Troglodytes Making Waves

A couple of weeks ago I posted here about how a senior officer in the Spanish army – Lt. Gen. Jose Mena Aguado – had been placed under house arrest for insinuating that the Spanish military might have a responsibility to intervene in defence of the Spanish Constitution if the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy went forward in its present form. Well yesterday news of this seems to have reached the New York Times. Describing the officers in question as troglodytes, the NYT has especially harsh words for the opposition Partido Popular, whose leaders, it should be remembered, described Aguado’s statement as ‘logical’ in the context of what was being proposed:

The response of the center-left government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been appropriately firm, including the dismissal and arrest of one of the culprits, a senior army general. Regrettably, the center-right Popular Party, the main opposition group, seems more interested in making excuses for the officers than in defending the democratic order in which it has a vital stake.

“Spanish society, Spanish politicians and, for the most part, Spanish military officers have come a long way from that (the Franco) era, moderating their views and deepening their commitment to democratic give-and-take. But the Popular Party has had a hard time getting over its electoral defeat nearly two years ago, days after the terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid. It has never really accepted the democratic legitimacy of that vote. It is time for the Popular Party to move ahead. Spanish democracy needs and deserves vigorous bipartisan support.”

The NYT does arrive rather late on the scene. The Economist had this piece on the 12th January, and the FT this one on the 10th January. Meanwhile, the New York Times story is itself making waves here. The Basque news agency EITB24 covers it here. And all of which on the day in which the Partido Popular has begun collecting signatures for a referendum (in defence of the constitution and) against the the new Statute, a referendum which would itself be, well, guess what, unconstitutional, and on which Josep Piqué, leader of the PP in Catalonia, had to be given a three hour talking-to to convince him not to resign from the party, since, again guess what, he thinks the latest version of the text isn’t at all bad!

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

72 thoughts on “Troglodytes Making Waves

  1. I am spanish. I just realized that in addition I am a fascist and a troglodyte. How nice!
    General Mena has made a mistake indeed. But just think about this: What would be the position of the US military if, just to put an example, California would want to become independent? What would be then the editorial of the NYT?
    Make no mistake: This is all about independence. Now or in a few years, but independence. And this is not fair. Who said to the catalan nationalists that Catalonia belogns to them?. It also belongs to me, sorry. And if they want to take it away, they have to ask me first. As simple as that.If this is being a fascist then maybe I am a fascist, but I think that it is not fascism it is just common sense, and fairness and decency.

  2. Still surprise about people confusing nation with state…..Self-identification, ethnic markers and political activism aiming at self-determination are some of the qualifiers for a nation….The territorial-socio-political structure is what is called a state..In fact more of the so-called states tend to be real multinational realities and experts call about “encapsulated nations””minority nations” etc to talk about non state nations- So both are part of a world big a huge level of diversity…more than 5000 cultures encapsulated in nearly 200 states…It is really the most exclusive and powerful group in the whole world…Spain is a reflection of that reality..Indeed there are few one-nation one state realities.

    Second point in many cases the hegemonic group suffers from cultural and national blindness, being unable to respect and see other realities, languages and cultures different from theirs….That senseless talk about Catalan or Basque not being worthy or modern….Indeed that tipification is a reflection of past colonial times and has been refused in many international convention dealing with racism and xenophobia…UNESCO condems this etnocentric view….Whether it is worthless or not involves the speakers and as one says yes is about talking it at home…We minority speakers don´t want to impose to others…In the case of Euskadi and those of us who speak the language and have been born, live and work in Vitoria, the aim is just being able to have a live in our language, the one we chose…and this is difficult even in public places…Speaking Basque is a right but Spanish is compulsory (Constitution dixit)…

    I truly think one should be able to speak and feel the way he/she wants…The challange is about integrating diversity …And whether many like it or not Spain is a multinational, multicultural and multilingual reality…Although many want to impose a monolitic, monolingual, monocultural reality….Liberal-rational systems behind the coverage of equality have impose domestication and cultural assimilation in peripherial nations…Again there are other countries dealing with the same problem Canada and Belgium have a different approach….

    The unitarism based on imposition is part of the problem but in no way part of the solution.

    Complex-Federalism or any other form based on self-determination should be considered…And respect and dialogue are key issues…as well as crosscultural education…We minority nations know your language, history etc….We are able to function in your world and in the modern globalized world…But it doesn´t work all the way around…..

    “Somebody took pity on me – ‘no one speaks Euskera outside of the mountains’, I was told”.

    Where you using euskera??? Did you happen to read the signs…The official name is Vitoria-Gasteiz…Capital oficial de un país singular….”Or just happened to run into some PPSOE person (here is the only place where PP and PSOE help each other to keep Vitoria as an island of constitutional peace in the land of the barbaric US)..You just happened to step into the wrong person..:Still Basque speakers are the minority…So this is a paradise where Spaniards feel at easy and thank us for not behaving as in Catalunya..

