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Pere Villega

If at first you don’t succeed; call it version 1.0

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Estatut de Catalunya: a Review

Let’s spur some controversy! Outside Spain very few know about the reality of Catalonia. For those of you who don’t know about it, a brief summary of its history:

  • Created in the medieval age, like most kingdoms of Europe, as part of the Crown of Aragon.
  • Developed as a maritime power, expanding in the Mediterranean and owning islands like Sicily. Its army, the Almogavars, have an interesting story.
  • Unified into Spain in 1469 due to marriage between the Queen of Castilla and the King of Aragon, but keeping its own institutions and laws
  • September 11th, 1714 (La Diada): defeat of Catalonia in the succession war. Felipe V creates the Nueva Planta decrees, removing the Catalan institutions and starting a period of suppression of all that is Catalan
  • In the later half of 19th century, Catalonia becomes the center of industrialization of Spain
  • April 14th, 1931: Spain proclaims the Second Republic. One year later Catalonia recovers most of its institutions and gets a certain degree of autonomy
  • 1936-1939: Spanish Civil War. Franco wins and Catalonia loses all its institutions and rights again, and it’s subject of a strong (and violent) suppression. Homage to Catalonia is published by George Orwell.
  • November 20th, 1975: Franco dies
  • 1978: The Spanish Constitution is approved by referendum
  • 1979: the Second Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia is approved
  • September 16th, 2005: domain .cat is approved by ICANN (unrelated but hey, I’m a geek!)
  • September 30th, 2005: the Third version of the Statute is approved by the Catalan Parliament
  • March 30th, 2006: Spanish Congress of Deputies approves the text after removing many parts of the text and changing many more. It is almost a new text.
  • 2006: the Third version of the Statute is approved by referendum (with low turnout, truth be told, due to fragmentation and low reputation of the local government at that time, with some parties rallying people against the text due to the changes made by the central government)

Now, before continuing, I have to do a disclaimer. I’m Catalan, I feel Catalan and Catalan is my mother tongue, but I’m not a supporter of independence. I truly believe other formulas, like a Federation, make more sense in the current socio-economic environment and inside Europe. Well, a Magocracy would be much cooler but the fear to a new Voldemort forbids it, and I’m not ready (yet!) to be the president of a Technocracy ;)

That said, back on track, now seriously. 2006. 3rd version of the Statute is approved in Catalonia and sent to Spanish Congress of Deputies, where it is approved. It wasn’t easy, too many politics involved, too much conflict and discrepancies, unwanted changes in the text and many more obstacles but it’s been done. Everything seems fine, but as you can imagine something went wrong or I would not be writing this. What went wrong is this:

  • November 2nd, 2005: People’s Party does a recourse on the text of the Third Statue to the Constitutional Court of Spain. The party also does a recusatio of one member of the Tribunal, accusing him of being partial due to a study he did 8 years ago on the Catalan institutions. It’s the first time in history a recusatio in this court is accepted and applied, which means that the recused member won’t be able to decide in this subject.
  • January 26th, 2006: the recourse is accepted
  • July 20th, 2006: the text, approved by Catalan Parliament, Spanish Congress and popular referendum, is published at BOE
  • July 30th, 2006: People’s Party presents a recourse on more than half the text of the Statue to the Constitutional Court. And a second recusatio against the same judge against who they already had presented the previous one. It’s better to be on the safe side, you know?
  • 2006: many Spanish regions, most of them (but not all) governed by People’s Party, present a recourse to the text. The fact that some regions unrelated to People’s Party do that shows how much Spaniards care about us ;)
  • 2006-2007: many recusatio are done by the People’s Party and Catalan government against members of the Constitutional Court with opposite ideology. A purely political move to ensure the “proper” decision on the text. Only the recusatio done by People’s Party are accepted.
  • May 17th, 2008: one of the members of the Constitutional Court dies. The members which can decide are now 5 right wing members, 5 left wing members and the president, whose vote can decide only in case of a draw. At this time, many of the members of the court should have been replaced (according to the law) as their terms had expired time ago. The death should be covered by a new member.
  • November 26th, 2009: still no decision by the court. Catalan press published a common editorial (the same in all media) rallying in favour of the text and its approval
  • July 9th, 2010: 5 years after the text was created, 4 years after it was approved, the final version of the court’s decision is released. It requests many changes to the text, with the argumentation that they are against the Spanish Constitution. The tribunal is conformed by the same members it was in 2008. No replacement has come for the dead member, and no member has been replaced even when their terms expired long time ago according to legislation.

