Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Tuesday, 28 april 2009 | Financial Times

English

A Public Reply to the Financial Times

El prestigiós diari Financial Times va publicar el passat 15 d’abril l’article Spain's 'coffee for all' can be a bitter brew, on presenta una visió esbiaxada de Catalunya. Seguint la iniciativa que es va iniciar amb la resposta a l’article How much is enough de la revista The Economist, s’ha constituït el Col·lectiu Emma, que té com a objectiu respondre (ja sigui nosaltres directament o fent difusió de respostes que compartim fetes per altres persones) a les informacions inexactes que apareguin a la premsa internacional sobre la realitat nacional catalana.

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To the Financial Times

Dear Sir,

Once again, the Madrid correspondent of a major British publication -The Economist started on that path a few months ago- has done a good job of echoing the prevailing opinion in the Spanish capital about the country's regional make-up. Presenting also the other side of that argument would have been welcome and certainly fairer. We shall presume to give him one or two brief pointers.

On the culture front, the centralist view that he uncritically endorses treats the existence of languages other than Castilian as an artificially imposed burden and a bothersome factor for the good conduct of the State and the economy. Strangely, no correspondent has ever been heard making a similar point about other societies with minority languages. If Catalans (roughly 10 million speakers) are expected to renounce their measly native tongue to embrace their larger neighbour's exalted speech, perhaps little Denmark (5,5 million), or even the Netherlands, ought to give up their own vernaculars in favour of high German, which would certainly open many doors in one of Europe's heavyweights right across their borders. And what about puny Israel (around 7 million)? Wouldn't it be a good idea for Israelis to forget that nonsense about Hebrew and start teaching their children Arabic, spoken by almost 300 million of their up-and-coming neighbours? Those are all examples of other advanced societies that have chosen to keep their own mother tongue -and their identity with it- and also, quite reasonably, made sure that everyone is given the chance to have a good command of English. Indeed, few Catalans would object if they were given the choice to study English as a second language instead of having Spanish imposed upon them.

As to the economy, and particularly the last sentence in the article regarding who foots the bill not only for the system of autonomous communities but for the far from lean central government as well, your correspondent would have found an indisputable answer if he had taken the trouble to direct his glance at the egregious fiscal imbalances among the Spanish regions. For instance to the fact that in 2005 Catalan taxpayers forked out to the State 19,000 million euros more than they got back in services or investments. That should have given him a clue as to who pays the Spanish bill, and also as to why a sizeable and growing segment of the educated public in Catalonia question the need for a viable society to keep subsidizing a political entity with a less than successful historical record, and then being told what to do -about language, among other things- by the less than capable representatives of that very entity. Perhaps a field trip to Barcelona, and a chat with the right people there, would serve to enlighten your correspondent on all that and more.


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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.

We aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalan point of view.
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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia