Visca Escòcia i Visca Catalunya lliure!

We interviewed Anna Arqué, from the Catalan independence movement ‘Welcome Mr. President’. She is a founder member of the ‘European Partnership for Independence’.

Bella: Can you tell Scottish readers about the political situation now in Catalonia? What powers does the Catalan parliament have?

AA: In general terms we can affirm that the Spanish State continues defending its occupation of the Catalan territory from the steady democratic process of the independence of Catalonia; and does so, using all the legal and political tools that the spanish system has created by itself in order to impose their underlying and always present will to reduce Catalan rights and liberties. Situation no different from what we have been living for almost three centuries. For the last decades and thanks to the unionist (happy to be part of the spanish legal and political framework) political party: CiU, this clear agressive attitude was less frontal, CiU, political party in Gov. after the dictatorship for 23 years and currently in power after 8 years of socialism, has always locally controlled any freedom spur from Catalan society that could mean any political main issue with the occupant authority, despite the fact that the majority of CiU parliament members are convinced independentistas. Last example of CiU taking this post to its full extend is the recent block that they offered to an initiative promoted by hundreds of associations and thousands of people to debate inside our Catalan Parliament the convenience to call for an official democratic referendum about the independence of Catalonia (a debate accepted in other cases). CiU blocked this possibility after a long and succesful social process of one year and a half of popular voting about the independence of Catalonia in more than half of the total number of towns and cities of Catalonia with more than 60.000 volunteers and an opulent victory for independence.

The current situation, down to specifics, is that although a global progress to independence is being made, proving the determination of the Catalan society, still we have to face the impact of spanish nationalism. Last week the two big spanish political parties PP-PSOE resolved to increase their control over the Catalan finances by according to change the spanish constitution, and so it happened. Important to note that we are talking about a constitution that we, the Catalans, have been told, over and over again, that it could not be changed, not even to include the most basic universal rights, not without a superior process of almost mystical efforts. However, in a blink of eyes we have been spectators of how the whole spanish nationalism, left and right wing spanish nationalism, come together when it comes to defend the centralism of the spanish state and its authority. This rapid and amazingly easy change of the constitution broke the so-called ‘Constituent pact’ of 1979, date when this so-called ‘by concensus’ Constitution was approved by the Spanish Parliament.

This rupture doesn’t really mean much for the Catalans working for independence, what means the great majority of Catalans, and this is because we know how little real ‘consensus’ this Spanish Constitution ever had, for us really, the most important point to highlight from this consensus between spanish nationalists and catalan unionists, is that it proves clearly how little the Catalans unionists are needed anymore by the spanish nationalists. PP-PSOE haven’t include CiU into the ‘big gang’, furthermore, they have not even bothered to pretend CiU was important in order to execute such a significant political reform. Headed in Madrid by Duran, CiU has been completely dismissed by the big spanish parties. The reason is not other than the fact that Catalan independence is too strong and rooted in order for the spanish nationalists to really need to continue the ‘friendship’ with catalans unionists that obviously have not done the job of stopping the process of independence properly. Nobody ever pays fidelity to traitors.

The Spanish State is defending openly and in first person the ONE and ONLY spanish nation. In only one week the Spanish, right and left wing, approved to amend their ‘sacred’ constitution without any real need in order to implement the economic change, only, so it’s cristal clear to all that, not only they will keep, ‘legally’ and yearly, robbing us, but that they will, as well, rule over our debt and spend by the grace of the ‘Spanish Constitution’.

But this, my friends, is not all what happened last week. The second great action from the Spanish system last week was that through its institutions and legal spanish power, they sentenced that the Catalan Government has to, in the period of two months time, apply the court sentence of the Superior Catalan Court of Justice which orders to teach in spanish to any children that demands to be taught in spanish, a resolution that alters and changes completely an educational system recommended as example of integration success by the European Council and UNESCO.

