Thursday

2nd Jul 2020

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

French MPs criticise Catalonia situation ahead of verdict

More than 50 French MPs have voiced their concerns about the situation in Catalonia. The acting Spanish minister for foreign affairs - and incoming EU foreign affairs chief - Josep Borrell has lamented "the ignorance about the reality of Spain".

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

Puigdemont to challenge ban on standing as MEP

Carles Puigdemont is set to take legal action to defend his rights as European Parliament candidate and for voters' right to cast a vote for him. He could go so far as to challenge the outcome of the May elections.

On toppling statues

In Belgium, there are 443 statues, busts, plaques, and street names that celebrate that country's colonial past. As recently as 2005, school textbooks lauded Belgium for "civilising the black population, step-by-step."

Entering a new, more Putin-like, Russia

The so-called "all-Russia" vote finishing today, with more than 200 amendments to the Russian constitution, has been marked by systematic electoral fraud, mass mobilisation of the administrative resources, populistic promises or exploiting the historical memory.

News in Brief

  1. China to block Hong Kong exiles fleeing to UK
  2. EU stuck with Putin until 2036
  3. Malaysia pushes to keep selling palm oil to EU
  4. Austria raises corona alert on Western Balkans
  5. Turkey poised to convert Istanbul museum into mosque
  6. France leaves Nato operation after clash with Turkish ships
  7. EU Commission sets up skills agenda for next five years
  8. Bundestag gives floor to 'disgrace' Schröder on pipeline

Column

Small states in 'Big Power' games

Twenty years ago the most dominant foreign influence in Iceland was the United States, as it had been throughout the Cold War. Nowadays it is China.

Israel's annexation? - the EU's options

Regrettably, it is no longer a matter of if, but when Israel will begin to annex big parts of Palestine, including the Jordan Valley and all its 131 settlements.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us