While Michael and I will be leaving tonight to Amsterdam and afterwards for a visit of our parents in Germany, a show down is expected to take place tonight here in Barcelona. The Catalan government has announced to declare its independence tonight at 18.00 CET based on the will of the Catalan people who have voted in the referendum of October 1st.
The Spanish government certainly has not done a good job in the past years with regards to Catalonia – they have not listend to the Catalan government (we want to pay less to Spain, more investments in Catalonia) nor to the people (“We feel Catalan”). Also they have not shown a lot of empathy and the only answer they gave to Catalonia to all its requests was “NO, NO, NO”. The hard measurements during the referendum, the use of police force was a big mistake and out of proportion. The Spanish government had already declared it illegal. So there was no need for a hard line. In my opinion they lack the sense for reflexion and can only stick to the “law” and justify their actions with the law. However, this will not help finding a long lasting solution. Unfortunately, also the Spanish King (who speaks fluently Catalan) held a speech that lacked any call for dialogue or reconciliation. He also avoided saying anything in Catalan which is usually part of his speeches. This was a missed opportunity.
On the other side we have the independence movement led by the Catalan government that want to declare independence on the fact that the Catalans have voted for it. The government actually only won 48% of the popular vote of the elections in 2015 (and if you include the non voters it goes down to 36% approval of the registered voters). The referendum of 1-O is illegal according to the Spanish constitution and just before the referendum the Catalan government passed a law that facilitates the independence (to be declared in 48 hours after the final numbers of the referendum) violating the rights of the opposition in the Catalan government. The referendum itself was not carried out to acceptable standards usual in democracies: it had no minimum thresholds (the majority wins), there were no independent observers, as they lacked enough envelops it was not a secret voting and it was even possible (as posted by voters on social media) to vote several time. So there was no control. It cannot be trusted. The result in the end as used now by the government was a 92% majority for the independence. In numbers this is 2,044 million Catalans or 37% of the registered voters. Honestly, your campaign is based on “we want more democracy” and you are applying the above numbers for your cause? A minority takes the right to push the rest of the country into an abyss? There is absolutely no legitimacy in declaring the independence today at 18.00 CET.
So, what is the solution? I loved the below press photo from last Saturday´s demonstration in front of the Catalan parliament. The white t-shirts symbolizing a peace offer. Many banners said “Rajoy and Puigdemont. Talk or step down both!” – which I completely agree with. The Spanish prime minister needs to be there for all Spanish and seriously listen to their worries. He has to open talks and get back to the negotiation table. The Catalan president has to leave the illegal path he has chosen and get back to the negotiation table as well. In the end, the escalation started with the issue of the redistribution of tax money some years ago! Talk!
I hope we will be able to come back in two weeks. It makes me incredibly sad what is happening here after so much time I have spent here. How can this all escalate and maybe even escalate into real violence and civil war? How can a Spanish government be rather incompetent to understand the situation in Catalonia or not be willing to understand? How can a nationalistic Catalan movement gain so many followers by telling so many lies and be willing to ruin the whole country for their cause?
I would like to finish this blog with the below picture showing how I feel. Let´s hope my heart will not be torn apart when we come back.