Naturally, the education in Catalonia is given in our language, Catalan; with this system we have ensured that immigrant spanish speaking children could successfully integrate into the Catalan society and at the same time we have defended our natural language, Catalan, from being exceeded by the spanish language, a language imposed by the force into our territory and obliged to all Catalans not only in 1716 (1700 for the North territory of Catalonia) but as well on modern times by all the recent spanish dictators. The learning of spanish by our students is not ignored by our Catalan educational system, to the point that we all have an excellent command of it, although it is for us, a foreigner language as it is english. However, although the knowledge of the two languages is warranted, the spanish nationalism have resolved to stop such han excellent system; last week , the Catalan Court (don´t be surprised, the Institutions in Catalonia are called Catalans but of course it´s pure aesthetics because the power, laws and will they obey is the spanish), anyway, as I was saying, the Catalan Court of Justice, oblige the Catalan Government to put in place whatever is necessary to ensure that all spanish speakers students in Catalonia don´t need to learn Catalan to live and progress in Catalonia. It’s obvious that these are not linguistic nor social integration orientated decisions but political ones, spanish nationalism aggressions in the XXI century in the heart of Europe. Reality surpasses science fiction.

Having explained these two recent examples the question of which powers does the catalan parliament has is redundant, we could have them all that still we would have none. Whatever we decide has to go through spanish state supervision, the case of the Estatut is the icing on the cake, very briefly, we vote by referendum an estatut (set of autonomous norms for Catalonia), our Catalan Parliament approved it by great majority and still Spain changed it all to basically reduced it to a document without the soul and clear objectives of the original, our Estatut was democratically approved by the Catalans and ‘legally’ killed by the Spanish. I may repeat, reality surpasses science fiction.

We are Catalans, we are not Spanish, but we are an administrative part of the spanish state, a state that as all states in the world rules for only one nation: their own, in this case: the spanish, it only defends their people, wherever they live, as it ought to be, and will not allow any liberty for any other nation under its legal regime. This means for the Catalan Nation only one thing: independence or disappearance. An obvious conflict of national interests that can only be resolved by the creation of the Catalan State.

Bella: What is the level of popular support for independence and what are the main obstacles you face?

AA: Latest poll, made this summer by the official Center of Opinion Studies (CEO), gave a great result: 42.9% of YES to Independence with a 100% participation, if we take an objective and realistic 70% of participation on an official referendum about the independence of Catalonia, the back up to independence would be of a clear 60%!

We are majority, our main problem is that the majority of independentists vote ciu. Ciu with their tedious but nice worded ‘Catalanism’ retain many voters, a situation helped by the fact that there isn’t still a credible electoral option to these center, traditionally catholic, influenced group of voters. The majority of CiU’s members of Parliament are independentistas, enough to declare together with ERC, SI and DC, the independence of Catalonia and to call for an official referenda. But unfortunately CiU leaders are not independence leaders, this creates a stopping block which we will have to overcome in the near future.

New, openly independentistas leaders are demanded, because we, the Catalan society, are ready and determined. Independence has the social support it only lacks real political leadership. Very different to Scotland where you have in Alex Salmond and his team and party, an excellent combination of command, knowledge, determination and real politic leadership to take you people to the best possible scenario for Scottish progress and welfare: the independence of Scotland.

AA: We are frequently told that Scotland would never be ‘allowed’ to join ‘Europe’ because Spain would never allow that precedent to be set for what it might mean for the Basque and Catalan movements?

AA: In theory this makes sense but things don´t tend to be as squared, the processes of independence are not an established game of rigid rules, local interests play a major part but the international arena is complex and, over all, we have to put things into a global perspective and understand that the international community will, because it has to, back up above all Democracy. Many details can be said but let´s, for this moment, just mention that Europe does not recognize the right of conquer, something that, understanding where our problems come from, is important to point out.

