CATALONIA: A place to live and work?
by Ronja Baerecke
RAONS PER LA REPÚBLICA is a separatistic organization with which we talked about the future of one of the most prosperous regions of Spain, which has become one of the most confusing, sad and insecure regions at a political level. Jordi Domingo is the coordinator of RAONS PER LA REPUBLICA with a large group of social activists, anonymous people from very different professional fields.
What motivates you to work for Catalonia?
The generation of people who started school in Catalonia in the late 70s and 80s was taught, probably for the first time in decades, to develop a critical thinking about the ideas behind concepts such as "democracy" at different times and places.
However, for many of us it was not until we lived elsewhere, such as the United Kingdom, or until we approached people who came from other corners of the world, when we learned how a democratic political system really worksand, what is more important, how a democratic society develops it to its full potential. How citizens (or subjects, or contributors) understand how a democratic society should be and how they understand it based on personal responsibility.
This has surely happened to many people from many places, but for some of us this has led to some kind of commitment to a "social agenda" in Catalonia. In the late 1990s, some movements had taken place that adopted a change of attitude toward politics, power and society, in a very different light from what many of our parents had lived in during Franco’s dictatorship. For some reason, we feel that during that time, in the change of millennium, this change of attitude has not found any significant coincidence elsewhere in Spain.
What are your biggest fears with regard to Catalonia?
If we remain in Spain, we are greatly concerned about the rise of fascism, and the impunity of fascist acts with physical and/or verbal agressions, repression and judicial persecution, economic suffocation, the deterioration of the health system (as transcended in a recording of the former Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, in a conversation "we have destroyed their health system"), the lack of investment in education, research (application of VAT tax retroactively in science) and infrastructures (lack of budget for the Mediterranean Corridor while subsidizing high-speed train lines - AVE-deficit and undersupply motorways are rescued in the rest of the Spanish state).
How can you be economically independent?
Right the same way like Spain itself, with a debt ratio of 99.23% of its GDP in November 2017 (€ 24.550 per capita), much higher than Catalonia’s 35.3% (€ 10.095 per capita), can remain independent. But nobody comes up to cast doubts on the independence of Spain ...
The Catalan economy, despite the catastrophism depicted by the (interested) forecasts, is growing at a much higher rate than the Spanish and even than the Euro zone, with a value of the annual variation rate of 3.5% and an increase in industrial added value of 3.7%, regarding the secondary sector. Regarding the tertiary one, and more specifically the touristic one, it has obtained a growth of 7.8% of foreign tourism and an increase of the expenditure per tourist of 13.2%.
Regarding exports, a growth of 8.7% in 2017 accounting for a 25.7% of the total of Spanish GDP is a constant, with the technological sector being the one that gets the highest inunemployment rate is improving, standing in the third quarter of last year at 12.5% (equaling 2008 values) compared to the 9% of the EU average but far from the 16.4% of the whole of Spain.
On what legal ground you base your goals?
Every state must respect the international laws in its Constitution. The Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution textually says:
The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, common and indivisible motherland of all Spaniards, and recognizes and guarantees the right to the autonomy of the nationalities and regions that integrate it and the solidarity among all of them.
However, the Article 1 of the International Covenants on Human Rights includes the right of self-determination, which is the right of a people to decide its own forms of government, pursue its economic, social and cultural development, and structure itself freely, without external interference and according to the principle of equity.
It is a fundamental principle of public international law and a right of a people, which has an inalienable character and generates obligations for States. In other words, it is a right that transcends the national laws of any state. A fundamental principle of international law is that the provisions of the constitution of a state must be equated with international law. For example, a constitution may admit racial discrimination or genocide, but this is replaced by international laws that prohibit both.
However, the Spanish state affirms that the right to self-determination is conditioned on the consent of the host state. This is clearly illogical: similar to saying that all women have the right to divorce their husbands, but only if their husbands agree. An argument advocated by opponents of independence is based on the definition of town.
Certainly the Catalans are people with their own history, culture, language, traditions, cuisine and all the humanistic values collected by UNESCO. Historically the right of self-determination was applied to colonized people until 1995 (Namibia, Western Sahara, East Timor).
But in 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence and the International Court of Justice held, that international law had not been violated because there is no law that prohibits such declarations. If there is a state that recognizes the independence of Kosovo, independence is completed.
Is the Catalan government as corrupt as the Spanish?
Our main concern is to obtain the necessary tools to be able to detect and fight corruption properly and, ultimately, to be able to turn it into residual. The mechanism should make it unprofitable for the offender by achieving optimal levels of transparency, at least similar to the Scandinavian countries. We refer to the current transparency law 19/2014, comparable to the one in Denmark, with institutions that ensure the independence of the media and justice.
Even so, apart from the data (which indicate a huge quantitative and qualitative difference), we would like to emphasize the different way in which corruption is managed in Catalonia by the population, as opposed to Spain.
In Catalonia, after voluntarily confessing, former President Jordi Pujol resigned his salary as ex-president, and has been erased from public life. His party, Convergència, even after transforming itself into the PDCAT, with the apparatus of the leadership of the old Convergence vanished (not any member having been accused in any case), was harshly punished at the polls.
In Spain, current president Mr. Rajoy, despite having been directly incriminated in the corruption of his party, denied everything in front of a judge who censored the lawyer's questions. In fact, his party, the PP, apart from having more than 700 elective representatives charged, has been also charged as a criminal organization itself.
Despite all this, there has not been a single resignation in the Spanish government. And, what should be more worrisome: the electorate in Spain decided to grant the PP majority in Congress, and M. Rajoy was elected President with the support of the PSOE, the party with whom the PP has shared the Government in Spain since 1982, and, it seems, also the majority of cases of corruption, by number, involved people and sums throughout the state.
In fact, the chief inspector of the Unit of Economic and Financial Crimes (UDEF) of the Spanish National Police, Manuel Morocho, has assured that there are "indications" that the structure of the Popular Party "responded to the profile of a criminal organization" for its operations in the “Gürtel affair”.
What exactly do you expect from the European Union?
The European Union should arbitrate in order to reach a political solution to the conflict. In addition, Spain is going through a process of Constitutional mutation, with nonsense and ad-hoc interpretations of the very Constitution, promulgated by the Spanish Government itself, getting the precepts to acquire a content, with clear political purposes, different from which they were initially written.
Not only should the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg act in defense of the population of a member state, but the EU should also apply Article 7 in the same way that it has been done with Poland, since it has been proven time and time again the lack of separation of powers existing in Spain.
Spanish judges have criticized Rajoy's interferences with the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court for the Catalan process. Jurists also defend that the current application of the famous Article 155 is unconstitutional.
What are your wishes for the future?
Our wishes are that the international community recognizes the Catalan Republic and that this Republic is able to develop freely, with the democratic participation of all its citizens in an inclusive and peaceful way. We also wish, of course, that the process to get the Republic effective does not involve a price or effort beyond the reach of all the inhabitants and population
We also hope, of course, that Spain accepts the Catalan Republic and that it is possible to live a peaceful transition by reaching the necessary agreements for the good of both countries.