“Catalonia, next state in Europe”. This was the slogan that headed the manifestation on Catalonia’s National Day (September 11th). One and a half million people took to the streets of Barcelona to claim independence for their nation. Why a rally and not a referendum? The answer is quite simple: because the Spanish Constitution forbids it.
Catalonia, nowadays a region in Spain, is located on the North East of the Iberian Peninsula; its capital is Barcelona and its population is about 7 million people. As in Quebec, Catalans speak a different language than the rest of the country, and have their own history and culture. However, Spain is not a federal country. It is divided into 17 “Comunidades Autónomas” (Autonomous Communities) which have their own Parliament and some powers to administrate themselves. However, the Spanish Government controls the budget and, until now, has not paid all the inversions accorded. Besides the economic crisis, Catalonia has to deal with 22.56% of unemployment without part of its collected taxes because they have been redistributed throughout Spain.
Catalonia has been a part of Spain for the last 300 years, after losing its sovereignty in a war. During this period it has tried to build, in unison with the Spanish, a country. At the same time, Catalan people have conserved their culture and language, with some difficulty(during the 40 years of the Spanish dictatorship and until 1975, Catalan culture and language were forbidden), in order to preserve a thousand years of history.
However, a will of political freedom has always existed because some Catalans felt discriminated against and attacked by the central governments. This feeling has increased in the last 10 years (latest statistics –made by Feedback company- show that more of 50% of Catalans would agree with the independence); mostly due to economic injustice, the legal attacks against the Catalan language, and especially, the legal cutbacks inferred to the new Statute of Autonomy after being approved by the Catalans.
So, since the massive manifestation of September 11th of this year, the independence debate is more alive than ever. Even the Catalan President has advanced the elections (November 25th) to determine the real power of the nationalist movement. If this power represents the majority of the Parliament seats, they will call for a referendum. And here begins the problem because, as mentioned, the Spanish Constitution forbids voting in referendum.
In order for the referendum to be legal the opposition,the Spanish Government, has to change the Constitution or, at least, allow it to take place. The secretary general of the Government party (Partido Popular), María Dolores de Cospedal,has said that the Spanish Government “will use all legal tools to make the law fulfilled in Catalonia”. And one of these “legal tools” could be the army as the Spanish Constitution allows the Government to send the army if a regional Government breaks the law.
But the Constitutional law is not the only tool that the central Government has used to dissuade the Catalans. They threatened the Catalans telling them that, if they get the freedom, Catalonia would be expelled from the European Union, their university students would lose their degrees, companies and industries would leave, etc.
It is time for the Spanish government to listen to what “your people” are complaining about. Threatening the Catalans is not working any more… And this is not a right-left debate, it is just every nation’s right to make decisions about its own future.
Maybe the Constitution allows the Spanish Government to send the army, but is it fair to prohibit your population to express themselves in a democratic way?
We only want the right to vote, whatever the result may be…