Partisan Divide in German Views on Catalan Referendum

The left sympathizes with Catalan self-determination. Conservatives focus on the illegality of the planned vote.

A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

German views on Catalonia’s independence bid break down along partisan lines. Left-wing commentators sympathize with Catalan pleas for self-determination and blame Spain for the impasse. Conservatives focus on the illegality of the planned October 1 vote.

Mismanaged

Peter A. Kraus, a Catalan-German political scientist, argues in an interview with the leftist weekly Der Spiegel that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has mismanaged the separatist challenge:

If the Spanish government has changed the Constitution a few years ago and allowed a referendum, I doubt the proponents of independence would have won. Now Rajoy’s plan is to go backward.

Kraus worries what might happen if the Catalans continue to be denied a way to express their grievances democratically.

Tactical error

Julia Macher, reporting for the centrist newspaper Die Zeit, agrees that Rajoy has made a tactical error by treating the Catalan independence challenge as a legal problem. Now Spain can only lose this contest:

If, on election day, police officers were to confiscate ballot boxes before the cameras of international TV stations, the loss of face would be enormous.

“Authoritarian”

Telepolis takes a clear pro-Catalan stance, lambasting Madrid’s “authoritarian” response to the referendum:

It is about time Berlin, London, Brussels and others put the Spanish government in its place.

The author, Ralf Streck, also takes Spanish media to task for focusing on the constitutionality of the vote as opposed to Catalans’ reasons for wanting one.

“Worthy of a banana republic”

There are more critical voices on the right.

Ute Müller writes in Die Welt newspaper that the Catalan government is living in its own reality and that Catalan media are refusing to print news about the referendum, fearful of a “conflict” with Madrid. (That would be news to the editors of El Periódico and La Vanguardia.)

Leo Wieland, a former Madrid correspondent for the liberal Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, repeats the misleading claim of Spanish nationalists that Catalonia enjoys more autonomy than German states do in a commentary for Deutsche Welle. This may have been true before the Constitutional Court threw out part the region’s autonomy statute in 2010.

Wieland calls the referendum law “worthy of a banana republic” and argues that Rajoy’s hands are tied. “The Spanish Constitution does not allow a regional vote on secession.”

Sympathy in South Tyrol

Unser Tirol 24 reports that there is considerable sympathy for the Catalan independence movement in the German-speaking region of Italy. Members of the South Tyrol Shooting Federation are due to serve as election monitors.