Friday, September 27, 2013

Roland Vaubel, Merkel advisor, interviewed by RAC1 on Catalonia, secession, and the EU

Update: Here's the third excerpt from the interview of Roland Vaubel:

“The European Commission is really trying to discourage the secession of Catalonia and Scotland by saying that after secession Catalonia and Scotland would no longer be members of the European Union. There's no basis for that at all in international law and it's not the Commission which has to decide that but the Council.”


Jordi Basté and the crew at radio show El món a RAC1 continue to impress me with the interviews they're able to get. It's so nice to be able to hear important voices on Catalonia's independence process directly, without filters. On Wednesday, Basté interviewed Angela Merkel advisor, Roland Vaubel, author of an interesting new paper titled, The Political Economy of Secession in the European Union, who had several interesting things to say about Catalonia:

"They cannot veto secession, they can only say that Catalonia, by seceding from Spain, will leave the European Union. They can say that, but it's a completely open question."

"No, the referendum is legal, and if there's a strong majority in the referendum, I think that the rest of Spain cannot really say that Catalonia cannot leave."

You can listen to the full, original audio (dubbed into Catalan) on SoundCloud.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

President Mas' reaction to PP in Catalonia leader Sept 26, 2013 #DPG

President Mas response to PP Catalonia leader Alícia Sánchez Camacho. September 26, 2013, Parliament of Catalonia. Original transcript in Catalan. (pages 26-28)

(The video from this section can be viewed in this article on VilaWeb (in the original Catalan). Even if you don't understand it, his tone is pretty clear.)

Now let's get to the last bit, shall we? which is what you said. And now you all are going to say no to us about one more thing, which is to be able to resolve this conflict that we have through a specific referendum. That, Mrs. Sánchez-Camacho, won't be possible either? I ask you this: are you all, who you represent, disposed, are disposed to finding a legal way, which can be negotiated, so that in Catalonia this very serious conflict can be resolved? Which was not invented by the Government, Mrs. S-C, this is not a conflict that was invented by the Government or, if you will allow me the personal reference, by me. And you all don't understand what is really happening—what is really happening—means that therefore it's impossible to find a good solution.

At this point, I am tired of trying to explain in Madrid that what is happening in Catalonia is not a minor thing, that there are many people who have made a mental switch with respect to the Spanish State, they have made a mental switch, and the thought is of disconnecting from the State. And the moment that these mental shifts take place is when great changes occur in society, and that is what is happening in Catalonia.

You all can keep saying that whatever you want about what happened on September 11, say whatever you want, go ahead and say that the majority of the country wasn't there, but you must accept one thing: if the majority of the country wasn't there, why don't we resolve the question of whether the majority of the country is in favor of one thing or another by voting? Why don't we resolve it by voting, if you all have doubts about where the majority of the country stands?

Yesterday, I explained the whole sequence of events, of three or four years, or five or six, and I'll tell you one last thing: don't look at what happened on the street if you don't want to, you all don't want to look at the street because you don't like what is happening, you don't like seeing 1.6 million people holding hands asking for the independence of Catalonia, you don't like it, I understand that—I understand it—but what I don't understand is something else: what I don't understand is how you're not able to read the results of the elections of November 25 that occurred 10 months ago. I don't understand why that is so hard for you to be able to read.

Because that [election] result was very clear, that result gives a very clear majority in favor of the right to decide and to have a referendum—very clear. And you can't suppose that what you and your party represents should be imposed on this wide majority that is next to you. You can't suppose that that which you all defend—legitimately—should take precedence over everything else, because that is not normal, it's not normal.

So, stop talking about the silent majority, instead resolve it another way: by voting. A clear referendum. We have given you many methods for doing so, many. There are five legal methods. The only thing that's necessary is political will. And one second thing: a lot of courage in Madrid by those who would suggest it, a lot of courage, lots of courage, I recognize that, they'll have to have a lot of courage. But watch out, because if you don't have the courage to deal with it now, you'll have to deal with it later under different conditions. They'll be peaceful, obviously, and they'll be democratic, obviously, because it couldn't be any other way coming from the Catalan people, it will be democratic and it will peaceful, but it will be.

All of the cards are on the table, I haven't hidden anything, and I told you "I am prepared to get to—in order to hold a referendum—to the last possible legal tool that a president has, which is the convocation of elections." I'm not hiding anything, all my cards are on the table. And our attitude is absolutely constructive, because with regard to this majority of the people of Catalonia, it's there, Mrs. S-C, it's there. What's happened has happened, and it's there, this majority is there, and it's very large.

Keeping that in mind, the only way to resolve these conflicts in a democracy is by voting. It's what other countries do. When you vote, you either lose or win. Listen, those who now say independence, may go to vote and then lose, or maybe they will win, but that is the risk of a referendum.

But, Mrs. S-C, that is the risk of a referendum. Tell us one thing: what is the risk of not having a referendum? Have you asked yourselves that? Change your perspective, change it for one second, I only ask you to take a single moment in this regard, the way the country is feeling right now is not the obsession of the president or of the Government, change your perspective for just a second. Study the costs of not having the referendum, and compare that with the costs—if there are any—of having a referendum. That is how this must be resolved, democratically, there is a majority of the country that wants to radically change the status quo in Catalonia, that wants to go to the extreme that Catalonia become a state, an independent state. That could happen, it could happen and many people are in favor if it. 

