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Should the EU intervene in Catalonia?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Oct 28th, 2017 at 04:55:07 PM EST

As someone distrustful of extreme nationalism and committed to the European ideal as the best way we have yet found of maintaining peace and prosperity in Europe, I am utterly conflicted by the drive for Catalonian independence.

On the one hand I am committed to the European principle of subsidiarity - that decisions effecting peoples lives should be made with their maximum involvement and as close as possible to their own communities.

I therefore have no problem with negotiations for greater Catalonian autonomy, if Catalonians generally are unhappy with decisions made on their behalf by the central government in Madrid.

But granting Catalonia full sovereignty is an altogether different matter. It implies that Catalonia will have its own borders and army and distinct relationships with the EU and all foreign states. On what basis could it be granted?

The modern system of nation states was born of two world wars, the disintegration of several empires and many more local conflicts. Boundaries were often drawn on fairly arbitrary lines by departing imperial powers with terrible consequences for local populations drawn from different ethnic groupings or religious traditions.

All to often it was the relative strength of different armies which determined their exact location. Some boundaries, when drawn, resulted in the death and dislocation of millions of people, as in the partition of the Indian sub continent into India and Pakistan, and, subsequently, Bangladesh. As we speak, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are being driven from their ancient tribal lands in Myanmar.

Anyone who says this couldn't happen in Europe doesn't know their history. There are huge ethnic tensions with large Russian minorities in the Baltic states and a low intensity war is being fought in Ukraine. Tensions in the Balkans resulted in the disintegration of Yugoslavia with a state of near war between Serbia and Croatia and many deaths around Kosovo.

Even Brexit can be seen as an uprising by English nationalists which may yet result in the disintegration of the UK. Scotland may tire of Westminster rule, and the historic settlement between British and Irish nationalists as codified by the Good Friday Agreement is threatened.

There are many reasons why a region might wish to secede from a larger state - and these often crystallise around differences of ethnicity, religion, language and culture. Often these may hide divergences of economic interests - as when Biafra, which controlled most of Nigerian oil - sought to secede from Nigeria. Many European states have regions that are more prosperous than others and which may see it as being in their own narrow self-interest to secede from their respective states

Memories of the Spanish civil war, and feelings of discrimination ever since, no doubt contribute to the Catalonian sense of grievance. The heavy handed tactics of the Rajoy regime in seeking to repress an unauthorised referendum cannot have helped. But how would Catalonian independence improve matters for many Catalonians and most Spaniards? Is it just a case of local elites seeking to wrest more power from national ones?

There has been a general upsurge of populist and far right nationalist parties throughout most of Europe in response to austerity, immigration, and the regressive redistributive effects of globalisation. Global corporations seem to hold more and more sway over nation states and the bulk of their profits go to the already rich.

The splintering and disintegration of Europe into ever smaller nation states would exacerbate this process by increasing the imbalance of power between global corporates and smaller states vying for investment and jobs for their people. The EU has failed its member states by not being assertive enough in correcting this imbalance.

However, whatever chance the EU has of redressing this imbalance, the smaller states have none, and it is noteworthy that most nationalist movements have no analysis of how they would address this issue. If anything, their solution is to compete ever more aggressively for such investment, beggaring their neighbours even more in the process if necessary.

If Catalonians are unhappy with Madrid rule, they should press for 'an ever deeper Union' at EU level to ensure that the relative importance of Madrid is reduced and their grievances are addressed within a larger European context. Many Catalans point to an alleged hypocrisy between an EU willing to interfere in the budgetary affairs of heavily indebted states and civil rights violations in Poland and Hungary and yet remaining silent on the repression of their attempts at self-determination.

But there is no inconsistency here. It is Spain which is the EU member, and not Catalonia; and it is for Spain to decide its own internal constitutional arrangements. Rightly or wrongly, the EU has been granted powers by the Maastricht Treaty to interfere in the budgetary processes of member states. It has no Treaty powers to direct Spain to grant greater autonomy to Catalonia.

If Spain were to regress into a Francoist autocracy, repressing human rights and democratic norms in contravention of European Treaties, the EU might well have to take action. But we are not there yet, and not by a long way. Let the Catalonian leadership take its grievances to the ECJ if it feels a European Treaty have been infringed.

In the meantime the stability of Europe, no less than the stability of Spain requires that any movement towards greater autonomy or independence in Catalonia can only be achieved by peaceful negotiation and consent. The Catalonian leadership have failed to articulate precisely what grievances Catalonian independence would better address, and precisely how this would be in the best interests of both Catalonians and the rest of Spain.

A negotiation is always a two way process, and your proposed solution has to be able to offer some advantages to your adversaries as well. Shouting "we want, we want, we want" ever louder is not an argument. Just how would the rest of Spain and the EU benefit from Catalonian independence, especially with so many other separatist movements waiting in the wings?

