Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Catalan DiploCAT Position Proposal

El País has an article today that makes the DiploCAT public-private consortium look all 'cloaks and daggers'. But DiploCAT's position paper has been circulating openly and freely via email for a while. I hear they're putting the finishing touches on their website so they can publish things more directly. Anyways, here's the full document so you can reach your own conclusions.

[ SERIES E / 2013 / 1.1 / EN ]
Date: 19/03/2013

Introduction to the self-determination process in Catalonia


This note aims to explain why Catalans want to vote. However, a simple list of grievances would not capture the spirit of optimism, tolerance and modernization which is at the heart of the move to independence.

For a long time, many Catalans would have been happy for Catalonia to be a region in Spain with a status similar to that of one of the Länder within Germany. But that never happened. Strong opposition within Spain means that devolution has always been half-hearted, chaotic and ineffective. And now Spain is being re-centralized and multiculturalism has been rejected.

This has led to a huge shift in public opinion in Catalonia. Many people no longer recognize Spain as the tolerant and inclusive country which they hoped would be built after Franco. They want to hold a referendum so that they can choose their future freely, peacefully and democratically.

After 35 years trying to fit Catalonia into Spain in a politically comfortable way, there is a common feeling among most Catalan citizens that any negotiation is becoming impossible. Public opinion in Spain seems to favour uniformity and centralization, so neither of the two main political parties is prepared to take meaningful steps to save devolution. Both now say that a referendum on Catalan independence would be unlawful. But hiding behind a law (which could easily be changed) provides no solution to the problem. Even worse, it means that finally Spain must choose between maintaining its new democratic values and holding on to Catalonia against the will of its people.

Background information and defensives


Much of the Spanish Establishment has always opposed devolution, so it has been a difficult and half-hearted process. The resulting system is chaotic, with no clear rules on who does what.

The process of devolution is so slow and complicated that several powers included in the 1979 law on devolution to Catalonia (the “Statute of Autonomy”) have yet to be transferred; as have others included in the 2006 law (the “revised Statute”). Even when powers are transferred, the rules are usually complicated and unclear; and the financial resources needed to make the new powers effective are not made available. Disputes about invasions of powers have become a regular feature of Spanish politics.

The failures and inefficiencies of the system are now being used by the Spanish Government to justify recentralization, but in fact the decision to make devolution ineffective was taken many years ago. Following centralization and repression under Franco, the 1978 Constitution aimed to deal with the situation in certain territories – especially Catalonia and the Basque Country – by creating “Autonomous Communities” within an otherwise centralised state. However, the "Autonomous Community" model was extended to the whole of Spain, creating many new regions overnight.

By generalizing a system designed to deal with exceptional cases, devolution was made unworkable. With so many new players, strong bilateral relations between centre and regions (such as those found in the UK) could not develop, but no moves were made to create the structures for coordination among multiple regions which exist in federal states. Moreover, Central Government could justify its reluctance to devolve powers because it now had to consider what would happen if a particular power were devolved throughout Spain, not just to a single region. The “Autonomous Community” model became unable to deal with the very problem which it had been created to solve.

Last but not least, unlike most federal countries, Spain does not count with a bicameral system where territorial entities can effectively participate in the national decision-making process. The Spanish Senate, which is supposed to represent the 17 “Autonomous Communities” as well as two Northern-African “Autonomous Cities”, appears to be a mere consultative institution. Although all legislative proposals need to be passed by both the Congress and the Senate, in case of disagreement, the Congress can easily impose its stance.


Nobody in Catalonia questions the need for solidarity within Spain and within Europe. The problem is that Catalonia pays so much to the poorer regions in Spain that its own education and welfare systems, as well as roads and railways are significantly worse than those in the regions it is helping.

The failure of the State to invest in key infrastructure has weakened the Catalan economy. Spanish infrastructure policy has been dictated by political interests rather than economic priorities. For example, Spain has built the largest network of high speed railways in Europe, and is still building new lines even though some have already had to close due to lack of passengers. Huge regional airports have been built which no airline wants to use. And, at the same time, there has been totally inadequate investment in the strategic transport corridor which passes through Catalonia. This corridor is the main freight and passenger connection between Spain and the rest of Europe: it is vital for the Spanish and Catalan economies and has been made a priority by the European Union. Nevertheless, the Spanish Government still wants to construct a new line through the mountains in order to avoid Catalonia, a project which the EU has already rejected as impractical.

Reforms in 2006 led to a Spanish law which guarantees a minimum level of state investment in Catalonia, but this has been ignored by successive Spanish governments.

