an opportunity that only comes around once in many generations: the opportunity to construct a new country; the opportunity of the Catalan People to be the protagonist of its own story; the opportunity to put politics in the center of public debate; the opportunity to create a better society based on social justice and equality; the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment with democracy, with peace, and with Europe.

Like any other nation, Catalonia must have tools of state that let it develop its own nation building project to the widest degree. Catalonia can live much better than it does now. It could if it had at its disposition, on the one hand, all of the resources that we citizens and businesses of Catalonia generate, and on the other, the power to make the necessary decisions, the political power over all of that which belongs to us and which affects us.

For these reasons, CiU and ERC express their commitment that the Catalan People be able to declare via referendum, whether Catalonia should become a State within Europe, and to have at its disposition, in this way, the tools necessary to get through the economic crisis, to favor growth, and to guarantee the cohesion and well-being of Catalan society.

To that end, and in function of the described commitments, CiU and ERC agree:

1. To formulate a "Declaration of Sovereignty of the People of Catalonia" in the First Session of the 10th legislature [the current one just constituted on 17 Dec], that will have as its goal to establish the commitment of the Parliament with respect to exercising the right of self determination of the People of Catalonia.

2. To approve the Law of Referendums starting from the work begun in the previous legislature, taking into account any changes and amendments that are agreed upon. To this end, a commitment is made to to promote the start of the parliamentary process by the end of January 2013, at the latest.

3. To open negotiations and a dialog with the Spanish State with respect to exercising our right to self determination that includes the option of holding a referendum, as foreseen in Law 4/2010 of the Parliament of Catalonia, on popular consultations, via referendum. To this end, a commitment is made to formalize a petition during the first semester of 2013.

4. To create the Catalan Council on National Transition, as an organ of promotion, coordination, participation, and advisement to the Government of the Generalitat with respect to the events that form part of the referendum process and the national transition and with the objective of guaranteeing that they are well prepared and that they come to pass.

This council will be comprised of people of recognized prestige and/or with representatives of the various areas linked to the process of national transition and the preparation and celebration of the referendum.

The Council must favor the participation in the process of those economic, social, and cultural entities of our country, as well as political formations that are in favor of the right to self-determination and the holding of a referendum.

5. CiU and ERC are committed to working through all of the formal, legal, and institutional procedures up until December 31, 2013 so as to be ready, from that date forward, to hold a referendum, in agreement with the legal framework that supports it, within the following year, unless the socioeconomic and political context requires that it be delayed, in which case, the date will be agreed on by the two signing parties.

6. Hold a referendum so that the People of Catalonia can declare their intentions on whether Catalonia should become a State within the European framework.

CiU and ERC agree to work to consolidate a wide social majority that ensures the success of the referendum and of the national transition process.

*referendum: There are two words for referendum in Catalan: consulta and referèndum. There isn't a good translation of consulta (a consultation in English might refer to a Doctor's appointment but not to a political referendum) and so I have translated both words as referendum here. Note however, that Spanish law does not allow Catalonia to have a referendum on self-determination and it's not yet sure whether it will be allowed to hold a consulta which is basically the same thing. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

European Parliament approves European-wide unitary patent; Spain opts out for linguistic reasons (!)

Originally published on

Tremosa decries Spain's self-exclusion from the agreement and points out that 30% of the State's patents come from Catalonia

40 years after initiating negotiations, 25 Member states of the European Union have achieved the goal of coming to an agreement on creating a unitary European patent that would allow companies and individuals to patent a product in all (or almost all) of the countries in the EU in a uniform fashion. The European Parliament ratified the agreement by a wide margin, with a vote of 484 in favor to 164 against.

In addition to a huge reduction in the necessary bureaucracy, whoever wants to patent a product throughout the EU will see the costs notably reduced. The unitary European patent will reduce the cost by 80%. During the initial transition stage, the cost will fall to 2,380 euros. Once it's finalized, the cost of patenting a product throughout the EU will only be 680 euros.

This unitary European patent, therefore, is a huge step forward in the construction of the common market and will have important benefits for small and medium sized companies, universities, research centers, and citizen inventors.

Spain, however, has decided to exclude itself from the unitary European patent. according to State policy, followed both by Zapatero's PSOE party as well as Rajoy's PP, Spain has decided to stay out of the European unitary patent.

The reason is that Spanish is not considered an official working language, as are German, French, and English, as is normal in community institutions. Nevertheless, this fact would have no effect on citizens of the Spanish state since they would be allowed to present their patent applications written in Spanish. In addition, once these were recognized, they would be automatically translated to all of the EU languages.