The only way to resolve if that is what will happen or not, is for this referendum to take place, because that is the current that will not change, Mrs. S-C. Not only that, the more negative the position of the institutions of the State against the referendum are, the more it will grow. Because in all democratic and normal civilized countries, when they have problems like these, they resolve these issues by consulting the people. Ignoring the problem will not resolve it, the problem will continue being there. Therefore, grab the bull by the horns, if you'll allow me this expression, an expression translated from Spanish that perhaps you'll like, grabbing the bull by the horns, and understand that beyond speeches about silent majorities and all that, there is a very big problem here, and that problem can be resolved, can be resolved democratically, and you'll have to accept the consequences of the march of time and of the majority will of the people that consider themselves to be a people, who consider themselves to be a nation, who consider themselves to be a society of their own.

And in our house, in this Parliament, it is an expression, this people that we're referring to, as I said yesterday, is a mixed people, of quite mixed origins, of languages, of origins of all types, of beliefs, not to mention ideologies, etc. it's a very mixed people, very mixed. And you end end up saying "You are dividing the Catalans." No, Mrs. S-C, do you know what unites Catalans at this moment when there is conflict? And this one cannot be avoided, conflict exists, but that's OK, it's not a violent conflict, it can be a perfectly civilized conflict, it must be a normal conflict, we're in the 21st century, we're in the European Union, we have agreed to a multitude of international agreements about human rights, about whatever you all want. One basic inspiration of the European Union that you made reference to is democracy. Conflict exists, but conflict doesn't mean that this conflict has to get out of hand if we don't make it bigger than it is. Conflict means that we have to face it, and then what unites Catalans, Mrs. S-C, I believe.

A German think tank preparing for Catalan independence, as reported by TV3

Transcription in Catalan and translation into English below.

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs is financed by the Bundestag and offers council to Angela Merkel's government. Some of its reports are confidential and deal with German interests in Syria or Iran. But, among the reports open to the public, one was written a few weeks ago about Catalonia which recommends that the Spanish government sit down to negotiations.

"If the tension rises in Catalonia, the countries that now say this is a Spanish internal affair will intervene and will insist that Madrid and Barcelona find a compromise and intensify the dialogue. This situation is still far off."—Kai Olaf-Land, German Foreign Affairs government advisor

If Catalonia becomes independent, it's recommended that the Cyprus model be applied in the reverse to avoid problems with the 500 German companies currently located in Catalonia.

“In Cyprus, the entire island is part of the EU but the EU legislation is only valid for the Greek portion. Spain would be a complete member of the EU but EU legislation would be valid not just in Spain but in practically the whole of the Iberian peninsula, and also in Catalonia.” —Kai Olaf-Lang

The shifting of internal borders in the EU is not inconceivable for the German government and they thus want to be prepared to know in each case how to best defend their interests.

Toni Cruanyes, TV3 in Berlin.


L'institut Alemany d'Afers Internacionals i de Seguretat està financiat pel Parlament i assessora el govern d'Angela Merkel. Alguns dels seus informes són confidencials sobre interessos alemanys a Síria o a l'Iran. Però entre els estudis oberts al públic, fa unes setmanes se n'ha redactat un sobre Catalunya en que recomana al govern espanyol que se segui a negociar.

"Si puja la tensió a Catalunya, els països que ara diuen que és un afer intern d'Espanya, intervindran i demanaran a Madrid i a Barcelona que busquin un compromís i intensi el diàleg. Aquesta situació encara és llunyana." —Kai Olaf-Lang, assessor govern alemany Afers Europeus

Si Catalunya s'independitza, es recomana que s'apliqui el model de Xipre a l'inversa per evitar problemes a les 500 empreses alemanyes radicades a Catalunya.

"A Xipre, tota l'illa és membre de la UE, però la legislació comunitària només és vàlida per a la part grecoxí [sic]. Espanya seria membre complet de la UE, però la legislació europea seria vigent no només a Espanya sinò a gairebé tota la península ibèrica, també a Catalunya."—Kai Olaf-Lang

Els moviments de fronteres a l'interior de la Unió Europea no són inimaginables pel govern alemany i per això volen estar preparats per saber en cada cas com defensar millor els seus interessos.

Toni Cruanyes, TV3 in Berlin  

General Policy Debate, September 25, 2013, Catalan Parliament

Opening remarks by President Mas:

I shall begin this General Policy Debate, the first of this 10th legislature, by covering the four major themes currently affecting our country and that, depending on their evolution, will outline the future of Catalonia both in the short and in the long term. I'd like to point out, from the very start, that the four major topics that I will mention should not be seen as discrete compartments, but rather intersecting and overlapping interdependent issues.

Concretely, I'm referring to:

  • the political process begun in Catalonia, based on the right to decide* and the concept of a national transition.
  • the situation and perspectives of the finances of the Catalan government [la Generalitat], and therefore the viability of most public policy in Catalonia.
  • the behavior of the economy, employment, and our model of well-being
  • the restoration of confidence between institutions and the populace, democratic regeneration and quality.

