The Jerusalem Post published on Tuesday an article written by Michael Freund, titled “Gaza to Catalonia: Europe’s insufferable hypocrisy,” which contains several inaccurate points and some misinformation which I would like to clarify for the benefit of the Post’s readers.
1. Last Sunday, contrary to what is said in the article, there was no referendum on independence in Catalonia. The president of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas, had convened one, which was suspended by the Constitutional Court in Spain on the basis of its illegality according to the Spanish constitution.
Mr. Mas accepted the decision of the Constitutional Court but convened a straw poll. The straw poll was again brought to the Constitutional Court which again took the decision to suspend it also on the basis of its illegality.
The straw poll that took place last Sunday was therefore not legally convened and has none of the democratic guarantees you would expect in any legal vote.
To mention a few examples, there was no census for the vote, nor the required impartiality on the side of those organizing the poll and counting the votes. Advertisements, websites and calls for participation evidence the entire lack of neutrality regarding the consultation.
Neutrality is an enforceable duty of public authorities.
The voting age was arbitrarily lowered to 16, when people are required to be 18 years old to participate in any electoral process in Spain. Even more inconsistent is the fact that Catalans abroad were allowed to vote, but only in certain cities. Postal voting was not a possibility, and no Catalans elsewhere in Spain other than in Catalonia could vote. There was no control committee to ensure fair voting, nor the essential elements of a voting procedure, such as vote-counting oversight mechanisms (elections officials, controllers), appeal systems or guarantees that ballots were cast freely and secretly.
And by the way, the straw poll took place without the need to “bravely defy heavy-handed threats and intimidation from Madrid,” which is definitely not what happened last Sunday.
Some two million citizens took part in the poll, which is approximately 32 percent of the legal census in Catalonia. The overall majority of the Catalonian people entitled to vote – almost 70% – just ignored the poll.
2. The basis for the self-government of Catalonia derives from the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the Statutes of Autonomy of 1979 and 2006. The Spanish Constitution was approved in a constitutional referendum with a support of 90.46% of Catalan voters and a turnout close to 68%. The people of Catalonia have never exceeded that turnout and that degree of support for any other law. The referendum to adopt the Statute of Autonomy in 1979 won 88,62% of the votes, with a 59,6% turnout, and the referendum to adopt the 2006 Statute won 73,9% of the votes, with a turnout of 49,41%.
The separatist option in last Sunday’s poll, less than 30% of the census.
3. According to that basic law, national sovereignty resides in the Spanish people (and not in one part of it) and it proclaims, as do almost all democratic nations in the world, the unity of the nation as a common and indivisible homeland of all citizens.
According to the Constitution, the regional government of Catalonia has no legal competence to convene a referendum in political matters of special relevance such as the definition of Spain.
4. Thanks to the Constitution, Catalonia enjoys one of the highest levels of self-government in the world, with a level of competences that goes beyond those of any German Land for instance.
Catalonia has its own institutions, police, representation overseas, civil code, elects (in 40 electoral occasions since 1978) its representatives at the national, regional town and European level, uses and promotes the Catalan language and its citizens enjoy every civil and political right.
5. There was never a Catalonian state. The origins of Catalonia can be traced back to the Middle Ages with the formation of the County of Barcelona, which became part of the Crown of Aragon.
There was never a king of Catalonia and the title of the king of Aragon in Catalonia was Count of Barcelona. Catalonia has been part of Spain since the creation of the Spanish Kingdom.
Mr. Freund refers to a brief period during the major crisis of the 1640s in the Spanish Crown, during which Catalonia joined France, only to go back freely to Spain after a few years.
6. Spain has never occupied Catalonia. You only need to stroll by any Catalonian city to judge by yourself the nonsense of that idea. There was never a history of Spain against Catalonia.
Neither in 1714 nor in the following 300 years. The War of the Spanish Succession was an international war caused by the childless death of King Charles II of Spain. The Catalans fought in that war for the freedom of the Spanish people, as they did in the Independence War against Napoleon. There were Catalans in all the episodes that make up the Spanish history, fighting in both sides in the Succession war, or in the Civil War. More political and historical information can be found in “Catalonia in Spain, For democratic coexistence” (2013).
7. The leading protagonists of Catalan cultural life, painting (Salvador Dalí), architecture (Gaudí), literature (Josep Pla, Eugeni d´Ors), humanities (Mila I Fontanals, Martín de Riquer), philosophy (Balmes, Ferrater Mora, Eugenio Trías), music (Albéniz, Granados, Mompou), all of whom root their creation in a deep knowledge of the Catalan tradition, repudiated secession and considered themselves Catalans and Spaniards, especially those who in life had the chance to come across the demands of radical nationalism and secessionism: they never wanted to commune with it.
Catalonia is free already, with or without any straw poll.The author is the Spanish ambassador to Israel.