The Spanish Government also agreed to publish official figures on fiscal balances (the difference between what regions pay in tax and what they receive in public services and investments). When it did so, the figures confirmed that Catalonia pays much more than its fair share. Every year, Catalonia's fiscal deficit is equivalent to 8.7% of its GDP. Rather than address the problem, the Spanish authorities simply decided not to publish any more figures. So Catalonia, one of the economic motors of Europe, is heavily indebted and struggling to pay for basic public services.


Many Spanish politicians, of both left and right parties, consider differences between Catalonia and the rest of Spain not as part of a rich cultural heritage, but as a threat to national unity. A recent speech in Parliament by the Spanish Minister for Education caused much alarm when he talked about the need to "Hispanicize" Catalan school children. Inflammatory comments about Catalonia have become a common part of Spanish politics: whilst they may help win elections, they can hardly be said to promote unity.

There are 9.1 million Catalan speakers, so it is not a minority language. But again, rather than being embraced as part of the Spanish culture, the use of Catalan is often seen as an attack on Spanishness. Bilingualism in schools is a particular focus of dispute. In Catalonia there is almost universal agreement on the current model of public education because it ensures that all children become fluent in both Spanish and Catalan. However, Spanish newspapers and politicians routinely turn reality on its head by presenting the Catalan education system as divisive and anti-Spanish. They are using the Constitution and the Courts to create a right to be educated in Spanish only. In practice, this would mean the creation of segregated schools and a divided society.


The 1978 Constitution was designed to allow flexibility and room for political compromise. But its interpretation has now been taken over by the two main political parties in Spain, which have insisted on taking a very restrictive view of devolution and multiculturalism. Such an interpretation might represent the opinion of a majority in Spain, but by using the Constitution to impose restrictions on a particular minority, they have undermined the consensus upon which the Constitution was built. Many Catalans now question the legitimacy of a Constitution which is controlled exclusively by other people and which is regularly used against them.

Some changes, such as permitting a Catalan referendum, could easily be made by interpreting the existing text in a less restrictive manner. But this is impossible in the current political climate. And a major change in the text of the Constitution is impossible for procedural reasons as it would require both chambers of the Spanish Parliament to approve the reform with a ⅔ majority, followed by a General Election, followed by further votes in both chambers and then finally a referendum.

The impossibility of reforming the Constitution is important because the present text has become so politicized. The Constitutional Court is no longer seen as a neutral forum for justice. Appointments to the Court are tightly controlled by the two main political parties, and judges are not afraid to get involved directly in political questions. Given that democratic constitutions allow some degree of flexibility, courts in other countries argue that judges should not overturn decisions taken by the elected representatives of the people, unless the wording of the Constitution really cannot be interpreted in a way which permits those decisions. But Spanish Courts believe that there is only one "correct" interpretation of the Constitution, and so are much more ready to replace a democratic decision with their own. By allowing so little margin for democratic processes, the Court appears to be acting politically and puts its own legitimacy into question. This was the case in its 2010 ruling against devolution, when many Catalans failed to see how the Court could so readily overturn a law which had been approved by the Catalan Parliament, by the Spanish Parliament and by a consultation in Catalonia.


From a Catalan perspective, devolution has been a story of difficult negotiations and broken promises. However, that has not stopped them from trying to reach agreements.

In 2006, Catalonia proposed solutions to improve the quality of devolution. A new “Statute of Autonomy” would define clearly who does what and with what resources, thus ending the constant disputes between Central Government and regions. The Catalan proposal was approved by 89% of the MPs in its Parliament but it was met with anger and hostility in the rest of Spain. The Spanish Prime Minister at the time, Mr Zapatero, went back on his promise of supporting the proposal without changes; and Mr Rajoy, the current Spanish Prime Minister, helped collecting signatures in the street for a petition against it. Boycotts of Catalan-made goods were organized; bishops took sides; and a senior army commander was arrested for recommending a military intervention.

Following difficult negotiations, a much more modest reform was approved by the Spanish Parliament, and – despite mixed feelings – this was approved in a Catalan referendum. But then Mr Rajoy’s party presented a challenge in the Constitutional Court. Four years later, the Court annulled key parts of the law and effectively threw devolution into reverse. Parts of the law which remain, such as the rules on the fair distribution of resources within Spain, are simply ignored by the Central Government.

Despite these setbacks, a further attempt to negotiate was made in 2012, when the Catalan Parliament proposed a new tax system, the "Fiscal Pact". This would have given Catalonia an autonomous tax system similar to those which already exist in other Autonomous Communities. Although 80% of the MPs in the Catalan Parliament voted for key parts of the proposal, the Spanish Government refused to discuss the matter.