    As Edward said I have spent many summers there and I had never had any problem…if you treat people with respect…And Spanish is used with visitors along with other languages….Plus Catalan is closer to Spanish than Basque…But any language is a question of attitude and guys your attitude is not helping crosscultural, crossnational communication
    Another point, what is wrong with Catalans collecting their taxes…We do that and Navarra does the same…Anyone in Spain blaming the Navarrese for that…

  3. Ok, well I guess we all know what each other thinks here, we could go on and on, but possibly we would just be repeating ourselves. There is however a fascinating situation developing in terms of real-politik.

    Basically the government of Spain does rest in a strange way on the shoulders of Carod Rovira, and while I don’t consider ERC to be an especially extremist party, I do think they are not especially stable, and I don’t think that this sitaution is a desireable one.

    Now the PP is limiting itself to saying that there will be no constitutional changes (and there is a constitutional court to act as umpire here), so there will be no constitutional changes, but the role of the PP will stop there.

    The PP by abandoning the political centre may also be putting itself out of candidacy for government in the near future.

    So that brings us to Artur Mas and CiU, who have effectively offered to replace ERC as the principal support for the national government. Now regardless of whether or not you like the nationalist views of CiU, they are much more predictable than ERC, and they are pretty much a centre party, so this would help Zapatero centre his own party more, and bring in more of the Lisbon reform agenda which Spain obviously needs. I simply mention pension reform as one starting point.

    So this marriage – Mas and ZPT – seems to have been made in heaven, except, except of course that this doesn’t fit with either Carod Rovira or Maragall.

    Basically, I think this whole process really only started in the way it did because of the fact that Maragall had a one and only lifetime shot at being president here, he wanted it really badly, and in order to get it he signed a blank cheque for Carod. Then, unexpectedly, PSOE won the elections, and this blank cheque was countersigned in Madrid. Really ZPT should have based himself on Mas from the start, but since he himself partly depended on Maragall in PSOE, and since Maragall was dependent on Carod, well, you follow my meaning.

    Now ZPT has committed himself to trying to bring some sort of order into the ‘nationality’ question in Spain, and in so doing he has managed to strengthen his hold on government by driving the PP away from the centre, so up to a certain point this suits him, but equally obviously the “hueso” of this whole approach is introducing a peace process in Euskadi, and bringing about a final dissolution (IRA style) of eta.

    If he can bring this one off, the PP is out of office for some time.

    The problem is that to get things moving in Euskadi he obviously needs a successful conclusion to the Catalan Statute. When Ibarretxe spent three hours with him in the Montcloa in December 2004 most of this agenda was probably provisionally agreed.

    So ZPT makes a pact with Mas, but then he bumps into Carod again. Carod won’t accept a statute that doesn’t include non-realistic (given the PP have vetoed constitutional changes at present) identitarian issues. Not only that, since the pact with Mas may well envisage the possibility that CiU get the leading role in the government in Catalonia (with passive PSC support), Maragall’s head was pretty much served up on a plate, which he obviously didn’t like. Hence the fact that Carod has withdrawn from supporting the governemnt in Madrid but is quite happily remaining inside the government here in Barcelona, while Maragall has himself made a lightening visit to Euskadi today, to reaffirm the joint destiny of the two nations. Oh, wheels within wheels.

    Basically, as things stand, if no major (and probably impossible) concession is made to ERC they will campaign for a no vote in the referendum here. Since CiU may not be able to stand the pressure, and PP will definitely vote against, the “no’s” may well get a majority. In which case the statute falls, we go back to the pre December 2004 world, the plan Ibarretxe, and the possibility of a referendum about independence in Euskadi. Really a Rompe Cabezas.

    My feeling is that the government of Spain once more rests on the restless shoulders of Carod, and I don’t see any easy way out, so it all is really a connundrum, and I don’t really know how the story will end, which is why if I were ZPT I’d be calling general elections, and pronto.

    Any opinions on all this gentlemen?

    Incidentally, I am thinking of posting on immigration and the housing boom in Spain early next week, so keep an eye out if you are interested.

  4. (been trying to post, but the server keeps rejecting my attempts… hopefully this will go through…)

    in reply to Edward,

    OK, I think everything’s been pretty hashed out at this point; don’t think anybody’s position is going to change based on anything argued from here out.

    I guess you either see the Estatut as a threat to the unity of Spain… or you don’t.

    I do respect your right to “feel” any way you wish–however, laws are laws, which must either be respected or you have anarchy. You can’t govern based on “feelings”. What’s being discussed are laws, not feelings. Nobody has suggested you cannot “feel” Catalan. But to declare that you are now a nation, and that does not impact on Spain (the nation), well, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t understand. This is truly black and white.

    This all boils down to the following:

    The Catalonian Estatut declares:

    “One. Catalonia is a nation.”