Therefore, the Spanish state has refused to sign the agreement because of a linguistic formality, harming thousands of companies and entrepreneurs who base their potential growth on an increase of exports to the EU with value added products. And what is worse, in the vote today in the European Parliament, a large number of Spanish members from the PP and PSOE presented an amendment asking the European Parliament to refuse the creation of the European unitary patent and therefore kill it. They lost that vote 156 in favor to 511 against.

It's important to remember that 30% of the patents awarded in the Spanish State belong to Catalonia and therefore, Spain's self-exclusion greatly harms the interests of Catalan entrepreneurs.

There are also five videos of very short parliamentary speeches between Ramon Tremosa (Catalan MEP), Antonio Lopez-Istúriz White of the PP, and Antonio Masip Hidalgo of the Spain's Socialist Party. (The first two are in English, the remaining ones are in Spanish.)






Also see: European Patent Office welcomes historic agreement on unitary patent

For more information, please contact: Aleix Sarri i Camargo/ Assistant to Ramon Tremosa, +32 489053314 /

Monday, December 10, 2012

Twitter suspends pro-Catalan account: KeepCalmCat

Originally published in Vilaweb, on 10 December 2012

KeepCalmCat will create a new account if Twitter doesn't reestablish the old one

Organizers call for people to adopt the KeepCalmCat avatar for their own Twitter accounts

Yesterday evening, Twitter suspended the account with the lema "Keep Calm and Speak Catalan" created by Josep Maria Ganyet. It's hard to know exactly what the reason was, since Twitter almost never explains its motives. "At the best, they'll restore the account, and that'll be that," explained Ganyet, computer specialist and university professor on the radio station RAC1, who also said that if Twitter does not restore the account, he'll create a new one in a few days.

Ganyet hypothesized that the account had been closed because it had triggered Twitter's spam filters: "Twitter marks you as fraudulent almost automatically, and then it takes a few days for a real human to go and look at it." Yesterday, he said that Twitter's move might have been in response to some organized campaign to trash the initiative, deliberately and maliciously, and accuse it of being spam.

The reaction on social media was almost immediate, and the call went around to use the campaign's avatar—one of the most popular against the Wert law—for individuals' own accounts. "The level of support has been awesome, right from the moment that it was known that they had closed the account on us," says Ganyet, as demonstrated by the hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users who have adopted the logo for their profile image, and who have helped distribute the slogan, often accompanied by the hashtag #wertgonya [a play on words mixing the Spanish education minister's name, Wert, with the Catalan word for "shame", vergonya].

Ganyet adapted the classic "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan, created in 1939 by the British Ministry of Information as an attempt to keep up morale among the population while the Nazi troops were threatening invasion, in the build up to World War II. But the invasion never materialized and most of the millions of posters that had been printed were destroyed, having never been used. This video explains the history of the slogan.

Ganyet has also created a website where the logo can be downloaded in various sizes and formats, both for use as a profile image as well as a background image or for any other use. In just a few days, the campaign had garnered the support of more than 3,500 followers, whose objective is to donate a portion of the proceeds to defend Catalan schooling.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Catalan vote from abroad would have altered make up of Parliament

Originally published in Vilaweb, 6 December 2012

Difficulties in voting drastically lowered turnout - Under normal conditions, the results would have been different, in favor of CiU and ERC

The election returns from Catalans who reside outside of Catalonia would have changed the make up of the Parliament, with more seats in favor of sovereigntist parties, but the obstacles to voting resulted in a drastically lowered turnout, as a report written by the International Federation of Catalan Organizations explains.

According to this document, only 9,538 valid votes were counted. That figure, including the null votes, represents a turnout of 6.74% of the total of 156,976 Catalans who are registered to vote abroad. The turnout was higher than that of recent elections in the Basque Country and in Galicia, revealing the high interest that this election had engendered. It is a very low turnout, however, with respect to previous Catalan elections. For example, in 2008, there was 20% turnout.

The Federation believes that the new regulation has made it very difficult to vote from abroad and points out that there are entire communities, like that of most of the Catalans in the United States, who received no documentation regarding the elections and who were unable to vote.

This fact becomes even more relevant when the returns are analyzed. Both CiU and ERC have stronger results among foreign-residing voters—4 points more for CiU and 2 points more for ERC. In contrast, PSC, PP, and Ciutadans all had lower percentages. A high turnout, therefore, would have altered the distribution of seats in the parliament. According to the Federation's calculations, CiU would have won 4 more seats, at the expense of Ciutadans and PSC.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Catalan government rejects Spanish plan against language immersion

Originally published in Vilaweb, on 4 December 2012

The Catalan President, Artur Mas, has called for a summit meeting of political leaders from PSC, ICV-EUiA, and ERC, as well as the Education Council.