Let's dig in, then, to these four areas that I propose to you.

1. The Political Process

Let's go over a quick synopsis of the events of the last few years that explain why we are where we are and how we got here.

September, 2005: approval in this Parliament and by a wide majority, of the proposal for a new Statute of Autonomy.

End of 2005: confirmation that the president of the Government of Spain, J.L. Rodríguez Zapatero, had for a long time retreated from and had no intention of fulfilling his famous and public commitment to “support the Statute that comes out of the Parliament”.

January, 2006: Moncloa Pact in order to unblock the whittled down Statute that was more dead than alive.

June, 2006: Referendum in Catalonia to approve the Statute previously approved in the General Spanish Congress. The Yes vote won 74%, with a turnout close to 50%. The new Statute goes into effect. As always, there begin to be ways in which the State does not follow the agreements. Once again, the bar is lowered below where it had been lowered to before.

June, 2010: Ruling of the Constitutional Court, on the suits from the Partido Popular and the Spanish Ombudsman, that eliminates essential portions of the Spanish Congress-approved Statute—that is, approved by the body which represents the sovereignty of the Spanish people—and by the Catalan people in a referendum. An unnecessary, disproportionate, humiliating ruling that puts an end to 100 years of Catalanist action based on faith in a constructive and loyal understanding with the Spanish State.

Miquel Roca, one of the fathers of the Constitution, writes then that "the common project of 78 has been exhausted. The Constitutional Court has buried it. Spain has a problem."

July 10, 2010: Massive demonstration in Barcelona under the slogan "We are a nation, we decide". The then-President of the Generalitat, José Montilla, attends.

July, 2012: the Parliament of Catalonia approves, also with a wide majority, the proposal for a fiscal pact in line with economic agreement.

National Day, September 11, 2012: One million and a half people, in the most well-attended demonstration ever held in Catalonia, take to the streets of the capital of Catalonia in the most civic fashion, behind the placard, "Catalonia, New State of Europe". Nine days later, on September 20 of last year, [Spanish] President Mariano Rajoy closes the door on any negotiation on the fiscal pact. With this refusal made clear, I decided to dissolve the Parliament and convoke elections for November 25, 2012.

November 25, 2012: The highest turnout of all the Parliamentary elections since 1980. The result is well known, and determines the current composition of this chamber. Those elections were held in order to obtain the legitimacy for beginning the road that we are following today: the right to decide, the referendum, national transition, and Catalonia's own State. From those elections on, no one can talk about silent majorities when referring to the political future of Catalonia: 70% turnout at the polls is a loud majority. Very loud, and at the same time very calm.

Seeing the description that I have laid out, can anyone really be surprised that we've gotten to this point? We are here because the Constitutional Court ruling erected a wall between the majority of the Catalan population and the Spanish State, and at the same time gives solid evidence that the famous "fitting" of Catalonia in the State is not possible in the terms that the multicultural, diverse, and varied forces of Catalanism historically and until very recently were determined to find. Put another way, fitting Catalonia into Spain is only possible if Catalonia renounces its collective project, if it gives up being a political subject. If we accept being an object, fitting together would be possible. If we want to be a subject, with our own personality and identity, with the ability to offer the 7.5 million Catalans their own project, that is not subordinate, then fitting together is not possible, despite our repeated attempts over a very long period. More than one hundred years.

But that's not the only story. Meanwhile, Catalan society has not conformed, has not lowered its head, is not crossing its arms in resignation. The country is alive, very much alive. And it is reacting. It is mobilizing. It is tired of a relationship with the State in which it sees no future, under the current conditions. I may be wrong, but I'll give you my perception: Catalonia feels real affection toward Spain, Catalonia loves Spain, but it no longer trusts the Spanish State.

This country that is alive and hopeful for a different and better future, that wants to be the protagonist of its own destiny, is the one that came out last September 11th, democratically, peacefully, massively, civically, and even joyously, despite the difficulties of its current situation, and forms the Catalan Way toward Independence, a great expression of its faith in its own collective future, and impresses the world with its vitality, its enormous capacity for mobilizing itself, and even for its good manners.

This time, even the State, usually arrogant and cavalier about Catalan national questions, almost as often condescending as it ignorant, had no other option than to realize it has a problem. A big problem.

How is this situation that we are experiencing being translated in this chamber of our Parliament?

Over a range of variations, that go from Constitutional reform to the configuration of an independent state, one thing remains clear: 107 of the 135 members of this Parliament had electoral platforms that included proposals that approved different systems for changing the current relationship between Catalonia and the rest of the Spanish State.

The right to decide and the will to hold a referendum are therefore the desire of a wide spectrum, and indeed a wide majority, of this Parliament. They are today and they will be tomorrow. While it is true that the views on the referendum are varied and diverse, it's also true that practically 80% of the Parliament is very clear that we cannot maintain the current status quo.

We are facing a new political centrality in Catalonia, a new era. Very different from previous eras. I myself, at one moment, even spoke of the twilight zone. And now we are here, and in addition, we know that that there is no turning back possible. In these last few months, clear steps have been made in the direction of the path that the people of Catalonia traced for us in the elections 10 months ago.