    The Spanish Constitution says:

    “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation”

    Now, either you see these two statements in direct opposition to each other, or you don’t. If you don’t, then there isn’t a single argument I can offer that could persuade you that the Estatut is wrong and goes against the Constitution.

    And if it doesn’t matter to you, then you don’t believe in the idea of a country. So Catalonia is a nation. Hey, why not Barcelona? After all Singapore is a nation–Barcelona surely can go it alone, without having to support some yokel out in Llagunes.

    And why all of Barcelona? Why not break it down into just your neighborhood? Let’s elevate Ciutat Vella into it’s own nation. Gee, why not? It’s all in the proper spirit, after all–if it feels good, just do it…

    I’m including this reply as part of the same message, in case the server doesn’t allow me to post more than once per day…

    Mrs Tilton wrote,

    “Lincoln, your analogy to the American civil war doesn’t really work. In that case, you see, it was the poor, superstitious and barbaric part of the country that was trying to break away from the prosperous, civilised part.”


    I’m not sure how that disqualifies my analogy. I pointed out that the South declared independence from the North. A civil war resulted. The North won, the country was reunified, and was set on the path to become the superpower it is today.

    Are you suggesting that had they remained separate, because the South was poor, this would have not affected the subsequent transformation of the United States?

    With all due respect, I’m not sure I follow your reasoning, if this is what you’re suggesting. And if it is, then I have to disagree with it–the USA could not be what it is today if it had been broken into two countries.

    (By the way, the characterization that the South was “poor” is incorrect. Note that the cotton exports from the South accounted for more than half the value of all exports from the USA, of which both the North and South depended on. The North was industrial; the South agrarian. But not “poor”…)

    In any case, so Catalonia is rich. Are you suggesting that they will become more prosperous going it alone rather than as part of Spain?

    I rather think not (although my prediction, just like anyone else’s, is merely a guess–a “feeling”, if you may… :-).

  5. “I guess you either see the Estatut as a threat to the unity of Spain… or you don’t.”

    Yep, you think it is, and I don’t. I think the whole difference boils down to that.

    As I keep saying, I think the housing bubble, and what happens when it bursts, is a much more serious problem.

    “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation”

    OK, and I think this is why I feel the constitution needs changing. That is what this whole line of argument is about. Possibly some of the people who argue it shouldn’t be changed aren’t saying that it is immutable, carved in tablets of stone, but that if you start changing it you open a whole new can of worms – in other parts of Spain, not Catalonia – and since they don’t want to open the can, they don’t want to change it. Maybe we could ask: is Spanish democracy mature enough to face such a change? I think it is, that is why I am not worried. Funnily enough I believe in Spain, believe that it will survive without difficulty this second transition.

    As I said, I’m not a constitutional lawyer (indeed I think it is better for a country not to have a written constitution, but here I guess I am typically British), but why not:

    “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity through the Spanish State of the Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician Nations”

    Just like the British constitution – if there was one (there is, but it is implicit, not explicit) – says something like the United Kingdom is based on the indissoluble unity of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Ulster Nations.

    As you can see, this last bit has lead to a lot of agro historically, and I think we would all agree that the Easter peace process means that it is under review. Which brings us to another point. I think it is completely inconceivable that Catalonia separates itself from Spain, in particular since no-one here *really* wants this. People just want a more modern Spain where they feel they have there place, where no one feels less equal than anyone else. (By this I simply mean that the present situation is, as you point out, that the Spanish nation is constitutionally recognised, but the others aren’t. This doesn’t seem to me like treating everyone equally, but I guess here we would just start going round in circles again).

    The present text of the consitution gets round the reality of the different nations by referring in the body of the text to the various ‘nationalities’. This formula was adopted as a compromise, and the new statute – when it becomes law – will then have to be interpreted in the constitutional court in the light of what the original drafters of this expression ‘nationality’ had in mind when they used the term. I think we should await their ruling. Then we will see what the text actually means. Anyone familiar with biblical issues, or textual interpretation ones will be aware that a ‘word’ is never simply a word.

    Really the constitution needs changing. At present this is impossible since the PP is sitting in the dog-house. But one day the PP will decide (like the UK conservative party) that it wants to get back into government, and that it needs to become a right party like the party of Angela Merkel is or the party of Nicholas Sarkozy is, and that it needs to let go of the crazy mixture of ‘neo-con lunacy’ and opus dei that Aznar seems to be foisting on it right now.

    Funnily enough all this reminds me so much of the issue of the ‘entorno Cruyff’ at football club Barcelona. FCB had to get over and forget about Cruyff to move on to a new era, and the PP needs to do the same with Aznar. Basically I don’t believe that even Rajoy is himself convinced by what he is saying, but for some reason he feels the need to say it. My guess is that that reason is called José Maria Aznar, and his presence and influence in the upper echelons of the party. I also reckon that Esperança Aguirre is busy positioning herself in the wings to try and lead the rapid march to the centre which will follow the next electoral debacle. Didn’t I see her only recently toasting us all with nice Catalan cava?

