Why support Catalonia?
On September 11th 2012, around 1.5 million people filled up the central avenues of Barcelona in the largest demonstration ever held in the city. Who were they? What did they want? And why should you bother about it?
The 2012 Catalan independence demonstration, organized by the Catalan National Assembly, a broad and non-partisan movement born out of Catalan civil society, marked a turning point in the relations between Catalonia and Spain. For the first time in many years, the demands for an independent Catalan state moved out of the fringes of politics and occupied the central stage, as it became clear that a majority of Catalan citizens, of all origins and backgrounds, wished to establish a new political framework based on the principles of democracy, liberty and human rights. They aspired, as the slogan of the demonstration run, to form “a new state in Europe”. Rather than being a sudden eruption of nationalistic feeling, this was the latest step in a long and arduous struggle for self-rule and recognition, a fight that Catalans have always fought peacefully and too often in obscurity. But now, for the first time, the world was forced to look at Catalonia, not as just another Spanish region, but as a self-standing nation with its own legitimate and pressing demands.
Catalans are distinct nation, with their own culture, language and history
Modern-day Catalans, while being a diverse and open society, share a common culture and make up a distinct nation. This nation is not based on ethnic marks but on a sense of belonging to a community with similar interests, problems and aspirations. Similarly to many other European nations, Catalan identity is strongly structured around a particular language and ashared history.
Tracing its origins to the Frankish counties established around Barcelona in the 8th century to contain the advance of Muslim armies, Catalonia has historically developed its own social and political institutions, its own literature and arts, its own particular way of understanding the world and relating to each other, just as other European nations have done during the same period.
Today’s Catalonia, far from being enslaved to the past, is a thriving and cosmopolitan mixture of diverse elements. This original blend of the old and the new sets Catalonia apart from neighbouring countries and allows it to actively participate and contribute with its own personality to the making of the modern world.
Catalans want to rule themselves as any other sovereign nation in the world
The last elections to the Catalan Parliament (established as an autonomous body under the 1978 Constitution that partially decentralized the Spanish state) were held on November 25th 2012. With a record level of participation (70%). Parties that support the celebration of a referendum on the independence of Catalonia (irrespective of whether they would vote for outright independence or for a federation/confederation with Spain) won 74% of the vote, while parties against the right of self-determination barely won 20%. Consequently, on March 15 2013 the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Catalan Government to negotiate with the Spanish Government in order to hold a referendum on independence. This resolution was supported by 77% of the MPs.
This comes to demonstrate that the current process of self-determination, which may end up in the creation of an independent Catalan state, is firmly grounded on social demands. As polls have consistently shown, a vast majority of Catalans are in favour of having larger autonomy, with many supporting independence as the only viable and stable solution. For example, the latest survey by the Catalan agency for public opinion, published in February 2013, found 54.7% of respondents would vote yes if a referendum on independence were held tomorrow; 20.7% would vote no; 17% would not vote; and the rest were undecided. If such results were reflected in a referendum, then on an 83% turn-out, 66% would vote in favour of independence.
If you believe that all peoples have the right to democratic self-government
… you should support Catalonia’s demand for a free and fair referendum on independence in 2014
Contrary to what happens in other Western countries like Britain or Canada, Spanish political parties seem determined to forbid through all possible means the celebration of a referendum on independence in Catalonia. Most Catalan political parties, on the other hand, are also determined to let the people of Catalonia decide their own future through democratic means. In this clash of wills, it is essential that the international public opinion supports a democratic resolution of the conflict, forcing Spain to recognize the right of the Catalan people to decide their collective future by voting for or against independence.
If you believe that the peaceful will of a nation cannot be ignored or suppressed
… you should support the creation of a new Catalan state if the majority of its citizens vote in favour of it
In the event that a clear majority of Catalans would vote in a free and fair referendum in favour of becoming an independent and sovereign state, the international community should be careful that Spain complies with the basic principles of international law and enters into negotiations with Catalan leaders in order to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition, resulting in the proclamation of the new Catalan state. Otherwise, if repressive or anti-democratic impulses in Spanish political and military actors are not effectively contained, the stability of the whole European continent could be put at risk.
If you believe that a united Europe should be built on freedom and democracy
… you should support the recognition of Catalonia as a sovereign state within the European Union
In the event that this new state was proclaimed, as a result of a positive outcome in the referendum, the international community should recognize and embrace the newly-independent Catalonia. This would ensure that the process of secession develops in an orderly manner, strengthening thereby world peace and stability. Moreover, the European Union should rapidly welcome the new state as a full-member, ensuring that Catalans, who are also European citizens, are not discriminated against and can continue to contribute to the continent’s prosperity and progress as they have always done.