On January 23, the Parliament of Catalonia approved in plenary session a historic declaration of sovereignty and of the right to decide of the people of Catalonia, in which the beginning of the "process to realize the exercising of the right to decide so that the citizens of Catalonia can decide their collective political future" was solemnly demonstrated, together with the principles of sovereignty (that is, that the people of Catalonia are a political subject), democratic legitimacy, transparency, dialogue, social cohesion, Europeanism, legality, the central role of the Parliament, and participation.

Incredibly, the Spanish Government took the Declaration of Sovereignty before the Constitutional Court, which declared its suspension. Regardless of the final decision that it will end up making, what's absurd and difficult to understand is that they are trying to cancel a political position, which expresses the will of the people of Catalonia to exercise their right to decide by strictly democratic means. How can they invalidate a democratic expression of will? Does it mean that a wide majority of Catalans must stop expressing our will or saying what we think? Can you invalidate a declaration that expresses a peaceful and democratic thought?

Later, on March 13, the Parliament approved by an even wider majority a resolution in which it pressed the Government to "initiate a dialogue with the Government of the State in order to make possible the celebration of a referendum of the citizens of Catalonia in order to decide on their future."

In this way, then, the Parliament was giving form to the legislature's national objectives: political positioning in favor of initiating the process for the referendum and a mandate for the Government to open dialogue and negotiate with the Spanish government.

In that same direction, last July 1, the Parliament constituted the Study Committee on the Right to Decide, thanks to a proposal by 5 of the 7 political parties in this chamber.

At the same time, we have worked toward another of the elements that is fundamental, in our opinion: the process has to have support from as wide a part of the political spectrum as possible, as well as important support from society, and that this support continue to grow. The wider the better, since that is what will make this incontestable. To this end, on June 26, the National Pact for the Right to Decide was instituted, with a goal of involving the civil society, the most representative institutions of the country, the local community, and the political powers that are in favor of having a referendum, regardless of their final position at the moment of the referendum.

Last week, President Rigol publicly presented the proposal of the Declaration of the Right to Decide, along with the objective in the next few months, that all of those signed up for the Pact can subscribe to it, thereby expressing the unequivocal cross-cultural and cross-organization determination that exists around this process. For its part, the Government constituted in April the National Transition Advisory Committee, made up of 14 people of important and recognized prestige throughout the university and professional worlds, which is charged with analyzing and foreseeing the major decisions that the Government will have to make, and the structures of State that Catalonia will have to have, as it becomes a new state. It's clear that we are embarking on a new era in which we have never worked so deeply or with so much detail. It's also evident that this is a process that we have to be capable of carrying out well, with rigor, seriousness and careful steps. Therefore, the work that this advisory council is doing will be useful for creating a clear road map of the decisions and elements to keep in mind for the future. In that sense, the first report presented by the Council last July 25 addresses the referendum on Catalonia's political future and rigorously lays out the legal paths that would allow it to be held. Indeed there are numerous and varied legal frameworks for holding a referendum, but the political will must be there in order to take advantage of them.

I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that this Chamber is processing at this very moment a proposal for a referendum law, and the goal is for it to be approved during this year 2013. It's important to point out that this law that develops the powers granted to us by the Statute of Autonomy, particularly in Article 122, is quite relevant, since it could be one of the legal paths possible for celebrating the referendum.

Finally, following the resolution approved by this Parliament in the month of March that I mentioned earlier, last July 26 I wrote a letter to the president of the Spanish government to express to him in a solemn manner the feeling, will, and desire of a very large majority of the people of Catalonia. Further, I encouraged him to begin a dialogue and negotations for celebrating a referendum in an agreed fashion, under the legal frameworks that we establish. Beyond the letter, this desire of dialogue had also been expressed in other earlier meetings with President Rajoy.

President Rajoy responded on September 14 to the letter that I sent him. His answer focused on what he understands as an offer of open paths of dialogue and respect within a judicial framework. The Government that I preside, and I myself are, and have been, in favor of the maximum possible dialogue between institutions and we have offered up to 5 possible legal paths for holding a referendum.

We will take advantage of any sliver of possibility of dialogue with the institutions of the State. At the same time, there is a crucial question that even today has not been answered and which conditions any process of dialogue: Does the Spanish State accept holding a referendum in Catalonia to know the will of the Catalan people about the political future of their country? If it accepts this democratic principle, and responds to the common will of the Catalan people, then we will have to negotiate and agree on the legal framework to make it possible. However, if the Spanish State does not accept this principle, then what is there to negotiate about?

For the Government of Catalonia's part, the road map is clearly defined. As a reminder, we'd like to point out the following points:

First. The referendum must be celebrated in 2014, as was agreed in our legislative pact. We will work tirelessly to make it so.

Second. Before the end of the year, we will specify the date, the content of the referendum, and the legal frameworks that will be used, keeping in mind that there are five possibilities. My wish is that this triple agreement be achieved among all of the political formations who are in favor of the right to decide.

Third. We want to celebrate a referendum in agreement with the State, or at the least, in a framework of tolerance, and therefore, without judicial conflict.