The Catalan Government [Generalitat] "will apply the Catalan Education Law and will defend the fundamental linguistic rights of our country, protected by the Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Constitution," declared government spokesperson Francesc Homs, who thereby rejected applying the new law proposed by Spanish Education Minister José Ignacio Wert, which would relegate Catalan to elective status.

Homs also announced that President Artur Mas had spoken with the political leaders of various parties that over the years have supported the policy of linguistic immersion and proposed a meeting that will take place next Wednesday in the Generalitat Palace, along with representatives of the Education Council. This meeting, he said, will underline "the significance of this offensive that focuses its sights against a system that has worked very well in this country for the last 30 years, a linguistic model for the schools that has allowed our students to excel in both Catalan and Spanish".

"The current political moment—referring to the constitution of the new government and the investiture of the Parliament—takes a back seat: now it's time to join together agains this PP offensive."

Rigau [Catalan Education Minister] on Wert [Spanish Education Minister]: "He makes it very clear that we must exercise our right to self-determination"

The Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, has roundly denounced a "document that was hidden until today" from the rest of the law aimed to improve the quality of education, initiated by the Spanish government. "This proposal is so harmful, that if the central government applies it, it will lead to the destruction of both our self-government and our culture," said Rigau this morning on radio station RAC-1. "I don't see myself as a member of a government that would apply this law."

"The people of Catalunya, the educators and the education sector think more and more autonomously with each passing day. This makes its very clear that we must exercise our right to self-determination," added Rigau.

"No minister has never gone this far before"

Wert's proposal specifies that while the Generalitat has not determined which subjects will be taught in Catalan and which in Spanish, that parents can bring their children to a private school, "on the basis of the language of instruction" and that the Catalan government must underwrite the cost. In addition, the draft of the law reform establishes that a "reasonable proportion" must be determined between Catalan and Spanish. Rigau exclaims, "No minister has ever gone this far before."

Rigau explained yesterday that the draft of the reform law for Education introduced by the Spanish government and received by the Catalan Department of Education yesterday represents a "significant change". She said that it is represents an "offensive against the Catalan language, which it relegates to residual status". The minister complained that "Catalan hasn't been this scorned by a Spanish ministerial text since 1978".

The principal change is that Catalan ceases to be a required subject and instead will be an elective, which would also result in fewer class hours, according to Rigau.

The draft divides subject matter into central, extra, and electives. There are five in the first category, which must make up 50% of the school day. There have to be at least 3 and at most 5 "extra" classes, which can take up to at most 50% of the day. The electives would be at most one subject, or perhaps two in those communities that have two languages.

Among the central class subjects are Spanish and literature, the first foreign language and mathematics; among the "extras" are physical education, music, technology, art, and culture. The third category, the electives, would contain Catalan, which would end up being the fourth language taught, after Spanish, and the first and second foreign languages.

Rigau explained that this change could allow a student to obtain his or her secondary degree without testing in Catalan, in the new tests that Wert wants to establish as required for passing each educational level, since students could take a test in any of the elective subjects, and not choose Catalan.

For Rigau, this is treating Catalan as a residual language and it breaks the current Catalan school model, which uses Catalan as the language of instruction.

"Reasonable proportion"

On the other hand, Rigau said that the text that they had received also establishes that the administrations in communities with two official languages [like Catalonia] would have to provide "equal" treatment choosing the language of instruction and allows some compensation for the less normalized language "but adds that such compensation must be in a reasonable proportion". For Rigau, it's clear that they are going for a 50% split, even though the draft does not make that clear.

The text also establishes that while the communities do not determine the percentages for the two languages, the parents can choose the language of instruction in which they want their children to be educated: "They can choose to school their children in private centers and the educational administration will have to underwrite the expenses," if they choose Spanish.

Another change in the draft is that to evaluate the ability to communicate in primary school, tests will be given in the student's "mother tongue".

Rigau said that there are more aspects that contradict the Catalan school model and the jurisdiction of the Catalan government, and that she had notified the Spanish Education Minister. But, yesterday she focused on the linguistic question, which she considers particularly serious.

"The minister sees political maneuvering"

Rigau insisted that the draft is nothing like what they were presented earlier and that had been used in earlier meetings and work sessions with the Spanish Ministry of Education. She said that this was a "hidden text" that was not revealed until after the Catalan elections, and she decried the "political maneuvering". The new document has "very clear intentions" that "are quite far from its original objectives". In her opinion, the Spanish government would rather destroy the Catalan education system, more than achieve the scholastic achievement goals set by Europe.

Today Rigau will report on the new text to the government and will communicate her full opposition in the meeting of all of the Education ministers that takes place today in Madrid. If they do not make any changes to it, she will consider bringing it to the courts.