Some Catalan politicians still wish to continue negotiations, the aim now being to turn Spain into a federal state. But the Spanish Government has already said that this is unacceptable; and many Catalans now believe that it is not possible to negotiate with Spain, because Spain does not want to negotiate.


The movement for self-determination is a peaceful, broad, social movement which does not depend on political parties. Two huge protest marches took place in Barcelona. The first one, in 2010, was attended by around 1 million people; the second, in 2012, by around 1.5 million, making it one of the largest ever to take place in Europe. There have also been many civil society campaigns: despite legal restrictions being applied, 890.000 citizens participated in unofficial consultations held in towns throughout Catalonia. Ever more town halls are passing resolutions in favour of independence: currently 654 have done so (68% of the total). Together, these protests have changed the political landscape in Catalonia.

The realignment of politics means that the political situation is not always easy to interpret. Following Catalan elections in November 2012, the Spanish media made much of the fact that the ruling party lost votes and seats. But the key issue was whether a consultation should be held. And with a record level of participation of 70%, parties supporting a consultation (irrespective of whether they would vote for independence or for federal reform) won 74% of the vote. Parties against it won 20%. In March 2013, a resolution calling on the Catalan Government to negotiate with the Spanish Government in order to hold a referendum was supported by 77% of the MPs in the Catalan Parliament.

As to support for independence itself, the polls have shown consistent results since last summer. For example, the latest survey by the Catalan agency for public opinion (Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió), published in February 2013, found 54.7% of respondents would vote yes if a consultation were held tomorrow; 20.7% would vote no; 17% would not vote; and the rest were undecided. If such results were reflected in a referendum, then on an 83% turn-out, 66% would vote in favour of independence.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Catalan State could benefit Spain

by Núria Bosch, originally published in Ara on 29 April 2013

I have heard it said that the independence of Catalonia would devastate the Spanish economy, and that this might be a reason for the European Union to be less than interested in the progress and success of the sovereignty process begun in our country of late.

But in light of this statement, it would be wise to take a look at the recently published paper titled "Where Spain is headed", from the Cercle Català de Negocis (CCN), a business association in favor of the Catalan State. The paper, among other things, talks about the benefits that the independence of Catalonia might bring to Spain. I found the reasons interesting, and thought I would comment on them here.

The first point is that independence could be just the catalyst for changing the economic and political model that the Spanish State needs. The idea is that, in order to get beyond the financial crisis, Spain needs to change its productive model, shrink its administrative structure, and replace its political and business elites.

That's all true. It has cost Spain dearly having an economic model based on construction and tourism, which both have a low added value, instead of promoting industry, research, and innovation. The Spanish government has failed to implement an economic policy in order to increase productivity or competitiveness both in the Zapatero era and now in Rajoy's administration. It has performed badly, on the fly, late, and with contradictions. You only have to look at the results of the economic policy that has been implemented, which generates a vicious circle of low growth and high unemployment and debt. And it doesn't look like the latest reforms make any attempt to change the economic model either. Therefore, Catalonia's independence may be the detonator that pushes Spain to change its productive model.

A second point is that a Catalan State would allow Spain to fully develop its own economic strategies. Catalonia and Spain have distinct business and economic strategies. The Catalan strategy is based on small and medium-sized, innovative, flexible, niche and export market-oriented businesses with a strong technology and industrial component. In contrast, the Spanish strategy is based on large businesses which operate in regulated sectors (banking, electricity, hydrocarbons, telecommunications, etc.) with a very important international presence, especially in Latin America.

In order to be successful, these two strategies require distinct (mercantile, labor, and financial) legislation and policies (especially with regard to infrastructures). So, the independence of Catalonia will allow the Spanish government to establish policies that are adequate for its own business model and to concentrate all its resources on Spanish companies, which will reinforce its competitiveness and job creation.

A third point is that the competition between the Catalan and Spanish economies on equal terms, each with their own state structures, would help Spain to progress. Well supported competition from an economic point of view always generates more efficiency and might push Spain to construct basic infrastructures according to their profitability and to abandon pharaonic white elephants. At the same time, the competition might encourage Spain to develop the tools it needs to compete with Catalonia to attract foreign investment. All of which would end up improving the competitiveness of Spanish businesses, which would increase the country's wealth.

In that same way, a Catalan State would have to dedicate resources to investments in infrastructures in order to strengthen the Catalan economy. This fact, which not only would facilitate the import of Spanish products and the export of products to Spain, would also reinforce the competitiveness of Spanish businesses, since it would make it easier for them to send their products to Europe.

A fourth and final argument would be that the economic strength of a Catalan State would be beneficial to the Spanish economy. A Catalonia with a strong economy would increase its imports of Spanish products and Catalan businesses would be able to make investments in Spain that would have a positive effect on its economy, at the same time that Catalonia could offer direct economic support to Spain.