    And when that time comes and the PP finally does get back to serious politics then it will almost certainly feel the need tolean on CiU. I mean the differences between Piqué and Mas are very hard for me to notice when you get down to it. And leaning on CiU will help the more moderate members of the PP to settle the issues with the old guard of the party just like leaning on CiU now helps ZPT handle Bono, Guerra and Rodriguez Ibarra.

    So one day I am more or less convinced we will see the constitutional changes which will allow Spain, and all its peoples, once and for all, to put all this silly arguing behind it, and get on with enjoying life in the midst of the beautiful country which it so truly and so obviously is.

  6. Edward wrote,

    …enjoying life in the midst of the beautiful country which it so truly and so obviously is

    I still disagree with the argument and logic of your posts; however, as I said, I don’t think anybody’s going to alter their position at this point. But on that closing note you have my 100% agreement!

    Spain is a beautiful country, and I most certainly hope it will not break apart–neither by boundaries, nor by the pitting of one citizen against the other. I believe Spain should move forward within the current framework of the Constitution, and that it does not need radical alteration at this point. Catalonia should use its weight and might within the existing democratic framework, not by breaking away and leaving it. In that manner both Catalonia and Spain benefit.

    They can still have their regional identity–but as a region within Spain, not as a separate nation. Spain as a unified country should be a settled question. It’s success and current standing in the world is a testament to this. To me, this attack on the Constitution reeks of a diversionary tactic–whip up nationalistic fever to draw attention away from the more grave shorcomings of the current government leaders in dealing with the more serious and pressing issues of the day.

  7. Hi all,

    There have been several references about Catalonia been conquered, or not been conquered, etc. For example, Diego wrote

    >And, that Catalonia was never conquered?.
    >This region was part of Aragon Reign, one
    >of the reigns, with the Castillian Reign,
    >that joined together in that date.
    >Even, Basque Country, was never a Reign or a
    >country. Dou you know that Navarra was a >Reign, and that Basque Country separatists
    >want to anexionate it?.

    Let me say that Catalonia was a part of the Aragon Reign with its own general laws and rules (what now we would call a “Constitution”) a Parliament and other political institutions; at that point it was clearly a Nation, and nothing has happened for it not being considered as such now: remember that a Nation is a different concept that a State [check any reliable dictionary for that].

    When the Aragon Reign and the Castillian Reign joined to form Spain, it was established that future Kings should swear loyalty to these laws and institutions, and respect their differences inside the country. This distinction allowed, for example, for Catalonia being forbiden to trade with America for several centuries, as Columbus had formally taken possession of it on behalf of Castilla.

    This worked until the death of king Carlos II (1700 AD). It was not clear who should be its successor, due to a wealth of tricky points of European political equilibrium in the previous years. Inside Spain, some regions preferred a French candidate (the future Felipe V) while others preferred a Austrian one (among them, Catalonia, but it was not the only one), and a *war* started.

    Finally, as is well known, on September 11th 1714, the troops of Felipe V entered Barcelona after more than 1 year of siege. This concluded the *conquest* of Catalonia by Felipe V. One of the first things he did afterwards was to abolish the Catalan Parliament, Government and laws.

    Therefore, Catalonia was indeed conquered, and the agreement by which it had been a part in the foundation of Spain was broken. All these are simple historical facts easy to check in any encyclopedia.

    [Regarding the Basque Country, I don’t know enough its history to give here some precise details as would be required.]

    The question that I rise is: a nation that, at some point, agreed with another one to build a new State, can never decide to turn back that decision? Is there no possibility for a civilised “divorce” in politics? The only way Catalonia could leave Spain (if wanted) should be by war (the political equivalent of death, the traditional way to finish an unwanted marriage)?

    Instead of comparing with the former civil war in Spain, or the more recent in the Balcans, why don’t we compare ourselves with the former Czechoslovakia? Its people have been able to decide to separate into independent countries (Czech Republic and Slovakia) and nothing terrible has happened. Or are we unable to learn democracy from “younger” democratic countries?

  8. About the unity of Spain issue, I agree with Edward. We have been talking about it for a while and we are starting to repeat ourselves. My last point on the issue is that some people here is assuming the catalonians want independence and that is oversimplifying things. We have half of the province voting nationalist and half of it voting non nationalist. Even if all nationalist votes go for independece, ¿Is it enough? The percentages are similar in the Basque country but the situation is much worse as non nationalists live threatened by violence there and are not free to express their opinions lightly. Another important point is how voting some things can stablish a permanent situation from a state of opinion that might only last for a short period of time. If independency is voted there is no turning back. Just winning a poll with 51% of the votes in the middle of a surge of favourable feelings is not enough. If independency had been submitted to voting in Catalonia two, three or ten years ago it would have been a big NO. If it is voted now, after all the work pp has done to piss the catalonians with continuous despise and insults, it might be a yes. How will things be in two years?