Fourth. If, despite our unequivocal desire for dialogue and agreement, no negotiations with the State are possible, I am prepared to use, as President, all of the democratic and legal tools at my disposal in order to help the people of Catalonia be able to freely decide its future as a country, including convoking elections. It's not the method I prefer, nor is it the best. Nevertheless, I am prepared to get to that point, as a last resource, if there is an attempt to silence the Catalan people's voice and block their ability to vote.

Although the political process in which Catalonia is immersed is immensely and profoundly crucial and far reaching, and captures a huge amount of interest and media attention, it is not by any measure the only topic of importance that our country is living through and that the Government is taking care of. If the political process progresses it's because it has the potential to strengthen our collective well-being for a good time to come.

We'll enter, then, the second theme of this presentation.

[I have not translated the rest of the speech.]

*"dret a decidir" [right to decide] is a phrase in Catalan which is generally an abbreviation of "right to decide Catalonia's political future" and which in English is more often given as "right to self-determination". Since the pharse "right to self-determination" exists in Catalan as well, I have chosen to translate "right to decide" more literally.

*"consulta" [referendum] While there is technically a legal difference between "consulta" and "referendum" in Catalan (and Spanish) and President Mas uses "consulta" in his speech, there is no English word that captures the meaning of "consulta". (A consultation is something you get at the doctor's office.) It might be translated as "non-binding referendum", but that is wordy, and more explicit than perhaps is desired or necessary. I have chosen to translate it simply as "referendum" since in the end, that's what it is: asking the people what they think.

10 Things You May Not Know About Barcelona

I am happy to share with you this essential list of the Top Ten things that every visitor should know before landing in Barcelona, designed by my good friends at Can Antaviana, with text by yours truly.

Em plau presentar-vos un recull imprescindible de les 10 coses que tot visitant hauria de conèixer abans d’aterrar a Barcelona, el disseny del qual l'ha realitzat de forma encisadora els genis de Can Antaviana. Un plaer col·laborar amb el texte.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Driver who insisted on speaking Catalan at routine stop, sentenced to jail

Originally published in VilaWeb on Sept 19, 2013

Carles Mateu Blay was acquitted in January of disobeying the authorities, but the prosecutor appealed and now the Audiència (Court) has overturned the ruling • He was detained for three hours at a routine roadside stop in Almassora for insisting on speaking in Catalan

Carles Mateu Blay, a driver from Almenara who was detained and humiliated during more than three hours in a routine roadside stop by the Spanish Civil Guard for insisting on speaking to the agents in Catalan, has been sentenced to six months in prison for disobeying authorities and has had his driver's license revoked for one year and one day. Mateu had originally won the case, and was acquitted of all charges, but the prosecutor appealed the sentence and now the Provincial Audiència overturned the ruling and accepted the request of the prosecutor. On the other hand, the suit that Mateu presented against the civil guard office for false testimony was shelved, and therefore, the agents who detained him will not be brought to trial. "It's surreal; I went from being the victim to being the delinquent," Mateu explained to VilaWeb, clearly perplexed.

According to Mateu's defense, the ruling from the Audiència changed the judicial criteria and considered that the "linguistic conflict" between Mateu and the police offers, who forced him to speak Spanish during the detention, was part of Mateu's strategy to drag out the time before he would have to take a alcohol detection test, therefore becoming a more serious crime of disobedience to an authority, punishable with a prison sentence. The alcohol breath test, for that matter, was administered, and came back negative.

This judicial interpretation of the facts, that Mateu considers simply incredible, contrasts with the first judge's ruling, in which the testimony of one of the civil guard agents was taken into account, who denied and dismantled the accusations and citations of his fellow officers. In addition, during the trial, one of the agents openly recognized to the judge that indeed they had demanded that Mateu speak in Spanish.

Mateu's defense considers this sentence difficult to appeal right now, but Mateu has not ruled out bringing the case to a higher court and told VilaWeb that he was studying such an option, since he considers the matter to be a grave case of aggression and linguistic discrimination.

The facts

Everything happened on December 21 of last year in a routine stop at the Almassora exit, a little after 5pm. A civil guard patrol stopped Carles Mateu in the CV-18 roundabout, and asked him to take a blood alcohol test. He was on his way to pick up his daughter at school. The fact that the car he was driving belonged to his sister-in-law and wasn't his own aroused the suspicion of the agents about the documentation. It was then that he got the feeling that something was up, but Carles couldn't foresee what was going to happen. "I saw right away that it bothered them that I was speaking in Valencian [Catalan] and that I wasn't changing languages. But I never imagined it could end up like this. Indeed, I can say that they took my drivers license away for speaking in Valencian. It's scandalous and intolerable."

From that moment on, the conversation turned into an attack and a humiliation for Carles, who wasn't able to get home until more than three hours later, "with three false citations that added up to 1000 euros in fines and curiously enough, 12 points on my drivers license." While he was detained, Carles had to bear insults of all kinds, and even a shove or two. They made him wait in his car until another agent arrived who was in charge of witnesses. This third agent dismantled the accusations of his fellow officers a few days later in front of the judge.