We have to bear in mind that we are not working for somehow negative, nor an eccentric goal, what we, the independentistas from Catalonia, Euskadi, Scotland, Flanders, demand is to apply democracy to its full, to apply democracy to an extremely unfair and artificial reality. If this lack of freedom, if this resistance to the independence of our nations, had to be happening in any other part of the world, it would be seen as the result of some removed and strange cultures, attitudes from countries and people’s with unpronounceable names, however, this is happening right here, in the so-called first world, this is happening to us, occidental people, ruled by democracies, proud people of progress, europeans living in the 21st century, occidental, modern people demanding to exercise the Universal right of Self-determination, to exercise democracy, to vote, modern occidental europeans demanding social, economical and historical fairness in order to return to our natural state and rebuild our Sovereign state of Catalonia, today still occupied. Natural nation states instead of artificial, and not even efficient ones, is the future of Europe.

Bella: What is the relationship between the Catalan and Basque movements? Do you see each other as sister movements?

AA: Catalans and Basques are two nations sharing the same objective: independence from the same neighbouring spanish state. We don´t have much more in common as peoples as we are two different nations, but of course, we look at each others processes of independence with all best wishes. The social movements from both territories is active, rich and ample and conversations are always in place. Euskadi is for Catalans a fantastic country with great people to who we wish freedom to be soon with them.

Bella: What have been the key elements to the success of your movement recently? Is it about popular movement building? Is it centred around culture and language more than economics? In other words what drives people (yourselves?)

AA: Without a doubt, the process of the popular Referendum about the independence of Catalonia that has been taking place throughout a year and a half in more than 550 municipalites (more than half of the total number) with a terrific result of independence victory all over, has been key to gain the majority to defend openly the general stand pro-independence. The turning point was the spontaneous creation of a multi-disciplinary, multi-ideological and inter-generational meeting point where everybody, from all walks of life, could feel part of and participate of its positive and collective decision making process. Being independentist is not anymore a secret personal position but a positive and shared collective will.

The way historically you face the economy of your household or country doesn’t fall out of identity traïts, our very own expression like ‘la pela és la pela’ (slang for money is money) is the result of a particular way to approach our relationship with money.

However, the process of the referendum allowed to organize hundreds of conferences where we explained not only the historical facts, which of course are part of our claim, but the economic reasons to illustrate the great and real benefits that we all will enjoy when to be again the free state of Catalonia.

This approach is key to gain the attention from the not ‘culturally Catalan’ people living in Catalonia. We need to understand that Catalonia increased its population enormously because of the first spanish migration on the 60’s and because of continuous spanish directed waves in the recent years. This has had its results, now many nationalities co-habitate these days in our neighborhoods, Catalans, Pakistanis, Chinese, spanish, Ecuadorians, Rumanians, Moroccans, Colombians… We are all Catalan citizens, we share the same rights and duties but we are culturally different people, we are different ‘nation’ people. This means that to explain the unfairness of our Catalan reality appealing to historical facts, although easy to understand, would never felt as one’s battle, what links us all is, the present today and tomorrow, what unites us is the wish to progress as individuals who belong to a society that developes without any external impositions which are contrary constrains, to belong to a society that is allowed to progress without the need to pay a toll, without battling for every move forward we want to do, without begging or negotiating for every advance we know we need to put in place.

When the spanish state robs from us year after year 22 bilion euros, 12000 euros per family, 10% of our gross profit, when one’s schools and hospitals are not enough altough one pay enough, work enough, produce enough; when your trains and infrastuctures for your people or goods are not improved, when money is not invested in, but you, as a society produce enough, work enough, even more than enough to pay for it, then, the problem is shared by all.

Independence is progress for all. Independence is progress for all the people that lives and works in Catalonia; the Estate of Catalonia will warranty the defend of the interests of all catalan citizens before any other people’s interests, just as every state legitimately does. We are driven by the will to build the best state for our people, the Catalan citizens.

Bella: You were part of a group meeting in Bruges to discuss inter-national co-operation of people seeking independence. Can you tell us about the Declaration of Bruges and what it might mean in the year (s) ahead?

AA: Yes, that’s right! Fantastic meeting, great team.

The Declaration of Bruges says: ‘Today, 14th of July in the city of Bruges, Flanders, the representatives of the Flemish, Catalan and Scottish delegations have signed an agreement on the formation of a ‘European Partnership for Independence’ – an initiative that brings together their will, determination and commitment to build a coordinated International approach to further the universal right of self-determination.’