There are many details lost in here, that you could only understand if you lived in Spain. People’s Party is a right wing political party, which has made of its hate and attacks versus autonomous regions like Catalonia and Basque Country its flag. They didn’t complain at all against the Statute of Andalusia, another region of Spain governed by the other big party of Spain, PSOE. That text has similar wording (identical in some cases) to the Catalan one. In fact, People’s Party voted for it, approving it in the Congress.This and the already mentioned “legal issues” with the composition of the Constitutional Court are just some of many pieces that complete the jigsaw.

The relevant piece here is that the original text, created in 2005, was already modified (a lot) in 2006 by the Spanish Congress. And now they request even more changes. Thanks to political interests, the text is barely an improvement over the previous one. And they took 5 years to do all this. I wonder in which other developed country this would be accepted. 5 years to decide over the text, playing politics and breaking the national law about the composition of the Constitutional Court.

Isn’t it nice?

Past July 10th there was a demonstration in Barcelona to protest against he verdict of the court. According to the police 1,100,000 people gathered together in Barcelona to show their opposition to the decision of the court. Not bad at all. The biggest since 1978, and that one was for claiming the Second Statute after many years of dictatorship under Franco’s regime.

Of course, some media and companies said quite a different number (56.000). Funny, as the next day (July 11th) Spain won the world cup, and the same company said 75.000 people had celebrated the achievement in Barcelona. Why it is funny? In this image you can see the areas covered by people each of the days (10th and 11th). Do your math. Oh, they justify themselves saying they measured at 20:30 (1 hour after the concentration had ended, perfect time!). It gives you an idea of the love of the media for Catalonia.

Up to here, the facts. Yes, I’ve not been completely partial in the opinions, but the facts are real. You can check via the links provided or using Google and its translator if required. Go ahead and read about it, I’m waiting.

What does it mean? What will happen?

Honestly, I don’t believe a big change will happen. It’s been nice to see the people of Catalonia are still proud of their identity. Sadly we can’t trust our politicians, as they themselves started eroding the text by doing many changes to it in its trip to the Congress and back. Politics (both Catalan and Spanish) have played a big role against its success and the demonstration of last Saturday showed that. People complained against the politicians that were trying to reap some benefit from the event. It was nice to see :) Besides that, a pacific demonstration, no incidents involved.

So, no, I can’t say what will happen next. What I can say is that all these events are increasing unrest in Catalonia. The media broadcasted recently in TV a documentary named “Adeu Espanya” (Bye, Spain) where it showed how Catalonia could be if it was independent. The nationalist feelings, which were always there, are growing stronger by the day. Heck, even I, that usually ignored such stuff, I’m getting a feeling: “screw Madrid and Spain. No more federalism, let’s just break with them”. That should mean something to observers.

I can’t argue if this is right or wrong, if the events are as they should be or not. I don’t even care who is right here. The only thing I know is that the way the text (and in extension, Catalan people) have been mistreated, it could not happen in any other country. Not in a country that calls itself “civilized”. Politic games are usually nasty. In this case, they have shown their darkest moves. They have left a sensation of failure in the people that elected them. If they don’t care about its people, why should the people care about them?

What will happen now? Many people would say this. I’m not sure I want it. But, what other alternatives do we have?