But for Rajoy and for other European leaders the drive for Catalonian independence should also be a warning moment: The EU and its members cannot prosper so long as ordinary people see their incomes and benefits stall by reason of austerity, while they feel threatened by increased competition for jobs and scarce resources from immigrants, and while ruling elites seem ever more in thrall to global capitalism.

It is high time that the persistent problems of corporate tax avoidance and lax banking regulation be addressed. The EU either acts to address the increasing imbalances in welfare between European elites and ordinary citizens or it too will collapse amid a mêlée of competing nationalisms and possible wars.

Catalonians, no more or less than the rest of us, cannot take the benefits of the EU for granted. The EU has to be re-imagined for each successive generation and cannot live off past achievements forever. Brexit will provide a cautionary tale for those who would seek to achieve the benefits of pooled sovereignty without the responsibilities. We do not need another débâcle in Catalonia.

Yes, that more or less covers it. I think your ending analysis applies to brexit more accurately than a mere bleat of english nationalism (that mostly came after).

Far more it was a complaint of feeling disenfranchised by a remote bureaucracy that was percieved as a dead weight and an impediment on people's lives. The fact that most of these problems came from Westminster rather than Brussels was neither here nor there as Westminster elections never allow the "none of the above" option.

However whatever chance the EU has of redressing this imbalance, the smaller states have none, and it is noteworthy that most nationalist movements have no analysis of how they would address this issue. If anything, their solution is to compete ever more aggressively for such investment, beggaring their neighbours even more in the process if necessary.  

As with brexit, we should ask, who benefits? Where did the money come from? I hate to come over tin foil hat CT, but there's increasing evidence of shared interests between the plutocratic elite across the West who wish to stir up trouble and the newly emergent aggressive stance of Russia to bring about the fall of powerful democratic institutions

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Oct 29th, 2017 at 04:21:22 PM EST
Replacing state with corporate rule is the ultimate wet dream of plutocrats. Then they can have untrammelled power and literally "own" people.

One $ one vote is always more advantageous to the rich than that annoying one person one vote whereby even their office cleaner has the same rights as they do.  So anything that can be done to weaken those taxing monsters known as states must be done. Why let them redistribute your hard earned wealth?

Turn citizens into employees and they become much more manageable, and better still, you can fire them if you feel like it.  

So break up the European Union, split up the bigger states.  Turn "faceless bureaucrats" into the issue rather than corporate power.

Rupert Murdoch was once asked why he was so anti-EU. "That's easy" he said. "When I want something done, all I have to do is ring 10 Downing street, and it gets done. When I ring Brussels they listen politely and then completely ignore me."

He might have added "what we need is more democratic accountability. To ME."!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Oct 29th, 2017 at 05:03:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't Nermeen Shaikh have great hair?

Plus she looks like she's stoned.  Probably a great date.  Ah, to be young again.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 30th, 2017 at 02:58:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't be a fan!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 30th, 2017 at 04:08:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Murdoch quote shows why Murdoch is for Brexit. But from what I know of Brussels, it is not like there is no corporate power lobbying going on there.

The way I see it, we have both an ongoing internationalisation of decision-making where power is moved from the public and a reaction that is channelled towards nationalism. Which leads to bad choices like Clinton vs Trump or Macron vs LePen. Heads capital wins, tails labour loses.

Of course, different capitalist actors gain and lose from different outcomes. But they all gain when the reaction to Trump is passing CETA with its corporate courts.

Question is how to get out of this predicament. And right now, I have no clue.

by fjallstrom on Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 12:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Got it in one, IMO.

We're in the final stage of plutocratic class war, with transnational hyper-elites on one side and everyone else on the other.

Both Brexit and Trump were experiments, and so far they appear to be successful.

If the hypothesis is correct, far worse horrors will follow in due course.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 12:05:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont goes to Brussels as Spain files rebellion charges - DW
Catalonia's leader Carles Puigdemont and five aides went to Brussels on Monday to meet with his lawyers, according to government sources. The revelation came as prosecutors in Madrid charged the 54-year-old and several associates with rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.

Belgian lawyer Paul Beckaert confirmed to Reuters on Monday evening that Puigdemont was in Belgium and that he had taken on the former regional president as a client. Beckaert would not confirm whether he was working with Puigdemont on an asylum claim.

Belgian Asylum State Secretary Theo Francken said over the weekend that it would be "not unrealistic" for Puigdemont to launch an asylum claim in the Belgian capital.

Spain has formally dissolved the Catalan parliament, which declared independence on Friday after an escalating battle of wills with Madrid over the future of the prosperous region.

