EA’s Digital Media Editor Ellis Palmer Babe interviews contacts in Catalonia about Sunday’s referendum on independence:
Ferran Requejo: “The Spanish government…has implemented measures that have violated the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Catalans”
Catalonia is a national reality with centuries of history. It was an independent political actor until the beginning of the 18th century, when it was conquered militarily by Castilian and French troops, losing all of its collective rights and freedoms.
Since then, Catalan society has shown a desire to reconquer its self-government and to be recognized again as a differentiated society, such as the case in Scotland or in Quebec. The recovery of democracy after Franco’s dictatorship meant that there was a window of opportunity to achieve this recognition and gain a satisfactory amount of self-government. However, the evolution of the so-called “state of autonomy” in Spain over the last decades has been a serious disappointment — economically, culturally, linguistically and as a capacity for political decision-making by a majority of Catalans.
The situation has become unsustainable, especially after a 2010 sentence of the Spanish Constitutional Court completely rejected the contents of the reform of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. From that moment on, the independence movement has experienced a spectacular rise.
In many cases, an analysis of the comparative policies of plurinational democracies shows the convenience of holding a referendum (look to the cases of Canada, United Kingdom, and, even recently, Iraqi Kurdistan) to see whether or not support for independence has a majority amongst the citizens of a territory.
The Spanish Government has fervently opposed such a move; however its only argument has been that such a referendum would be “illegal”, while it has implemented measures that have violated the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Catalans recognized both by the Spanish Constitution itself and by the Treaties of the European Union and by the Charter of the United Nations.
Ferran Requejo is Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, where he is director of the Research Group on Political Theory. He has been a member of the Spanish Electoral Board (Junta Electoral Central, 2004-2008) and of the Comparative Federalism Research Committee (International Political Science Association).
Xènia Bussé: “If we do not have our own state, then we could potentially be condemning our culture and language to extinction”
It is essential that the Catalan people are allowed to vote because it is their opportunity to decide, democratically, if they want to equip themselves with their own state and, therefore, abandon the structures of Spain to be able to have a more just, democratic future and a government that is more responsive to the needs of its people.
The values that move us, the Catalan people, are democracy, freedom, solidarity with all people, and pacifism. We have demonstrated these values many times.
As for the preservation of our own culture and language, we are in a tricky situation: if we do not have our own state, then we could potentially be condemning them to extinction.
Xènia Bussé is a Catalan journalist who writes weekly for El Món and Serra d’Or. She was previously head of press for the publisher Grup 62.
Oriol Manuel: “The framework of 1978 has become obsolete”
Catalonia has been and is, a country of fraternity, justice and freedom. The history of Catalonia goes a long way back, from the Catalan counts to the present Autonomy Community, with the chronological line going through the Crown of Aragon and the Commonwealth as well.
At the moment, however, the framework of 1978 has become obsolete and is not useful either for Catalonia (with too few powers) or Spain (with its centralizing desire).
So the referendum on October 1st is a good tool to decide what kind of relationship we want to have, in the future, with Spain, be it one of an independent State or one of an autonomous community.
Oriol Manuel is a student of Law and Political and Administrative Sciences at the University of Barcelona.
Miquel Strubell: “We are facing an attack against all the democratic values and fundamental rights”
It is necessary for Catalans to vote in the referendum – yes or no, but also by casting a blank or void ballot, however they may wish – because we are facing an attack against all the democratic values and fundamental rights that are embodied in the international treaties signed by the Spanish State and in the Constitution that the Spanish ruling class so loves (this is in the present moment, because when it was being drafted, there was more than one campaign against it by the ruling classes.
The peaceful civility that the Catalan National Assembly has led over the last six years, with the great support of cultural groups and other organizations, and the firmness of many local councils — many of them taken to court by the Spanish state in pathetic judicial trial —, has logically culminated in the usual cries of “independence” but also, and this underlines the deep nature of the process, in a unanimous cry of “Let’s vote”.
The Spanish state has proved incapable, for seven years or more, of being able to resolve a political problem by the political route.
Miquel Strubell is a Catalan sociolinguist and was the Professor of Multilingualism at the Open University of Catalonia until his retirement in 2014.
Andrés da Silva: “The only way to resolve this conflict”
The citizenry of Catalonia has long felt a great distance between itself and the Spanish State. The gap in terms of feelings between the Spanish and Catalan people continues to increase, as we have seen in recent days with the chants of ‘go get them’ greeting the members of the Civil Guard who have travelled to prevent the referendum.
Certainly, the Catalan political process has lasted for years. After having tried everything, it appears the only way to resolve this conflict is to convene a referendum and let the people vote.
The latest surveys suggest that 82% of Catalans want to vote in a referendum agreed with Spain, as occurred in Scotland in 2014. Everyone knows, however, that the correlation of forces in Spain will never give a sufficient majority to change the Constitution and include the right to self-determination in Catalonia.
So, what should we, the Catalan people do: wait indefinitely or decide that, as a (historical and present) nation, we have the right to take our own decisions?
As a Catalan, I feel a responsibility, solely and exclusively, to obey the decisions taken by the Parliament of Catalonia. That’s why today I will vote, like so many others, in a referendum that I feel is totally legitimate.
Andrés da Silva is a student of Global Studies at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where he specialises in en diplomacy and foreign affairs. He is also an activist in the Nationalist Youth of Catalonia (JNC) and in the Catalan Democratic Party.
Klaus-Jürgen Nagel: “For most Catalans, voting is just democracy”
Is it still relevant if anybody goes to vote when the power of the central state will probably make an orderly referendum impossible?
For many Catalans, the celebration of a referendum is the culmination of an old struggle for national self-determination. For most Catalans, voting is just democracy.
When people may decide on politics, why not on frontiers? Why should old maps be sanctified, if human beings are continuously deciding on anything else? Why let others decide when you can do it yourself?
For others, it is an act of protest against current repression by the Rajoy government. For well-educated voters (and particularly young ones), it is part of a desire to show that neither ignoring nor repressing the movement does the trick.
They are not looking for a cosy homeland protected against any evil coming from outside (immigration and globalisation), but for more participation, at home and in Europe.
Klaus-Jürgen Nagel is a Professor of Political Science at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, where he specializes in nationalism, federalism, and the comparative politics of nationalist parties and social movements.