In conclusion, all signs point to the recovery of Spain not having a V shaped curve (of improvement) but rather one shaped like an L (no recovery). Faced with this situation, in the medium and long germ, the independence of Catalonia could benefit the economy of the Spanish state and increase the well being of its citizens.

Núria Bosch holds a Bachelor Degree and a PhD. in Economics from the University of Barcelona. Bosch is Professor of Public Economics at the same university, director of the UB’s Chair in Fiscal Federalism at the Barcelona Institute of Economics (IEB) and one of the directors of the Fiscal Federalism Research Program at the same institute. The Barcelona Economics Institute is UB’s research center that carries out work in Applied Economics. She specializes in fiscal federalism, local and regional public finance, fiscal flows and public sector efficiency analysis. Her work has been published in specialized national and international journals and books, and she is a contributor to What's up with Catalonia?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spain vetoes Georgetown professor because of her pro-Catalan independence views

Georgetown University Economics professor Clara Ponsatí says the Spanish government is standing in the way of the renewal of her contract as Príncipe d'Asturias Chair because of her views in favor of Catalan independence from Spain. Specifically, she says the Ministry of Education has vetoed her renewal because she participated in a program on Al Jazeera which analyzed the sovereignty process as well as a video called “Stop Espoli” [Stop the plunder”] created by the CatDem Foundation.

Ponsatí asked the university to renew her contract last November for an additional year. Generally, the professors who hold her chair position sign on for one year, and then extend it for an additional year. Late last year, however, Ponsatí was called to a meeting in Madrid in which the sponsors at the Endesa Foundation told her that "government level" unease had been expressed, according to a report on 3/24.

The head of Ponsatí's department, Georgetown Professor Jeff Anderson, recalled a conversation with the Spanish Ambassador in Washington, DC: “He certainly made it clear that he did not agree with her position. I made it clear that she was free to have that position. We were very disappointed that she was not reappointed. This is the first time that a Príncipe de Asturias professor has requested reappointment and not received reappointment. She's a model colleague and a model researcher and a model teacher and so that's the kind of people we like to have here at Georgetown.

[You can listen to Jeffrey Anderson's statement in this video, in English at 1:00m: http://www.324.cat/video/4549971/Represalies-a-Georgetown-pel-dret-a-decidir

A few weeks later, the Ministry told the university that it wanted the professors of the Asturias chair to stay for just one year. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told El Mundo "Without getting into the details of this particular case, the normal procedures have been followed." They assured that renewals are only made in exceptional cases. "Usually there is an application process for the second year, in which the chair holder can also participate," he added.

But Ponsatí says that three of her predecessors were renewed without opposition, and at least one of them only had to express their interest to have the position renewed automatically. "I am sure that my participation [in those two videos] have precipitated this result," Ponsatí told Rac1 this morning.

Here is one of the videos that Ponsatí participated in:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Catalan Government invites tax payments in order to build own tax revenue agency

Originally published in VilaWeb on April 20, 2013

The Catalan Government will transfer the payments to the Spanish State but will be able to take advantage of additional fiscal data

This summer, the Catalan Government will have a legal protocol ready so that city and town governments and businesses can pay their taxes through the Generalitat (Catalan Government), said Executive Councilor Francesc Homs, in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio. He clarified that once the Catalan Tributary Agency receives the monies, they will then transfer them to the Spanish agency so as to not incur any illegalities, but that nonetheless the information provided to the Generalitat might later be useful for building a Catalan tax collecting agency.

That will allow them to "gain volume, increase knowledge and statistical information" for the future, said Homs.

Just yesterday, the mayors of 11 municipalities (Arenys de Munt, Llinars del Vallès, Premià de Dalt, Alella, Gallifa, Sant Jaume de Llierca, Ripoll, Campdevànol, Viladamat, Sant Julià del Llor and Bonmatí i Marçà) deposited the tax payments generated by their local governments with the Catalan Tributary Agency. With this symbolic act, according to the Catalunya Diu Prou [Catalonia says Enough] group, they want to show that it's possible to legally pay taxes directly to the Generalitat. The government will transfer these monies to the State, the same way they did last year with the amounts from the first towns and businesses who decided to exercise "fiscal sovereignty". Regardless, the city and town governments have encouraged the Executive to direct the monies toward the "country's necessities".