    About the real politk issue also raised by Edward, I find your post really interesting but I’m not so optimistic. I thought pp was going to lose a lot of support after leaving the centre and so it might seem in catalonia. But I’m afraid they have made a gambit with Catalonia and the Basque country. They have lost their support there but are using this state of confrontation to muster people around the banner of the sacred unity of Spain. And they are somehow succeeding. They are managing to take the whole country with them in their shift to the right. I might be somehow pesimistic but even though there is people in pp I could vote for: Gallardon, Pique and even Rajoy himself. Those have no control over a party who is heading towards the siren songs from the national catholic shore.
    Spain has exported the most hideous forms of mixing religion and state to form a horrible monster (Nobody expects the spanish inquisition) and also has been one of the first countries to accept gay marriage. We call it the two Spains.

  9. Hey Santboia,
    Madrid was also conquered after a long siege. By a Galician General 🙂

  10. Well everyone, I think this is all about to draw to a natural close. In particular like I said I am about to move on tomorrow to another Spain-related topic: immigration and the housing boom. But I would just like to thank everyone who has participated for a fair and friendly discussion of the issues.

    I think anyone from outside Spain who reads this will be able to get a good idea of what the issues are, how complex it all is, and how difficult it is going to be to find a solution which everyone is happy with.

    Incidentally, if anyone wants to know something about the power of weblogs, try googling for troglodytes, you’ll find we are now occupying the number 11 slot globally.

    A couple of specific points.

    @ Santboia

    I’m glad you posted what you did, even if I don’t really agree with the way you slant the last part. You seem to favour independence. I don’t, but I think it was important that someone put this view.

    I do agree however with this:

    “The question that I rise is: a nation that, at some point, agreed with another one to build a new State, can never decide to turn back that decision? Is there no possibility for a civilised “divorce” in politics?”

    I think this is what the right to self determination is all about. The right should exist. But like the divorce law, having the legal possibility of dissolution doesn’t mean you have to exercise it. Just because I insist I should have the right to divorce my wife if I want to doesn’t mean I want to. If we are moving towards a more institutionally flexible world (and I would simply mention here sentimental partnership structures, work contract structures, retirement and working age and provision structures etc), then I don’t think that the way we conceptualise states should remain exempt from all this.

    Of course arms and recourse to war should not be the way we resolve disputes in the modern world. The US science fiction writer David Brin has some interesting ideas in this context:

    and especially this:

    I don’t think Catalonia should go down the independent state road since:

    a) it has a lot to offer Spain. I suppose I am near to the Pujolist view here, Catalonia has a responsibility to be one of the drivers of Spanish modernisation. It is a force for harmony and balance. It has a lot of “seny” to offer, otherwise there will be an excess of “rauxa”.

    Put another way, people like Demostoles need Catalan allies.

    Also Catalonia benefits far too much from the internal Spanish market and the ‘reach’ of Spanish culture into Latin America. To mention just a couple of things, Barcelona is the centre of the Spanish language publishing industry, and Barcelona is the centre of the Spanish language digital communication industry.

    It obviously isn’t talked about too much, but Spain benefits, pretty much in the way the UK does from the Commonwealth, from the cultural associations of the spanish lanuage community. If Endesa does eventually have its HQ in Barcelona the Latin American energy interests here (not to mention things like Banc Sabadell Atlantic) will be pretty substantial. I don’t think it would be a very well-advised choice to give all that up.

    @ Demostoles

    I think the only thing which separates us at the end of the day is the language question. I think ideally, if you wanted symmetric federalism, all the languages should be on an equally footing across the entire state. Since this is absolutely impractical some version of the Canadian or Swiss model should be appropriate.

    I note your points about pessimism, I certainly hope it isn’t going to be like this. I think it is easy to draw too many conclusions from ‘heated tertullia’ on populist radio and TV shows: lets see some votes.

    I make the analogy here with the recent law controlling anti-social smoking. At the begining the tobacco industry finance a lot of noise, but a year or so from now all this will have disappeared from the radar screen. Lets have some version of the new statute and then you’ll see how quickly things move on (I hope 🙂 ).

    Incidentally one of my best friends in the UB here is from Tenerife. She has been here since the early 70s, but hardly speaks Catalan at all. When I am in her office it is a complete comedy when she has to answer the phone. I love it. And I think she’s a great person. All this talk of people being dragooned into speaking is tripe, but it certainly is more comfortable communicatively for people if they do make the effort.

    It also aids employment opportunities, since obviously it is hard to find work in certain categories of employment if you don’t: you can’t answer the phone, you can’t reply to mails, etc, etc.