What surprised everyone, "including the witness agent, who was much more willing to talk things out than the others," was that Carles Mateu was cited for not wearing a seat belt, for not using a reflective vest, and for refusing a blood alcohol test. Mateu stated from the very first moment that they were groundless, false citations. "My whole world fell apart around me! It was all false! I explained everything to the [third] agent but he told me that it wasn't up to him and that he couldn't do anything about it, but he saw that I was wearing the vest and logically, he could see the results of the tests as well."

You can find a full history of the events here, in Catalan.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

'Victi vincimus' by Albert Sánchez Piñol

Originally published in ARA on 12 September 2013 Written by Albert Sánchez Piñol, the bestselling author of Victus, and other novels.

Many peoples have suffered defeat, others remember defeats as crucial moments in their histories. But I can't think of another case besides the Catalan one in which a disaster has been institutionalized and elevated to the status of a country's National Day. There are a lot of reasons for that. Normally, a military defeat implies the loss of an army, of two armies. The great Catalan defeats have meant—beyond the blood spilled—and here is where you can see the big difference—the loss of its institutions.

Let's admit it, reading our own history can generate—has generated, actually—a kind of loser's complex, to coin a phrase. That is, there is the tendency to irrationally assume that since one party has suffered defeats that it is condemned to always be on the losing side. And I would go further: from the loser's complex comes another thought: the conviction that if one suffers a defeat, it's because there was no avoiding it. This is a false perception. What history regulates are economic cycles, the rise and fall of great empires, but not specific events in one corner or other of the time and space continuum.

At any rate it's undeniable that 300 years ago Catalans suffered a hecatomb. And it was not to be the last. The problem is that history books have a tendency to explain the great battles, or the skirmishes of the powerful, rather than a series of miniscule, discrete, inscrutable sociological processes. Because there is another irrefutable fact: despite all of their defeats, Catalans have not disappeared. During three centuries they have been able to maintain and reproduce their culture and to integrate millions of individuals from other places at the same time. And they have done so peacefully. Victi vincimus say the classics. Conquered, we won. The great victory of the Catalans is that three hundred years later, they continue to be Catalans. We often overlook that fact. The loser's complex now keeps us from realizing this phenomenal collective success. Our defeats are the trees that keep us from seeing the forest of victory.

Recently, thanks to the efforts of the historian Toni Muñoz, we learned about one of those epic details of the seige of Barcelona of 1713-14 that still leaves us with a bitter memory. It turns out that shortly before the fall of Barcelona, General Villarroel sent his assistent, a guy named Martí Zuviria, abroad with the mission of convincing the Marquis de Poal to bring his troops into the city, since the Borbon attack might come at any moment. Poal refused, surely insisting that such an effort would be in vain. They argued so fiercely that even Zuviria's escorts decided not to return. At that moment, Zuviria was the garrison commander who knew, more than anyone else, that the city was condemned to defeat. What did he do? He returned to the city.

Over simplified, the pro-sovereignty process can be interpreted as a conflict between state and civic forces. That scenario allows for various shades of gray, of course: the Spanish State receives support from community-based organizations while the Catalan Government enjoys a certain institutional weight. But the essence is there. The basic impulse of the pro-sovereignty movement, its life breath, springs from the grass roots, while the principal obstacle to its demands are the institutions and apparatus of the Spanish State. A State that has all of the most powerful tools at its disposal. It has the power, a monopoly of strength, it has speakers, disciples, and disciples who can make themselves be heard. It has an immense panoply of resources for influencing individuals and groups. In contrast, these popular, civic forces that oppose the State have only their own bodies, their own will, and their ability to organize. As humans they make mistakes, they doubt, and they have limited resources.

Why did Zuviria return to Barcelona? We will never know. Probably out of loyalty to Villarroel, to certain specific individuals. I like to think that he returned for the same reasons that many people took part yesterday in the Catalan Way. He didn't do it because he had more or less faith in the victory of his cause, nor was he moved by some fanatic impulse, or to bother anyone. He went, simply, for the satisfaction, as humble and profound as that might be, that one gets when they know they're on the right side.

About croquetes, the Catalan Way, and Twitter

Photo Sep 11, 4 32 52 PM

The Catalan Way—Catalonia's 250 mile long joining of hands in support of Catalan independence from Spain—would not be the first movement to question Twitter's algorithms for choosing trending topics. But I'm sure it's the first one to respond with #croquetes!

Yesterday, Twitter buzzed with reports, videos, and photos from the #CatalanWay, which in Catalan is called the "Via Catalana". Today, it is newspapers all over the world, from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times in the US, to the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent in the UK to Der Spiegel, Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung in Germany, and so on and so on. VilaWeb has a good list.

But Twitter stubbornly refused to register #ViaCatalana, the hashtag marking most of the posts, as trending. During a radio show on RAC1, Jordi Basté explained that Twitter had told them that 1000 people had to be talking about a particular topic in order for it to 'trend', but that it was important that that topic not have trended the previous day. Half in gest, he said, why don't we test that theory with "#croquetes" [a very typical and common kind of special leftovers in Catalonia, generally meat mixed with bechamel sauce and fried, quite delicious].

Within minutes, everyone was tweeting #croquetes, and sure enough Twitter quickly listed it as a trending topic. In fact, it's still trending this morning.