Following the same vein as the system described today by Francesc Homs, the Asociació de Municipis per la Independència [Association of Municipalities for Independence, or AMI] wants all of the associated municipalities to come to agreement in order to exercise their fiscal sovereignty. In that way, they would begin to file their VAT and Income tax returns with the Catalan tax agency. Despite the fact that these monies would be eventually sent to Madrid, Catalonia would have an idea of the volume of receipts generated.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Catalan Wikipedia publishes 400,000th article

Originally published in VilaWeb on April 12, 2013

The collaborative encyclopedia also passes milestone of active users

Wikipedia has passed two milestones that position the Catalan edition at the top of the world rankings. It has surpassed 400,000 articles, a remarkable feat given the relative number of Catalan speakers. The promoters of the Catalan edition of the collaborative encyclopedia—called Viquipèdia—believe that it has not been easy to grow while competing with two such prevalent spoken languages as Spanish (975,000 articles) and French (1,350,000 articles).

At a moment when Wikipedia is said to be losing editors, the Catalan edition surpassed its record of active users this January. In January, 1,892 people edited the Catalan version of Wikipedia, of which 675 made more than 5 edits, and 82 made more than 100. The previous record was made in December of 2010. It’s also important to point out that this past month, the Catalan Wikipedia, by itself, had 27.9 million page views, that is, on average 11 per second and almost a million each day.

Catalonia's National Transition Advisory Council will issue report on referendum before summer

Originally published in Vilaweb on April 11, 2013

They will write between 15-20 reports • Homs says the group’s work will benefit both those in favor of and against the creation of a sovereign state.

The National Transition Advisory Council was constituted this evening with the intention of preparing between 15 and 20 reports during 2013 and plans to have a report on the referendum itself ready before summer. The objective is to develop materials and sufficient arguments for debate among both those in favor and against the creation of a sovereign state.

The Councilor of the Executive, Francesc Homs, remarked that the council's work will benefit everyone, because there will be materials and documents that facilitate contrasting ideas, beyond the positions expressed in an electoral campaign, “when things were said that were not clarified or contrasted, because no one had delved very deeply into them”.

The President of the Council, Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer, made an initial proposal for a working plan but hoped to get consensus from the rest of the group’s members. In principle, it foresees developing between 15-20 reports during 2013 divided among four categories. The first is state structures, in which would be included a revenue agency, a central bank, other agencies and regulatory bodies, the judiciary, electoral administration and foreign service, for example.

In the second category are the processes. The most notable is the referendum, the report on which would have to be ready before the summer, but there will also be one on the transition of ordinances and norms (penal and mercantile codes), another on how the relationship will be forged with the EU, the relationship with international organizations, and how the relationship with the Spanish state will be articulated.

The third area is economics, and will contain a study of which resources the Catalan public administration will dispose of and which funding resources it will have to have, how assets and liabilities that are currently shared with Spain will be divvied up, and how contracts regarding goods and services will be dealt with that are controlled by the Spanish state.

The fourth area is reserved for specific topics, like social security, energy matters, security and defense, dual nationality, language and official status of languages.

Homs remarked that the council has a huge task before it and asked that it not be judged until after it files its reports, knowing that there is an “undeniable commitment to doing the job well, since the reports will be examined very closely”. He ensured that the reports would not be based on feelings, but rather on documentation, information, and data, and developed by a completely professional council. “We could have made it more partisan, but we opted not ” he noted.

The Councilor of the Executive recognized that the government's objective was to hold a referendum and with the winning option being the establishment of a sovereign state, but he said that the work of this council would serve those in favor as well as those against, because it would provide material for everyone to debate.

He added that “today, knowing what belonging to Spain means doesn't require a lot of study” because there are everyday examples all around, but that there much less available information about what it what it means to have a sovereign state.

New Members and a vice president

The Council president nominated a vice-president, Dr. Núria Bosch. In addition, a new member was added, Rafel Grasa, director of the Catalan International Institute for Peace. In total, there are now 14 members, with one seat that is temporarily vacant.

The National Transition Advisory Council is presided by Carles Viver i Pi-Sunyer, director of the Institut d'Estudis Autonòmics (Institute for Studies on Autonomy). Its other members are:

Enoch Albertí i Rovira, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Barcelona

Germà Bel i Queralt, professor of Economics at the University of Barcelona (Twitter)

Carles Boix i Serra, professor of Political Science at Princeton University (USA) (Twitter)

Núria Bosch i Roca, professor of Public Economics at the University of Barcelona (Twitter)

Salvador Cardús i Ros, professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and journalist (Twitter)

Àngel Castiñeira i Fernández, director of ESADE-URL's Leadership and Democratic Governing Chair and Department of Social Sciences.

Francina Esteve i Garcia, professor of International Law at the University of Girona

Joan Font i Fabregó, business leader, CEO of Grup Bon Preu.