    As with the smoking law, I prefer to let the market mechanism handle most of this. I think employers will increasingly not contract people who smoke due to the added health problems during the later prime working years, and the health insurance costs. So, in just the same way as you need to learn English if you want to work on the Costa Brava, you need to learn Catalan if you come to Barcelona. End of story.

    btw, I now realise while I don’t read Tech Central Station. Googling for ‘seny’ I just found this:

    But there is also a distressing menace to civil freedom currently in Catalonia. An example may be found in the totalitarian linguistic policy being implemented by the Catalonian nationalist government coalition led by the Catalan Socialist Party. In its effort to eradicate the Spanish language from the Catalonian social scene, the regional government is orchestrating outrageous, politically oppressive acts by inciting citizens to expose anyone who does not speak Catalan, in the same way as the Nazis used to hound the Jews who spoke Yiddish instead of German.

    ‘Nuff said, I take it.

    Incidentally, Demosteles, if you are ever in Barcelona, mail me, maybe we can meet up.

  11. It’s been a nice talk and I thank you all.

    @ Edward
    Maybe there’s room for optimism in spanish politics after all, we could have a glimpse of better time the day the agreement was signed between PSOE/CIU. PP might be carried away by it’s own inertia and can take some damage from the ‘support’ it is receiving by people like Tejero. If PP loses a couple of elections, maybe Rajoy can lead the party to the centre, this time for real. we are wasting some of our best politicians (Pique, Gallardón) because of this right catholic madness.

    I sometimes spend an afternoon in Madrid or Barcelona when I’m travelling somewhere else, so I will mail you. Just do the same if you come to Tenerife.

  12. First and foremost, the Estatut has an impact on the whole of Spain. PSOE deliberately decided to negociate this treaty without PP (representing over 25% of Spanish people). Biggest mistake. The huge impact on Spain, obliges Zapatero to include all parties. I am a foreigner living in Spain, and what happens here is bad for the country. This country has a unique history with regards to civil war, dictator, and terrorist attacks by fellow country people. I find it unreasonable to judge about democracy in Spain when you are not living in it. You cannot compare Germany in this, as the result of Catalunia’s independence will fight for independece (by terrorists) in Bask country. And don’t forget that the Catalan politicians want money from the Government however refuse to contribute to others or help others (isn’t this a social basis that PSOE stands for?). Zapatero is insulting Socialist ideas his party (should) stands for. I rest my case!

  13. All these: Basques, catalonia and more are people from the past.
    All countries of Europe are working for the Union and they are going in the opposite way. There is no place for this disccussion in the European Union, there is no place for divisions of the natural and actual borders based in history interpretation.

    Actually Spain includes CAtalonia and Basque country and they were into the European Union included with the “spanish package”.

    Stop the egoism and individualism. Please.

  14. Bjork

    “All these: Basques, catalonia and more are people from the past. All countries of Europe are working for the Union and they are going in the opposite way. There is no place for this disccussion in the European Union, there is no place for divisions of the natural and actual borders based in history interpretation.”

    I have every sympathy with all those Spanish people who say they don’t want Catalonia to leave Spain (in fact Catalonia is not thinking of doing so, Euskadi may be a quite different case, I don’t live there and I can’t comment). This is a sentimental question in many cases, as Ferran says he feels some part of him would be lost. I can understand this, even if I think there are two sides to the story.

    But the European is moving towards a federation of states. I really don’t see how it matters a fig to the new Europe whether or not the people who make up Spain constitute one state or three. This is simply an admin decision – whether we have 25 units or 27 – the members of other EU states don’t have any *emotional* involvement in the unity of Spain.


    “And don’t forget that the Catalan politicians want money from the Government however refuse to contribute to others or help others”

    This I’m afraid is nonsense. Catalonia makes a contribution per capita to Spanish finances far above most other regions. This extra is distributed amongst the other autonomous communities. No-one here is against continuing to subsideise the rest of Spain, it is simply the extent of the subsidy that is in question. Catalonia argues that growth here is being reduced by the burden of all these extra payments (the Bavaria comporison in connection with the Lande of the former East Germany). Catalonia also has an ageing population, and needs hospitals, doctors and old people’s homes. Also with the massive immigartion it needs a lot more schools, and teachers who are trained and appropriate for the new multi-cultural environment.

    The regional government also wants resources to expand the airport here, to get more direct inter-continental flights, so that it is easier for the businesses to do business.

    Basically, if Ctalonia is paying (say) 60% more than the average they want this reducing to (say) 30% more than the average. That’s all. It isn’t so hard to understand.

    Which is more egocentric, the French President saying he won’t do anything to dismantle the disastrous agricultural policy, the Italian prime minister say the ‘euro is a disaster for Italy’ and taking bugdetary decisions that put the whole eurosystem at risk, or the poor little Catalans, who simply say they want more say in their own affairs? Whatever happened to the principle of subsidiarity here.

  15. Where do I begin?
    “First and foremost, the Estatut has an impact on the whole of Spain.”

    So what?
    ” PSOE deliberately decided to negociate this treaty without PP (representing over 25% of Spanish people).”
    That is a lie. It is the PP that has decided to exclude itself from every step. The PP did not want to negociate anything.

