Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Opinion

The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?

  • Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, addressing supporters in Brussels in 2017 (Photo: Jordi Bedmar/president.cat)

On Wednesday (11th September), hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated once again in the streets of Barcelona to demand the right of self-determination and the freedom of the Catalan political prisoners.

Despite this, some media - especially those based in Madrid - have emphasised that "the National Day of Catalonia - the 'Diada' -has failed". Nonetheless, this affirmation doesn't fit with reality.

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Catalonia has been massively mobilising since 2012 to claim that it wants to decide its own future democratically, and, throughout these years, there have been many demonstrations that have exceeded one million people in the streets.

There is no country in Europe that has seen such large and sustained mobilisations over time, with between 10 percent and 20 percent of the population participating.

When have we seen in Madrid a rally of nine million people, or 12 million protesters in the streets of Paris?

Numbers game

Beyond the sterile debate of figures, the main success from this 11th September is the message of determination and civility that has been sent out to the world.

Catalonia wants to freely decide its collective future, and wants to do so in a peaceful and democratic way just like the United Kingdom and Scotland or Canada and Quebec did.

And, most of all, the 'Diada' shows that Catalan citizens won't give up in demanding the exercise of this democratic right, because, most importantly, the will of Catalans to be and persist as a people prevails.

While Catalonia claims once again for political solutions to this political conflict, the Spanish state remains determined to settle the matter through the courts, with a judicial sentence to the Catalan political and civil society leaders on trial, which everybody expects to be harsh and could be announced in the next few weeks.

What European democrat can think that, in the 21st century, a political difference can be resolved with prison sentences?

Why has the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, allowed the state's prosecutor office and Spanish attorney general's office to request up to 25 years in jail?

Internationally, the arrival of Sánchez to the Spanish government (with the votes in favour of the pro-independence parties) could be a certain message of hope in order to open up a new path to dialogue and negotiation.

Months later, independence-seeking politicians are still waiting for someone to sit at the dialogue table.

A harsh sentence would confirm Sánchez's incapacity to resolve this question and would put the conflict in the international arena.

The Catalan case has only one possible solution: democracy. Members of the Spanish government have sometimes expressed the view that in Catalonia "it is not possible to vote" because there is a contentious situation.

And I wonder: aren't democracy and public opinion precisely useful to resolve political conflicts?

Author bio

Alfred Bosch is the Catalan minister for foreign affairs.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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