Rafel Grasa, director of the Catalan International Institute for Peace

Pilar Rahola i Martínez, journalist and writer (Twitter)

Josep Maria Reniu i Vilamala, professor of Political Science at the University of Barcelona (Twitter)

Ferran Requjo i Coll, professor of Political Science at the Pompeu Fabra University (in Barcelona).

Joan Vintró i Castells, professor of Constitutional Law of the University of Barcelona

The National Transition Advisory Council will focus on identifying and analyzing all of the possible legal options for the national transition process, advising the government on strategic structures for the future government and Catalan institutions, optimizing available resources, proposing events and fomenting the distribution of information abut the national transition process throughout the international community and identifying sources of support, and advising the government on deploying institutional relationshiops in Catalonia so as to guarantee the process as a whole.

The Council is part of the Department of the Presidency (Executive), which offers administrative and logistical support, and is coordinated by the head of this department, in agreement with the vice president of the Government. As with other advisory councils of principle aspects of political action in Catalonia, the seats on the National Transition Advisory Council are unpaid positions.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Catalonia's ANC prepares for fiscal disobedience

Originally published in Vilaweb, 8 April 2013

The ANC [Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya, Catalan National Assembly] is sending out instructions on "fiscal sovereignty" for income and VAT tax.

They are beginning a campaign which coincides with tax season

The Catalan National Assembly's (ANC) campaign, which coincides with the period of submitting tax returns underway now, foresees a mobilization of fiscal disobedience. They are planning to hold a meeting on “fiscal sovereignty” in the coming days, but today sent out pamphlets with practical information on fiscal sovereignty when filing an income tax or VAT return.

Montserrat Mata, a member of the ANC committee that is working on this matter, explained that if this year there have been around a hundred fiscal protesters, and they have not received any paperwork from the Spanish state, the entity believes that it can now understake a similar campaign. To do so, they will spread the word through the media with the aim of explaining to people how to exercise their fiscal sovereignty and to encourage them to join the movement and make it as large as possible. “This only makes sense if there are a lot of us.” The ANC accepts the challenge of mobilizing the people in such a manner, “which is more serious and which may be more risky.” But up to this point, there is not yet any risk. The only thing that could happen, says Mata, is that the Spanish government react by changing the laws so as not to permit the fiscal disobedience as it does now.

The pamphlet on income tax, for example, explains that Spain follows a "one window" rule which means one can pay taxes in any agency of the state. Since the Catalan Revenue Service has an agreement with the Spanish Revenue Service, the ANC pamphlet says paying through the Catalan Revenue Service is completely legal.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Catalonia, International Economics, and What's Left to Explain

By Salvador Garcia, economist, member of the Emma Network  and co-author of the book 'Catalunya Last Call: Propostes per tornar a fer enlairar el país' Originally published in VilaWeb on 6 April 2013

We're on the right path, but we've got a long way to go on education about Catalonia in the international arena.

Today we have a new example. Matthew Parris has written an article for The Times, "Catalonia is a bigger timebomb than Cyprus" You think Cyprus is a disaster? Well, Catalonia is worse still!!

Before saying that this correspondent is an enemy of Catalonia, that doesn't know us, that he's exaggerating... it's important to point out that he has close ties with Catalonia and that I share his principal thesis that Catalonia is a threat to international economic stability. In fact, a few months ago, I explained that Catalonia is the principal enemy of the euro since our independence would bring more instability to an already weakened state like Spain and that at the same time Catalan independence would lessen Spain's capacity to pay off its debts. But I said that not in order to stop the process but rather to warn that it was an inevitable topic to contend with and that we had to work to change the perception of this potentiality and I offered proposals for doing so.

We would do well to carefully analyze Parris' article--which will be duly magnified by both proponents (paradoxically) and opponents (obviously) of independence-- so as to figure out what we need to address. Let's go step-by-step.

The article criticizes the expansion of the Barcelona airport and says that when he was there it was totally empty. Beyond my own curiosity about what day and time he caught his flight, it should be noted that Barcelona's airport served more than 35 million passengers in 2012, growing 2.2% with respect to the previous year, despite the financial crisis, and that it will inaugurate more new routes in 2013 than any other airport in the world. Pending lesson: The truth is our infrastructure is insufficient, and Catalonia's economic potential would be much greater if these needs were sufficiently met.

He claims that the danger is a "disorderly secession", that is, independence that is not negotiated with Spain. I totally agree! International concern should therefore be directed to avoiding such a calamity, not avoiding secession, but rather ensuring that if it occurs, it does so in an orderly fashion (that is, negotiated).

Parris speaks of polls and refers to proponents of independence being around 50% in a referendum: we need to explain that this refers to the total number of registered voters, and that according to these same polls, there would be between 67% and 73% favorable votes in a referendum. That is, it makes sense that at the very least that we Catalans vote, since we have much higher support for independence than in places like Scotland and Quebec.

