No occupation of Catalonia

Spain has never occupied Catalonia. You only need to stroll around in any Catalonian city to judge for yourself the nonsense of that idea

February 16, 2017 22:26
3 minute read.
THE COLORS of the Spanish flag are seen next to a Catalan flag in Barcelona.

THE COLORS of the Spanish flag are seen next to a Catalan flag in Barcelona.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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 Last week, The Jerusalem Post published an opinion piece by Michael Freund headlined “Europe’s occupation hypocrisy” (Fundamentally Freund, February 9) which contained several inaccurate points and some misinformation that I would like to clarify for the benefit of your readers.

First of all, 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.

When talking about a Catalonian State, I suppose that Mr. Freund refers to the six days in June 1641, during the major crisis of the 1640s in the Spanish Crown, when Pau Claris declared independence before deciding to join the French Kingdom for some years. In 1652, they joined again, freely, the Spanish Kingdom.

Spain has never occupied Catalonia. You only need to stroll around in any Catalonian city to judge for 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 and the dispute between two pretenders: the French Felipe de Borbon, duke of Anjou, and the Austrian Archduke Charles of Habsburg, both seeking to occupy the Spanish throne, a dispute that was part of wider alliances and interests of different European nations at that time.

One century later, the Catalans fought in the independence war against Napoleon for the freedom of the Spanish people.

There have been Catalans in all the main episodes that make up Spanish history, fighting on both sides of the succession war or the civil war.

The basis for Catalonia’s self-government derives from the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and its own subnational constitution: the Statutes of Autonomy of 1979 and 2006. The Spanish Constitution was approved in a constitutional referendum with the support of 90.46% of Catalan voters and a turnout of close to 68%.

The people of Catalonia have never exceeded that turnout, nor that degree of support for any other law. The referendum to adopt the Statute of Autonomy of 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%.

According to the Spanish Constitution, national sovereignty resides with the Spanish people (and not in just one part of it). Our Constitution proclaims, as do all constitutions around the world (except two: Ethiopia and Saint Kitts and Nevis), the unity of the nation as a common and indivisible homeland of all its citizens.

According to our 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.

Thanks to the Constitution, Catalonia enjoys, as do all other 16 Spanish autonomous communities, one of the highest levels of self-government in the world, with a level of competences that may well be compared to those of any German “land,” for instance.

Catalonia has its own executive and legislative institutions, and its own police and civil code. It elects (in 40 electoral occasions since 1978) its representatives at the national, regional, local and European levels, and uses and promotes the Catalan language. Its citizens enjoy every civil and political right. Our legal framework goes as far as giving all 17 Spanish autonomous communities the possibility of setting up delegations abroad that may exercise the protection of the interests that fall within the scope of their competences and the Spanish legal framework.

I had the pleasure to write an article in your newspaper in November 2014 to refute another article by Mr. Freund headlined “Europe’s insufferable hypocrisy.” I hope he will find some time to read this column because unfortunately, it seems that this was not the case in 2014.

The writer is the Spanish ambassador to Israel.

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