    “Biggest mistake. The huge impact on Spain, obliges Zapatero to include all parties. I am a foreigner living in Spain, and what happens here is bad for the country.”

    Still it is the PP that does all and everything it can to poison political life in Spain.

    ” This country has a unique history with regards to civil war, dictator, and terrorist attacks by fellow country people. I find it unreasonable to judge about democracy in Spain when you are not living in it.”

    And even if living in it, it is only too easy to misunderstand if you apply prejudices from your own history.

    “You cannot compare Germany in this, as the result of Catalunia’s independence will fight for independece (by terrorists) in Bask country.”

    I do not understand what you are saying there.

    ” And don’t forget that the Catalan politicians want money from the Government however refuse to contribute to others or help others (isn’t this a social basis that PSOE stands for?). Zapatero is insulting Socialist ideas his party (should) stands for. I rest my case!”

    The money they want is their own. Catalonia is not Extremadura. Why should Catalonia inhabitants have to pay more for everything, and so more taxes, to end up with less services. “La Vanguardia” published a letter where a chirurgian explained that for the same qualifications you get 3200 euro/month, with an horary from 9h to 15h, in Extremadura and 2500 euro/month, working from 9h to 17h, in Catalonia. And over all that been despised? Go get a life.


  16. Hello Antoni, I woondered wher you had been while all this was going on :).

    “I do not understand what you are saying there.”

    I think this is a reference to my constant and repeated references to Bavaria, which is, of course, asking to pay less.

  17. Salutacions digitades, Edward,

    What I don’t understant is “[…]as the result of Catalunia’s independence will fight for independece (by terrorists) in Bask country.” I feel something is missing and I do not want to put the words for the author. Maybe he think that an independent Catalonia would help Basques against the rest of Spain. Since those wanting independence are a minority amongst Catalans “de la ceba”, I find such an hypothesis rather ludicrous.


  18. “Since those wanting independence are a minority amongst Catalans “de la ceba”, I find such an hypothesis rather ludicrous.”

    Obviously, Antoni, you live here and know that this is true. So do I.

    But Mr Aznar it seems hasn’t only been giving lectures in broken English at the University of Georgetown, he seems to have convinced a lot of people on the radical US right that Catalonia is a ‘nest of vipers’.

    Since most of these people support Israel (as I do, but in a far less uncritical and ‘born gain’ tone), and since many of the people inside Spain call us the jews of Spain for the simple reason that many Catalans are conversos, while Aznar was for a long time an admirer and friend of Yasser Arafat, this becomes, quite simply, grotesque.

    So the idea has been put about that the Catalans are on the point of declaring independence, and many people are so fanatical that they don’t even bother to check any facts.

    I think the fact that the piece I link to appeared in an editorial in the NYT is an indication that this issue has now entered the US political battleground. Then those in Europe who identify with the radical US right – the ‘libertarians’ rather than the ‘neo-liberals’ (para entedender-nos) – pick up the argument through their inverted mirror, and decide, again with little knowledge of the facts, that Catalonia is about to break out of Spain.

    Actually, if we follow this through, then the moderate European right – Merkel, Sarkozy, and Cameron – will probably soon come to the defence of Catalonia, so long run, in terms of EU politics, I think we only stand to win from this. So I am glad in a way.

    However, looking at this from the perspective of a reasonable Spanish person like Demostoles, there are plenty of grounds for pre-occupation, since a future PP government with these associations would be well outside the European mainstream, and dependent on US support, dependent on US support with one of the most anti-Yankee popular mentalities among the general populace there is in Europe I would guess, and so it would be once more a re-run of the Iraq war thing. A merry-go-round which just keeps whizzing faster and faster.

    Till, of course, finally, the housing boom crashes.

    I don’t know if you saw this link.

    This part is particularly ridiculous:

    “The scandal associated with such fascist practices erupted when it became known that the linguistic commissioners of the “Oficines de Garanties Lingüístiques” had launched a pilot program in some hospitals to verify if the sanitary personnel speak Catalan among themselves and with patients, and if the documentation in these centers — including the clinical records — is also written in the Catalan language. Needless to say, this is a direct breach of personal privacy and depicts a coarse totalitarian paranoid behavior aimed at trying to use the language to brand, exclude and, if possible, eliminate the “anomalous individuals” who dare to speak the official language of the Spanish nation.”

    This is the sort of nonsense that is being put about, and it seems it is being sworn to as gospel by every self respecting US neo-con.

    The ‘totalitarian measure’ is of course simply a sociological survey on language use of the kind which has been carried out regularly at least since I came here in 1990.

    Now as chance would have it my partner had to go to the Residencia Vall d’Hebron hospital this morning for a routine visit, and I accompanied her. Now Vicenta – although the daughter of Spanish speaking immigrants from Valencia – was born in Barcelona and normally speaks Catalan socially, when she isn’t speaking English with me. During the interview the doctor routinely spoke Spanish to us, since this is what she apparently does all the time (and we had no problem with that) since the majority of her patients are elderly Spanish speaking people.