Parris refers to the impact of independence on the potential secession of other countries, like France and Belgium. And he's right, and thus this is the time to have less "solidarity" with other stateless nations, because it is important that the states be what their citizens vote but even more important is that first, we do it ourselves.

He proposes a referendum with three options (one of which is 'devo-max', that is, much more self-rule, an option that lies somewhere between independence and the status quo). We have to explain that that option is impossible within Spain, since such an offer by the Spanish State is neither possible nor credible, and including such a question on a referendum would be promising something that is out of the hands of the Catalan Government.

The title of the article is attention-getting but true: we are a threat to European economic stability, but it's not because 'we want to be' but rather because "Spain will keep us from being it". And it's here where we have to respond, and continue with our pedagogy explaining Catalonia's economic potential, the popular will to vote on a referendum, and the impossibility of a bargain that Spain would never keep. And never renounce independence: if all the rest of the countries in the world look first to their own interests, why shouldn't we Catalans do the same, especially when what we want is an impeccably democratic process with the utmost respect for our potential international partners?

And so I return to the beginning of the article: we're on the right path, but there are still many lessons to impart in the international sphere. And I truly believe we--including the Catalan Government--are doing a good job. Let's keep at it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

100 days of the government, a half of a year for the country, by Vicent Partal

by Vicent Partal. Originally published in VilaWeb on 3 April 2013

Artur Mas' second government is 100 days old. It's a government that has systematically fulfilled that which it promised for what it calls the “national transition”, even as it still seems shell-shocked from electoral results that it did not expect and as it finds itself trapped in a frightening daily routine of financial hardships and endless budget cuts. It is an unpleasant situation that encourages those who don't want Catalonia to move forward in the independence process, and who are convinced that by stopping the government they can stop everything. They get ahead of themselves.

Because it's essential to note that the approval of the budget or an imagined financial pact with Madrid is not a big enough obstacle compared with the ambition, volume, and consistency of the Catalan sovereignty process. They are real difficulties that those who were voted in at the polls must simply get through. But they're nothing more than that. Whoever believes that the process towards independence will be stopped if the budget is not approved or because of a squabble between two factions has not understood anything about what has been going on in this country in the last few years.

What we are experiencing, above all, is a democratic revolt clearly directed by the citizenry. From below. Fomented by a mature and rigorous citizenry that knows perfectly well that in the Europe of the 21st century it is the politicians’ job to find the paths that make collective projects possible. By a citizenry that, cognizant of this fact, does not get skittish at the first difficulty. By a citizenry that has learned a lot about its own strength, its own empowerment, and its own demonstrated capacity to move the debate toward terrains where no one had placed it before.

And I don't have a single reason to believe that this citizenry, that this country, will not hold course to where it was six months ago. What there was on September 11th has neither disinflated nor is there any prevision on the horizon that anyone could disinflate it. How the Parliament of Catalonia and the Government will find an adequate path is a worry, that's clear. And how long this terrible situation is dragged out, agonizingly dragged out, and which we all suffer and that no one deserves, is also a source of worry. And that's it: the worry is nothing more than worry. Momentary, circumstantial, concrete. It doesn't invalidate the project.

I'll say it another way: when they write the chapter on the whole process, the budget talks and the money from Moncloa won't make it out of the the footnotes. Let's not be confused about that now either...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Oriol Junqueras: "Rajoy's outstretched hand is a big lie"

Jordi Basté interviewed Oriol Junqueras, the president of ERC [Catalan Republican Left] and leader of the opposition in the Catalan Parliament this morning on his radio show, El Món a RAC1 (The World on RAC1). They kindly made the transcript available, and gave me permission to translate it into English.

The president of ERC does not trust the offer of dialog from [Spanish President] Mariano Rajoy to [Catalan President] Artur Mas. Oriol Junqueras believes that “Rajoy's outstretched hand is a big lie”. In an interview on El món a RAC1, he explained that “the Spanish government systematically breaks its promises” and “encourages Catalans to tell them, ‘this time you're not going to fool us’”. Junqueras defends the position that if the sovereignty process must be accelerated, “the Catalan government must look to Europe for a bridge-loan” that could be guaranteed on the basis of recovery from the fiscal deficit. On the budget approval process, the Republican leader assumes that the debate is not on the deficit ceiling but on the degree to which it will not be followed. In the interview with El món a RAC1, Oriol Junqueras, president of ERC also said:

“We are all trying to fulfill our agreements. The Spanish state tends to make offers when things get out of hand, and then they go back on them. This is a lesson we have learned over and over. They have deceived us so many times that I hope that everyone's eyes are open this time.”

