Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Friday, 21 august 2009 | Financial Times


A Public Reply to the Financial Times (III) - short version

Dear Sirs,

Your latest report on Spain (Flimsier footings) offers a good account of the rumblings that are increasingly heard in Madrid about the need for the state to put an end to the devolution process. We shall venture to offer a few comments from the Catalan side.

The central government is now finding that, with seventeen regional governments around the table representing different and often conflicting interests, the state’s administration can be unmanageable. It is also said to be costly. Catalans, who were never too pleased with the “coffee for all” solution to begin with, are major net contributors to the autonomic system and as such they would be the first to support a process aiming to put a stop to the waste and the inefficiency. But whenever the regional question is brought up in Spain it is rarely to find a rational solution to very real problems and usually ends up being a pretext for clipping the wings of those whose loyalty is questioned as a matter of course. It is rumored, for instance, that the long-awaited ruling by the constitutional court on the Catalan autonomy statute will be used to thwart any further advance in self-rule, not only for Catalans but for all the other regions that have taken the Catalan statute as a blueprint for their own.

Such an attempt to reimpose central authority across the board might help to curb the unwieldy multiplicity of administrations, but it won’t make the other more intractable problem go away – the one that created the need for the autonomic system in the first place. Catalans can never be comfortable in a centralized state, not because of the insatiable nature of their mean-spirited nationalism but mostly because it won’t recognize their separate identity and their need to apply their own solutions –and their own money– to their own particular problems.

Spanish nationalists stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that reality, and it could be precisely their voluntary blindness to it that is “laying the foundations for Catalonia to become an independent state within a few years”. In fact, they themselves give their game away when they unabashedly state their aim to “hispanify” Catalonia. That should tip one to the fact that Catalonia is not felt by them to be really Spanish, which, ironically, is what independentists have been claiming all along. An alarm should ring somewhere when even the routinely meek Catalan socialists –not separatists by a long stretch– have found it necessary to inform their colleagues now running the show in Madrid that there is in Catalonia a growing disaffection with Spain. Indeed, recent figures show that the idea of independence is steadily gaining ground, especially among the younger and better educated groups and in business and professional circles. Clearly, Catalans aren’t happy with the current arrangement and even less with what looms on the horizon. If their fears prove to be right, one can expect even more of them to join the already substantial number of those who “regard Madrid as a colonial power and are waging peaceful campaigns for greater autonomy or, occasionally, independence”.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia