Federalism is not a utopia

The last ten years have not gone well for Catalonia, which has spent more time and energy on what it should have been than on what it had to do.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
24 April 2024 Wednesday 05:07
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Federalism is not a utopia

The last ten years have not gone well for Catalonia, which has spent more time and energy on what it should have been than on what it had to do. An accepted date to mark the beginning of the process can be the great demonstration of July 10, 2010 against the sentence of the Statute, which had gone through all the steps foreseen by the Constitution and, nevertheless, was amended in 14 articles at the request of the resources presented by the PP.

That great demonstration of hundreds of thousands of Catalans filling Paseo de Gràcia was led by President José Montilla, who had to be escorted by a security cordon of the Mossos before finishing the route after being scolded by a group of demonstrators.

Since that emotional shock of great political voltage, massive demonstrations have followed since the Day of 2012, which the then president Mas made his own. He asked for an exceptional majority advancing the elections to November 25 and went from 62 to 50 deputies of what was then CiU. He did not know how to read those results and continued forward towards independence, he called elections again in September 2015, won them again leading Junts pel Sí, but he did not have the ten votes of the CUP to be invested and in in the words of a Cuparian deputy, he was sent "to the dustbin of history".

In his place, the deputy Carles Puigdemont was unexpectedly elected president of the Generalitat, and without his knowledge until two days before, who promoted the holding of the unilateral referendum on the first of October 2017 and a very brief declaration of independence on the 27th of the same month.

The reaction of the Rajoy government is well known and what has happened since then to this day, too. The story will analyze in perspective the turbulent events that the State authorities and the political and social forces of Catalonia have played a leading role. Application of 155, arrests, imprisonments, exiles, trials, pardons, an amnesty law, the flight of thousands of companies and a division between Catalans that will once again be highlighted in the May 12 elections. No one has won even the story of the events. As Anne Applebaum says, there are always multiple and different opinions about everything. The problem is that there are also alternative facts or the absence of frameworks for discussion of proven facts that are collectively accepted as indisputable references.

The historical contention between Catalonia and Spain comes from a long time ago and will not be resolved in the next elections or in the following generations. Catalonia does not have enough strength to unilaterally separate from Spain, but it can destabilize the State to the point of producing the paradox that a politician on the run from Spanish justice has temporarily become the cornerstone that crowns the governance building ensuring the investiture of Pedro Sánchez. I don't mind repeating what I have written so many times on these pages: the independence of Catalonia will not happen against Spain and without the approval of Europe and the international community.

The great Hispanic historian J.H. Elliot, in his latest book Catalans and Scots, points out that too often the governments in London and Madrid did not take the concerns of Scots and Catalans seriously, and did not notice the cultural and emotional barriers that separated them. Dialogue is a central function of democratic government, but "there are barriers on both sides that don't want to be broken down", says Elliot. It is an absence of imagination to understand and assume the other's reasons.

But concrete and continuous actions are needed for the dialogue between the parties to offer satisfactory results. When dialogue ceases, Elliot continues, a new obstacle to independence is removed and secession may seem like the most convenient solution.

The upcoming elections on May 12 could indicate that the path taken ten years ago has led nowhere and that a strong dose of realism is needed to deal first with the problems in Catalonia, which are not few and affect many people, and, second, reach a fiscal, economic and financial pact with the State that facilitates social peace, progress and understanding with the other peoples of Spain.

Federalism has been successful in the United States, Germany, Canada and other countries. It is not a utopia.