“I have spoken with Artur Mas and when I did, it was not yet known that he had spoken with Rajoy. Yes we spoke about the rest of the matters.”

[On the Mas-Rajoy meeting] “It doesn't seem good or bad that he didn't mention it to me. I do value the importance of dialog, but with the Spanish government there's not really any point, because they don't ever fulfill what they promise. Yes, I would be worried if there was a temptation to trust those who have always betrayed our confidence.”

“They are always generous with their promises and miserly in their execution. I can't avoid an ironic smile when faced with so many unfulfilled promises. Whether Catalonia collects 100% of the IRPF [an income tax] is not the problem, but rather how what is collected is distributed, and that is still decided by the State. Until we have the capacity to manage our own taxes we will continue to be in the hands of the Spanish.”

“It is a dramatic situation. The more pressure that comes from the Spanish governemnt, the more motives we'll have to make decisions in the process of self-determination. If it is not in our hands, it will be in the hands of those who don't fulfill their commitments. It's pretty hard for them to argue in Catalonia against the fiscal asphyxia. If we don't keep our wits about us, we will believe their promises that they never keep.”

“I don't believe in Rajoy's outstretched hand. It's a big lie, as it has always been. They always come around with nice words and promises that they never keep. There are rulings from the Constitutional Court that say they don't have to fulfill their own fundamental laws. With what confidence can this process be faced? It is only with the strength of the citizens of Catalonia, to whom we need to look in these moments of national drama.”

“ERC maintains its confidence in the President of Catalonia. It is necessary for all of us. And he is conscious that these promises, that haven't even been made yet, will not be kept. They should start keeping the old promises that they made long ago and haven't fulfilled yet. ”

[On upcoming meeting with Mas] “I don't have a date, but I don't know, I'm not in charge of my agenda. I don't know which day it will be.”

“It doesn't bother me, really. The Government has to talk to everyone.”

“Notice how many houses of cards we build when we don't even have the cards.”

“There are people who, in good faith, tell us to trust the Spanish government. But how can we trust a Spanish government that is now asking for a 6% deficit ceiling from Europe when this very same government was just shown up for lying about complying with the deficit ceiling? This is a government that doesn't keep its promises, the Spanish government constantly lies, it tried to deceive the European Commission with respect to the deficit, it holds the records in the most number of complaints filed for trying to bypass European directives. What kind of trust can we have in a government that specializes in avoiding fulfilling its commitments, that specializes in bypassing European directives and that holds the record for the most environmental infractions in the whole of the European Union? How can we put our future in the hands of a disaster like that one?”

“What is a terrible risk for the people of Catalonia is to continue as we are. What is a risk for any citizen is to continue to put our future in the hands of the Spanish government like the present one and the one before, and the one before that that is doing everything so badly. That is a risk, it's obvious. What is a risk is to keep trusting a government that has brought the Spanish State to having six million unemployed people. That is a risk. What beats all is then to say, ‘no, what would be risky is to leave this state’. What is really terrifying, what is literally horrible, is to stay in a state that has all these problems I mentioned earlier, the highest unemployment in Europe, the record for not complying...”

“If we accelerate the process, we will have to pay the salaries at the end of the month, taking into account and relying on the international context, relying that there will be someone who will finance us, since we do have the capacity to pay off this debt. Why does the Spanish State have such little credit? Because it spends much more than it brings in. Last year, the Spanish State collected 160 billion euros in taxes and spent 240 billion. One third of what the Spanish state spends, one out of every three euros, is added to the debt. In Catalonia's case, it's totally the opposite because the Catalan citizenry pays more taxes that what is eventually spent in our country. And therefore, since we pay more in taxes that what is eventually spent here, in contrast with the Spanish State, we *can* give a solid guarantee that we will be able to be responsible for our commitments, because we pay more in taxes than what is spent here.”

[There is more but I don't have time to translate it now though I heartily recommend listening to it. There is a transcript on El món a RAC1's page, and the original Catalan audio there as well.]

Statement of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Self-determination processes in Europe

This is what United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had to say today in Andorra in response to a question about the UN's attitudes toward processes of self-determination in Europe:

The United Nations has a firm and principled position that human rights and human dignity should be firmly upheld and protected every year, and all the pending issues between the countries and among the countries should be resolved through peaceful means, through dialog, respecting the genuine aspirations of the people concerned. This is what I can tell you as the Secretary Genereal.

And I really urge the leaders around the world to exercise their political will, political leadership, and wisdom to resolve all the issues through dialog and peaceful means.

You can hear the original recording on the report at Vilaweb, in the middle of the right-hand column. The initial question is in Catalan, but the Secretary General's statement is in English.