This International Partnership is very important as it builds an international multilateral front, strong enough to present the claim for independence to the international community, without being perceived as isolated cases of patriotic nationalism.

The independence of a nation is actually something rather normal on the international context, more than 20 nations in Europe have become sovereign states in Europe since 1945.

Is true that there is not an international manual on ‘How to achieve the independence’ and for sure each territory has to find it’s own way to freedom, but, coming together to share experiences and information avoid redundant actions and improves the execution of projects to an european/international scale, which is not only necessary but key.

On the next months the Partnership will publish the blueprint of its project together with its different international coordinated teams.

We are very excited because there’s lot’s to learn from each partner but mainly because, altough our objectives of independence are to be applied locally, the workload and perspective are global. Our teams we will be working with all European countries, not only stateless nations, we will network with associations and groups of people working in different sectors who understand how important is to ensure healthy democratic societies to improve all democratic mechanisms so that in Europe, nations are able to democratically exercise the minimum Universal Rights established by international organizations as the UN, as is the case of the Universal Right of Self-Determination. Democracy only exists when is exercised.

Bella: What is the next big political challenge you face, what election, referendum or other?

AA: The 20th of November Spain celebrates its general elections, nothing too much exciting for us, but still, that will oblige us to be involved in the political turmoil of the electoral debate.

What I really would like to answer to you is that we, Catalans, are preparing the official referendum for independence of Catalonia, but, we are still not doing so, we could if we had real independence leadership in power, but we do not, hopefully, we’ll soon talk again and I will be proudly announcing that democracy has finally arrived to my homeland.

As Goethe said: ‘That who is not able to benefit from 3000 years of history will live all his life in the dark’.

Do not allow to be our case, let’s go for it! We want, we can and we’ll win! Visca Escòcia i Visca Catalunya lliure!

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  1. The fact that nations which have been conquered by larger states sometimes demand and, yes, even sometimes achieve the right to self-determination and independence makes the people of my country, the US, deeply uneasy–for good reason. However, the tide of European history is on the side of those demanding the right to run their own nation and their own affairs. All the best to the people of Catalonia (and Scotland) in that quest.

  2. Scottish republic says:

    Great interview but one is left feeling that she could almost be talking about Scotland.

  3. Marc Sabates says:

    VISCA CATALUNYA LLIURE , VISCA ESCOCIA LLIURE ! ! * ! !
    MARC-SABATES. COM

  4. Xavier Olivella says:

    Si volem podem. Convèncer per vèncer!
    Catalonia. Next State of Europe.

  5. Jordi V. says:

    Nice interview really clear about Catalan scenario. Saor Alba!

  6. Ard Righ says:

    The road to independence for Catalonia will be one we should all encourage and good luck with it!

    It would be wrong to draw parallels between the scenario in Catalonia and Scotland. The circumstances are very different as Anna Arqué affirms in the more immediate context, the reasons for the arrival at these positions for the respective countries seeking independence is vastly different. The situation that led to the enslaving of the peoples that became Scotland is far older and (in simplistic terms) a complete reverse of the situation in Catalonia. To draw parallels is naive, for some reason, it reminds me of the oddities in the unionist media of England repeatedly highlighting that the architect of the build of the Scottish Parliament was Catalonian. Which, in my opinion is one of the least practical, ugly and inefficient buildings in recent years- and as such, so is any attempt to draw a parallel between the plight of Scotland and the affairs of Catalonia.

  7. MacNaughton says:

    I have a problem with the description of the situation in Catalonia as an “occupation”. I think the term is ethically problematic, because there are occupations going on in the world right now, the gravity of which are in some way belittled by the use of that word in the case of Catalonia. Nobody is arrested and tortured in Catalonia for making the case for independence. It is one of the wealthiest, most privileged areas in Europe.