(20) Twitter / Search - catalanway

While some talked of conspiracy and showed that #viacatalana was being heavily used across social networks, others explained Twitter's system for designating trending topics.

My opinion is that whatever Twitter's system is, it does not work. There is absolutely no reason that such an event, closely followed by the world media, front page on Wikipedia, and tweeted by hundreds of thousands of people would fail to 'trend'. Twitter needs to revise its trending topic algorithm, so that we don't have to resort to silly tricks like tweeting about yummy food. And it's true that, totally coincidentally, I had #croquetes for dinner last night!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Catalan Way, in the English-language international press

The full article with news stories from all over the world was originally published in VilaWeb on Sept 11, 2013

An updated collection of articles showing the reaction to the Catalan Way human chain of September 11th in the English-language international press

One year after the massive demonstration on September 11, 2012, organized by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) with 1.5 million participants in Barcelona, the same organization has again proven its ability to mobilize the citizenry with an impressive human chain that went from one end of Catalonia to the other, some 400 kilometers, and linked up with Valencia in the South and Northern Catalonia to the north. Although the demonstration was covered by many international media outlets last year, this year the Catalan Way was designed to call attention to and amplify the demands for independence throughout the world.

And it did so in spades, even before the hundreds of thousands of participants began to join hands at 17:14 (5:14pm local time). Over the last few days, in fact, many news outlets have talked about the Catalan Way, and the coverage only got stronger throughout the morning. The spectacular success of the human chain placed the Catalan Way on many front pages by midday, as was the case of the Wall Street Journal and Aljazeera, and The Guardian asked its readers for photographs and videos of the impressive mobilization.

VilaWeb has a complete listing of articles that have appeared in the principal media all over the world. I have listed here only the English-language sources. You can find the complete list of world news sources in the original article, which includes new stories published in Remember that Google's Translator can be used to translate articles into whatever language suits you best.


Sky News: Catalonia calls for independence


DigitalJournal: Catalan Way Towards Independence' — human chain to span region


South China Morning Post: Catalan stars and stripes fly for independence chain


BBC News: Catalans to form 400km 'independence' human chain and the video Catalans mark Independence Day with huge human chain

Financial Times: Catalans join hands in independence protest

The Guardian: Catalans join hands in huge human chain for independence from Spain and their call for photos and videos

The Telegraph: 400,000 person human chain stretching 250 miles for Catalan independence

Huffington Post: Independence, the Catalan Way

AP (The Independent, Denver Post): Catalans form human chain in Spain separation bid


GBC: Cataluña celebrates its National Day with human chain


Times India Would Spain show democratic maturity and grant Catalonia its independence?


The Irish Times: Catalans unite for ‘human chain’ as part of bid to separate from Spain

and also Thousands of Catalans form ‘human chain’ as part of push for independence


The Sun Daily: Thousands of Catalonians prepare 'human chain' demo

New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald: Catalans form human chain in Spain separation bid


Montreal Gazette: Catalans in favour of breaking away from Spain start gathering for human chain


Russia Today: Over a million Catalans lock hands in independence chain (Photos/video)


Newsnet Scotland: Madrid bans pro-Catalan demo in Valencia


Bangkok Post: Catalans prepare 'human chain' independence demo

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Catalan Separatists Face Challenge on Referendum

CNN: Catalans to link up in human chain today in their call for secession from Spain

The Washington Post: Catalans in favor of breaking away from Spain form huge human chain to advertise their cause

Time: Catalonia Readies for Large Pro-Independence March

Fox News: Catalans in favor of breaking away from Spain form huge human chain to advertise their cause

ABC: Catalonia Readies for Large Pro-Independence March and later Catalan protesters forms human chain for independence from Spain

Reuters: Pragmatism may guide politicians as Catalonian separatism flares again

Boston Globe: Catalonia readies for large pro-independence march

Businessweek: Mas Saying Catalonia Headed For Statehood Backs Off Independence

New York Times: A Referendum for Catalonia (Op Ed by Artur Mas, President of Catalonia)

Los Angeles Times: A 250-mile show of support for Catalonia independence

Wall Street Journal: Catalan Separatists Face Challenge on Referendum plus extra photo in front of Sagrada Familia church (by Gaudí)

CNN: Catalans to link up in human chain today in their call for secession from Spain

GlobalPost: Economic grudge fuels Catalan independence fight

Greenfield Recorder: Ashfield family in Catalonia's 250-mile 'human chain'

Non-English-language media

There were also articles in the following countries and newspapers/media outlets:

Basque Country
Persian Gulf States
Quebec (in French)

European Commission professes "great respect" for Catalan Way

Barroso's spokesperson says that Europe is not at all indifferent to the human chain

The European Commission feels "great respect" for the Catalan Way human chain and is "conscious of the importance that it has for the citizens of Catalonia, and the rest of the Spanish State". In declarations to the Catalan News Agency ACN, the spokespeople for the EU executive confirmed that Brussels is in no way indifferent to today's human chain, but rather has closely followed it. Nevertheless, they say that responding to demands for independence is not part of the Commission's jurisdiction, and that "it cannot interfere" in the internal affairs of its member states, according to treaties. "Being respectful means being neutral," warned the spokespeople who were consulted. Brussels is taking notes, but officially, the reaction to Catalonia's National Day will go no further than that.

The European Commission is very aware of the human chain and recognizes its importance, but it will not change its position. José Manuel Durao Barroso's spokesperson, Olivier Bailly, will limit his remarks this Thursday, in his daily press conference, to note the 400 kilometers of the Catalan Way human chain and to restate that Brussels cannot interfere in what it considers a internal affair of the Spanish State.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Address of the President of the Generalitat in honor of the celebration of the National Day of Catalonia, 2013

Address of the President of the Generalitat in honor of the celebration of the National Day of Catalonia, 2013

Fellow Catalans:

Once again, we celebrate Catalonia’s National Day, the Diada. The Diada allows us to commemorate our national character, and to recognize the values that best identify us as a people. Our tenacity, our commitment, and our ability to recover in the face of difficulty are the best examples of our will to survive, as well as undeniable proof of our will to exist. A will that has helped construct this country generation after generation from people of all origins and from all walks of life.

Yesterday we inaugurated the Born Cultural Centre, a space that allows us to contemplate the history and artifacts of the Barcelona of 1714. A space that shows us just how far some were willing to go to annihilate a country and its institutions, rights, language, and culture. A space that is the clearest proof that not even the negation of all of its freedoms can finish off a people that is steadfast in its will to exist and constant in its efforts to do so. In a moment like the present, we must keep the lessons from history foremost in our minds. As the classics remind us, a drop of water does not perforate a stone by force, but through perseverance.

What made the Catalan men and women of 300 years ago—defeated, vanquished, with their liberties stripped away—refuse to give up who they were so that now we can be who we are? Only their belief, as we continue to hold today, that with their abilities, with their strength, and with their laws, they could live better and hope for a more prosperous and just future. And these beliefs gave them the ability to resist and the moral fortitude to begin to recover, and with the passage of time, reconstruct our country and keep the flame of our own identity and our own progress alive.

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the massive demonstration that filled the streets of Barcelona last year, that demonstrated the firmness of our collective will and our unshakable longing to decide our future democratically, peacefully, and freely. Tomorrow, there will be a new manifestation of our patriotism, of our civic feeling, and of our commitment. It will be evident in all of the institutional events that will take place throughout our country. And it will be apparent when hundreds of thousands of our citizens join hands to express once again their desire for freedom, peace, democracy, and social justice.

Like last year, I have decided that my role as President precludes my involvement in person. Nevertheless, my commitment today is not only just as solid as it was a year ago, but it is even more clearly explicit: the people of Catalonia must be consulted next year on their political future. My commitment is so firm about the Catalan people’s right to self-determination that, as I have made evident in recent days, I am ready to use all the democratic and legal tools at my disposal in order to help the citizens of Catalonia be able to vote on their future as a country.

In the same way that my commitment is unwavering it is also my will that the process be carried forward thoughtfully: that we do it right. Because it is only by doing things properly that we’ll be able to achieve our objectives.

Our road map is drawn: the right to self-determination, a referendum, the national transition, and the formation of the State. Together with our road map we also have the “Catalan Way” [in English in the original], a way of doing things which reflects our way of being and includes democracy, dialog, legality, civility, a peaceful spirit, and wide majorities. And respect for minority viewpoints, because any project for a country must serve the entire country, that is, all 7.5 million Catalan men, women, and children. We must not waver a single millimeter from our road map, but we must also remain committed to the Catalan Way of doing things. We must carry out a national transition, but we must do it right. And doing it right is everyone’s responsibility.

Although the exercise of self-determination is the most important objective of the present legislative session, and the one that will affect the public the most, there are other challenges, objectives, and goals that are on the same level: to lift the country up economically, to redress social issues, and to improve the democratic system. That is, to go from recession to wealth creation, from unemployment to work, from weakening the state of well-being to strengthening it, from the threat of public policies to their guarantee, from the deterioration of the public’s confidence in our institutions to a climate of transparency and mutual respect.

The right to self-determination, prosperity, social justice, and a robust democracy are, each and every one, the foundational walls of the house that we want to build. If any one of these walls cracks, the whole house is affected. But if they are all strong and sturdy, the whole house is more solid.

Even if we don’t have the sufficient tools, even if the tools we have are dramatically lacking, we will continue to work to reinforce these foundational walls. With the modesty of knowing that we have made mistakes and the determination to convert those mistakes into learning opportunities.

Catalonia is working to leave recession, unemployment and poverty behind. To stop the budget cuts and stabilize public financing. To increase school performance and to be able to properly care for the sick and the most vulnerable. Our National Day is also about that: building a country that is more socially just, economically sound, culturally advanced and democratically exemplary.

The closer we are to this multifaceted spirit of our Diada, the closer we are to the city of ideals envisioned by the poet.

And beyond all that, there is our search and conquest of freedom. Salvador Espriu, the 100th anniversary of whose birth we celebrate this year, told us “build your new house in the plot that is labeled with the name of liberty”. And to Spain he proclaimed, “Listen, Sepharad, people cannot be if they are not free.” Three centuries later, the desire for freedom continues to ring from north to south, from east to west. And it rings louder than ever.

Long live Catalonia.