What an American Citizen in Barcelona Wants You to Know About Catalonia

Prior to this referendum, had there been previous effort on the part of the Catalan government to reach out to the Spanish government to attempt an agreement?

Over the past 6 or 7 years, the Catalan government has made numerous attempts to speak with the Spanish government to discuss more autonomy, or even to try to agree on a question for a referendum. All of these attempts have been shut down, leading the Catalan government to respond with one binding question and referendum. 

Studies have shown that if more than one question was posited, or if Spain had agreed on the question with Catalans many perhaps would have voted to stay. I don’t see that necessarily being the case after the events of the past month, and after October 1st.

Here in the U.S. almost everything that goes ‘wrong’ is blamed on Russia. It looks like the media is using Russia as a scapegoat in this instance as well, claiming that Russian meddlers are to blame for the Catalan crisis. Have you seen this in the media where you are?

I have briefly some some content alluding to collusion with Russia, which seems to be the case worldwide now. As far as I know, these parallels were drawn by the newspaper El Pais, whom also mentioned that Julian Assange (who has been vocal about the Catalonia/Spain situation) is also in works with Russia. While I have no doubt that seeing a fractured Europe would serve Russia’s best interests, I am highly speculative of Russia playing any kind of integral role in matter. The call for a referendum, and the desire for independence has no correlation to Russia, and it should be noted that mentioning Russia or attempting to use Russia as a scapegoat is an easy way to diminish or invalidate the opinions of millions of people.

With your knowledge of events over the past week and your experience in Spain, what do you think will happen over the next few days?

“Well, there have been many assumptions and analysis over the possible endgame steps and strategies that will be implemented. I think the Spanish government is going to measure which steps it can incrementally implement to stop or put a halt to a declaration of independence. Sedition charges, and arrests will likely be made over the next week and could perhaps be it’s first way of cracking down. Last week, Spain’s government passed a law which makes it easier for companies to move their official headquarter base out of Catalonia and into Spain, as a way of adding economical pressure to the region.  

Following this, a few companies and banks moved their HQ address to Spanish cities, out of prudence and as a contingency plan – although it should be noted that most companies actual headquarters will remain here, and only the fiscal address has been moved. Adding economical pressure, and following with a series of arrests looks like the current course for now.

Up to this point, the Spanish government has refused any outside mediation and has also refused to engage in active civil discourse and dialogue with the Catalan government while “independence is still on the table.” Of course, this entire problem revolves around independence, so it seems both governments have been unable to even sit and meet properly for a discussion.”

Article 8 of the Spanish Constitution allows it to explicitly use its armed forces to ensure the sovereignty and unity of the country. “The mission of the Armed Forces, comprising the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, is to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain and the constitutional order.”, Spanish Consitution, Article 8

Alongside article 8, it is likely that article 116 and 155 will be implemented as well following a UDI. Article 116 quite literally invokes MARTIAL LAW in three stages: Stage of Alarm, State of Emergency, and State of Siege. (“An organic law shall regulate the states of alarm, emergency and siege (martial law) and the corresponding competences and limitations.” – Article 116, Spanish Constitution). 

Article 155 would revoke the autonomy of a region, and remove the government in power. The central government in Madrid would therefore presume control over Catalonia economically and politically. Invoking article 155 has been dubbed the “nuclear option.” The Vice President of Spain did confirm that this article would be implemented the same day as a hypothetical UDI. 

Both of these articles will require a congressional majority to pass.

I think the Catalan government will move to declare independence as it promised the population it would do. The Catalan Parliament is the legitimate representative body of Catalans, and they have the internal power and legitimacy to declare independence. They are seeking to declare it for a number of reasons, and because a UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) would allow them to accept mediation from foreign governments, and recognize Catalan statehood. There attempts and calls for mediation have been ignored, and Spain has refused any dialogue up to this point – so this undoubtedly seems to be the way forward. It’s unclear yet if it will occur incrementally or all at once. 

Following the UDI, it is highly likely that article 155/116 will come into play, which is cause for concern. I fear further aggressive tactics from the Spanish state will cause backlash in the region, and lead to more strikes and mobilizations. People will absolutely take to the streets. 

I believe the Spanish government will hold off on instituting 155 for now UNTIL Catalonia declares independence, which is also likely to occur in the next few days. It is not only plausible, but highly likely that this move will trigger a deep disaccord with the population, and lead to more demonstrations of passive resistance. 

In your opinion what is the ideal outcome for Catalonia?

“I think the ideal situation for Catalans and Catalonia would be dialogue with the Spanish government with outside mediation, where they can clearly have their voices heard, with a neutral mediator in place. This is idealistic, and given how things have played out over the past month it seems unlikely to happen. Ideally, the Spanish and Catalan governments would work together towards understanding each other and reaching an agreement that is suitable for both. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. The main thing missing, is what would help the situation the most. Countless MEPS, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and countries have urged Catalonia and Spain to simply talk; but Spain has refused to this point, choosing force and aggression, against what it sees as a rebellion. 

The other ideal situation would be a compromise within the Spanish government to either grant more autonomy, make it a state within a Federal spain, or give permission to hold a legally binding referendum (as the U.K did with Scotland.) None of these are plausible with the current political trajectories in place, but they would certainly be ideal. 

Since the former situations seem quite lofty and out of reach, then the other best alternative would likely be the UDI. According to international law, self-determination is in numerous international treaties and does denote the legal right of a people to decide their destiny in international order. With that said, the EU is largely against secessionist movements, and cannot legally recognize an independent state unless the parent state itself (Spain) has come to an agreement or arrangement with the government seeking secession, and has agreed to recognize their statehood – which is highly unlikely to happen.

If Catalonia does break free and leave the EU ( at least temporarily), it will lose the protection of the EU, however this would leave it open to mediation that it can legally accept. Just because it leaves the EU, does not mean it would not be accepted back in.

What is the most important thing about this situation that you think the rest of the world needs to know?

“Catalonia is a very prosperous region of Spain, and makes up nearly 22% of its GDP and 17% of its populace. In 2016 it generated nearly 226 billion, in comparison with Portugal which produced 180 billion (these numbers may not be exact – but are close to the figures and estimates.) While no exact economical analysis has been conducted on viability as an independent region, it would be foolish to dismiss the overall power of the Catalan population and region. Barcelona is and has always been one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean, and the overall 14th most important in Europe. It accounts for 25% of all exports from Spain, while Madrid accounts for 11%. Catalonia also represents around 2% of Europe’s overall GDP, so it is an economic and regional powerhouse.

I think this is the biggest crisis both Spain and Europe have faced in a long time, and it’s happening in a digital age which really changes the way information is spread and received. 

What I can tell you personally is that the movement for secession is not an extremist agenda; these are normal people, of all ages who just want a democratic process to decide on a democratic future. A majority of supporters hail from rural areas, and in metropolitan cities, like Barcelona there is possibly less desire for it because the population is mixed – but it is very real and it should not be dismissed, ignored, or suffocated. I think that Spain has reached a point of no return, and the current government has used aggressive tactics which have backfired and left people in Catalonia feeling more resentment to the central government, and feeling like their government is not trying to listen to them. All people want here, is to be heard  and for a chance to speak. And they should have that.”

The most critical moment for Catalonia arrives in just a few hours, when President Carles Puigdemont is expected to issue a declaration of independence, insisting on Catalonia’s wish to negotiate with the Spanish government and the need for mediation.

“History should not be repeated,” said Pablo Casado, a spokesman for Spain’s governing People’s party, the day before the declaration.

“We hope that tomorrow nothing will be declared, because perhaps the one who declares it will end up like the one who declared it 83 years ago.”

Puigdemont is scheduled to speak today at 6pm local time “to report on the current political situation” as pressure grows amid warnings by the Spanish government against secession.

Source: AntiMedia