    Nor could anybody say with a straight face that the situation has not changed in 300 years. This is, again, simply not factually true. The situation has changed tremendously over the last 35 years in Spain in general, but in Catalonia markedly since democracy arrived. Are we saying here that democracy is irrelevant? That is the discourse of ETA, not democratic nationalism.

    I share the frustration about the PP-PSOE change to the constitution – after years of hearing how it was sacred,and could never be touched – but again this has more to do with knee-bending to the markets and the Germans than a Spain – Catalonia thing. Again , I think it misrepresents the situation to portray it as such.

    The linguistic situation, the Spanish right-wing, and the Constitutional Court’s ruling… there is enough there to be getting on with for the case for independence. I should say in the case of Catalonia, there does not seem to be anything like the same appetite for it as in the case of Scotland, though maybe that is changing now.

    I question the value of some of the comparisons with some of the nationalist causes out there. The case of Scottish independence is much stronger than most other independent movements.. We have clear borders, a Treaty, and an international identity which has few comparisons…

  8. Carles says:

    An article showing the Catalan situation stripped of euphemisms, I think we are under a “geopolitical occupation.”

    The truth of the Catalan language is threatened by the simple reason that if you do not defend minorities, they end up crushed by the dictatorship of the majority, well staged by nationalist parties in Spain.

    The reality of Catalonia and Scotland is very different because the partners have a very different attitude in terms of economic management.

    All paths opened in Europe, as the Basque Country, Scotland, Catalonia or Flandes, really have a different origin but same goal, independence. Indeed, the first who achieve independence, will favor the other immense.

  9. MacNaughton says:

    Carles – thanks for you reply.

    This is the problem I have with some of Anna’s comments; the stuff that is really going on, for example the ruling by the Constitutional Court on the Estatut, or the linguistic outrage last week, become indistinguishable from the stuff that is largely a work of the imagination, in my opinion, – such as the ‘occupation’ of Catalonia, or the portrayal of the decision by Zapatero to write a public spending cap into the Spanish Constitution (to please Merkel and Trichet et al) as an attack by Madrid on Catalonia. That was not its intention, as everybody knows, and it was not directed at Catalonia specifically as Anna suggests above but applies to the whole of Spain.

    You could say that Franco occupied Catalonia from 1939-1979 – but he also occupied the rest of Spain – I can’t see how you could say as much now without seriously blurring the difference between the two periods. The CiU have formed coalition governments with both the left and right in Spain for the last 30 years! Where is the occupation exactly?

    I think there is basically a big change which is underway in Catalonia, but rather like the case of Scotland in the UK, it is as much to do with an old model break down as a new one emerging. Spanish nationlism is making Spain unworkable. If anything, the Catalan nationalist parties are way behind the curve – but maybe they are right to be cautious given the history of Spain.

    I believe in the right of the Catalan people to decide their own future naturally, but there is a Catalan nationlism which is xenephobic, and most Catalan nationalism is much to the right of where the SNP stands on the political spectrum and where I stand personally. Basically, I don’t believe that every nationalism or independence cause is automatically a good cause. I don’t know where Anna stands on that spectrum, but it would be interesting to know…

  10. Candide says:

    Arqué speaks about the “popular voting about the independence of Catalonia” she herself helped to organise and which earned her certain notoriety. The readers might want to know that said “voting” was more precisely on the independence of the so-called Catalan Lands, which apart from Catalonia proper comprise the Valencian Autonomous Community, the Balearic Islands, parts of Murcia and Aragon, French Roussillon and the town of Alghero in Italy (and, depending on who you ask, also Andorra).

    Surprised? Not less than most of those Catalans who took part in it, because even though that was the organisers’ understanding of the term “Catalan nation” (see link above) it is a detail that received so little coverage that most people, me included at the time, were unaware of this decisive fact.

    It should also be noted that all separatist parties in Catalonia demand the independence not of Catalonia alone, but of the whole of the Catalan Lands.

    http://cataloniawatch.blogspot.com/2011/09/funny-folks-no3-anna-arque-or.html

  11. Pingback: Resolution |

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