    At one stage another doctor entered the room, and the two doctors chatted away in Catalan. So I couldn’t resist explaining to her what a fuss this issue of language use in the Catalan health service was causing in the USA, and we all had a jolly good laugh.

    Finally, on the connection between the Catalan thing and the Basque thing. I think Marc misses the point. If there is a good settlement to the Catalan Statute issue (and by good here I mean satisfactory to all sides: PSOE, CiU, ERC and IU – as you note, the PP playing dog in the manger have effectively excluded themselves), then this is the one thing which could help to keep the Basques inside Spain. If the Catalan’s with their modest proposal cannot advance, then I imagine we will see the ‘Plan Ibarretxe’ back on the table, and the possibility of a referendum on independence being held in Euskadi. In this sense I imagine the fanatics of Eta probably want the Catalan statute to fail too.

  19. “PSOE deliberately decided to negociate this treaty without PP (representing over 25% of Spanish people). Biggest mistake. The huge impact on Spain, obliges Zapatero to include all parties.”

    Well Marc. I won’t get into opinions as we’ll never agree on such a thing, I’ll talk about data. When the Catalonian leader of pp said the new version of the estatut was something they could talk about, the central direction of his party disaproved his decision and forced him to change his version of the story. He was about to resign because of this. I simply wouldn’t say the pp has been excluded, I would say it has excluded itself, again. Zapatero cannot force pp to get into the negotiation table.

    I simply cannot see how reducing the percentage of some taxes that will be sent to Madrid will break Spain.

  20. Edward is the main person, perhaps the only person, to speak of a federal Europe. One person asked how the US federal government would feel if California talked of independence. But Spain is part of the European Union! The US is not part of a larger government to which people can elect representatives.

    A more correct analogy is to ask how the Federal Government would or should feel if one county in one state talks about changes between that county and that state.

    I don’t know much about counties: sometime in the last 10 or 15 years, my county changed its relationship to the state, but it was such a
    small deal, I did not pay much attention. I do know, since I read it in a history last night, that the town next beyond the one just south
    of me created itself by separating from what is now the town south of it.

    Certainly, Europe should become a land of `regions’. It seems to be not only reasonable, but desirable that people speak in a native,
    minority language with their neighbors, and also learn (as children, when it is easy) a language with which they can speak to visitors and which succeeds internationally.

    It is unfortunate that the European Union lacks legitimacy. It is like the US before the American civil war. At that time, the only directly elected body was the Federal House of Representatives. Senators were appointed by states and the president was elected by the Electoral College.

    Most current west European countries arose as `empires’ of one sort or another, small or big. Often they were `musket empires’. Winning governments, sometimes without intending it, spread a `received pronunciation’ over the territories they conquered. But they did not
    destroy those they conquered as thoroughly as the United States destroyed its natives. Because of oceans, swamps, and mountain ranges, the European governments found that with the logistics of the
    day, they could not conquer further than they did. (I think this is a major reason eastern China unified so long ago: few barriers to conquest by a pre-gunpowder military.)

    Some areas lack natural barriers, like regions in the boundary between France and Germany. Over the past millenium, they were conquered and reconquered.

    Christian Spain is a creation of the fight against the Moslem conquerors. I don’t think it was ever a union like Switzerland, although people speak of the union of Castile and Aragon.

    Much of the discussion reminded me of American talk, as I understand it, from before the civil war: in 1860, people thought of themselves as `Virginian’ or `Yankee’. They did not think of themselves as being from the United States. Their loyalty was to their state or region, not to the federation. Besides putting down the rebellion, I’ve read historians say that President Lincoln changed how people thought.

  21. Marc wrote:
    “”” I really don’t see how it matters a fig to the new Europe whether or not the people who make up Spain constitute one state or three. This is simply an admin decision – whether we have 25 units or 27 – the members of other EU states don’t have any *emotional* involvement in the unity of Spain”””

    No man it is like take steps backward. Now,Do You imagine France, Italy breaking into parts like Alsacia, Provenza ? I told there is no administration decision for include more states or member. Spain is a EU member, Catalonia is not. CAtalonia does not exists like nation or country. If you leave then you should begin from zero in EU . 27 ? No please, you must wait your turn and there are other countries awaiting.

    Europa is going to unify and you are the opposite force-.

    Stop the indivualism and egoism. Please.

  22. Bjork, are you swedish. If yes you may not have noticed that it was for Sweden much easier to get in than for the East European Countries. Mostly because it didn’t cost money like the Eastern European countries.
    An independant Catalonia would also bring money and their laws are already harmonized so in a case of a mutual decision it would take about a second for Catalonia to be admitted. (in the case that Spain would object it is not even out of the question that Spain would be kicked out)

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