Other, more sensationalist media, wrote that Puidgemeont "fled the country", to "avoid arrest".
by Bernard on Mon Oct 30th, 2017 at 09:09:36 PM EST
tbh, it's not entirely clear whether his primary motive was to avoid arrest, but it's interesting that Belgium appears to be a country from which he cannot be extradited.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 04:25:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Puidgemont just declared on CNN that he's visiting "Brussels, capital of Europe, not visiting Belgium".

Catalonia's ex-president Puigdemont: I'm not in Belgium to seek asylum  - MSN

Catalonia's ousted president, Carles Puigdemont, has said he came to Belgium to act "in freedom and safety", but not to seek political asylum.

Speaking at press conference in Brussels, Puigdemont said he would return home "immediately" if a fair judicial process was guaranteed in Spain.

And by the way:

Spain and Belgium are both signatories to the European arrest warrant, which requires governments to give up EU citizens to another member state when they are wanted by the authorities.


'Like any EU citizen': Belgium's Catalan asylum fix - Reuters

Nonetheless, he traveled to a small town in western Flanders on Monday to hire a human rights lawyer with a successful track record of fighting extradition to Spain on behalf of Basque separatist sympathizers.

The lawyer, Paul Bekaert warned, however, that EU rules have made it harder. He told Reuters that the European Arrest Warrant system had removed exceptions previously made for extraditions to face "political" charges like sedition in other EU states.

Politics, too, may play a part. Eighteen months before the next Belgian federal election, there have already been tensions over Catalonia within the coalition, where Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalans are a major force and Michel, a French-speaking liberal, has lately tried to mollify Madrid.

by Bernard on Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 08:12:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't hire Paul Bekaert if your intention is not to avoid a Spanish prison.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2017 at 12:32:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid arrest. That is not even controversial. They chose Belgium not because it could grant him asylum but because it is the most likely jurisdiction to avoid extradition, or to obtain extradition on diminished charges.

A secondary goal is to blow up the Belgian government. That will go down well with the rest of the EU.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2017 at 12:31:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Catalan crisis sparks controversy inside Belgian government
The decision is not in the government's hands but depends on the commissioner general for refugees and stateless people, an independent body. EU sources explained that the Asylum Procedures Directive was designed for third-country nationals.
Gonzalez Pons said that Spain would not take lessons from someone who was fined after breaching a judiciary ruling precisely on asylum procedures. In 2016, Francken was fined €4,000 per day after he refused to grant a humanitarian visa to a Syrian family, despite judges approving it.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Oct 31st, 2017 at 12:32:56 AM EST
Poll predicts Pro-Catalonia parties will win most election votes
Pro-Catalonia independence parties will combine for the most votes in regional election in December but may fall just short of a majority needed to revive the secession campaign, a poll showed on Sunday.

According to the GAD3 survey of 1,233 people conducted between October 30th and November 3rd and published in La Vanguardia newspaper, pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP would take between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament.

And what happens if pro-independence parties do win a Majority? Will Spain recognise that, or at least come to the table to negotiate greater autonomy?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 5th, 2017 at 01:22:45 PM EST
They've explicitly threatened to suspend autonomy again until the "right" people win: http://www.catalannews.com/politics/item/re-application-of-article-155-threatened-in-case-of-pro-ind ependence-election-victory

They're also moving to ban pro-independence parties to ensure that outcome.

While we can hope it doesn't happen, it is not looking like Catalans will be allowed a free, fair, or meaningful vote.

by IdiotSavant on Mon Nov 6th, 2017 at 03:58:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re-application of Article 155 threatened in case of pro-independence election victory
Support for an independent Catalan state has soared since the October 1 referendum, according to a poll carried out by the Catalan Centre of Opinion Studies. People in favour now stand at 48.7% while those against at 46.3%. In June, a poll revealed that 41.1% were in favour of independence, and 49.4% were against.

Pro-independence parties would also win the elections again with Together for Yes winning 60 to 63 seats, and the far-left CUP winning between 8 and 9, the poll showed. 68 seats are needed to make a parliamentary majority.

Anti-independence parties would fail to win a majority in the elections if the poll proves to be correct. The unionist Ciutadans party would win 25 to 26 seats, the Socialists 17 to 19, with the People's Party coming in last with 10 to 11 seats.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 6th, 2017 at 11:46:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no shortage of hardliners among the PP and Ciudadanos base, but I doubt the Spanish government would either apply Art 155 again or move to make the separatist parties illegal only on an adverse election result.

The separatist parties fully intend to continue defying the Spanish constitution, so it's possible there will be another round of escalation afer the election. For instance, if a regional government supporred by a separatist majority tries to start implementing the voided law on the legal transition and Foundational of the republic.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2017 at 12:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The most likely outcome is a repetition of the current majority of seats without a majority of separatist votes.

Note that the separatists don't want to come to the table to negotiate greater autonomy either. They have declared independence and are only interested in negotiating it's implementation. For this they have even violated the rules of procedure of the Catalan parliament.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2017 at 12:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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