Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia

View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016
View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016 (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Catalonia’s independence referendum has aroused separatist sentiment north of the border, where a Catalan-speaking minority has long been content to live under French rule.

Northern Catalonia, or Roussillon, has been French since 1659.

Despite the presence of a small but vocal group of Catalan nationalists and a political party, the Unitat Catalana (UC), most of the region’s inhabitants have no desire to break away.

But recent events — not just those in Spain — have given French Catalans reason to question the status quo. Read more

Polls Vindicate Puigdemont’s Decision to Form Separatist List

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Carles Puigdemont appears to have made the right decision forming a new political entity, called Together for Catalonia, as opposed to leading his center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) into next month’s election.

Two recent polls, one published in El Periódico, the other in ABC newspaper, give the deposed president’s list almost 17 percent support.

That puts it neck and neck with the liberal Ciudadanos and mainstream Socialist Party — both of which oppose Catalan independence — for second place.

Together for Catalonia uses PDeCAT’s infrastructure but has drawn candidates from civil society. Read more

Catalan Socialists Choose Opposition Over Deal with Separatists

Catalonia's Miquel Iceta addresses a Spanish Socialist Party congress in Alcalá de Henares, November 11
Catalonia’s Miquel Iceta addresses a Spanish Socialist Party congress in Alcalá de Henares, November 11 (PSOE)

Catalonia’s Socialists have taken themselves out of contention for the next coalition government by refusing deals with parties that, in the words of leader Miquel Iceta, have taken the region “to the brink of the abyss.”

Even if the European Democratic Party and the Republican Left, which jointly ruled Catalonia until the regional government was dissolved by Madrid, renounce secession, the Socialists would still not partner with them, Iceta said in a television interview.

He would not commit to a unionist pact with center-right parties either, thus condemning the Socialists to four more years in opposition. Read more

Rajoy Walks Back Promise of Constitutional Reform

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain gives a speech in Las Palmas, June 18, 2016
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain gives a speech in Las Palmas, June 18, 2016 (PP)

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has walked back his promise of constitutional reform, saying in a radio interview, “I have never been a supporter of reforming the Constitution. I’m prepared to listen, but not to go against unity or sovereignty.”

His only concession was to agree the current model of autonomous communities needs to be “evaluated” — but that could mean different things:

  • Left-wing parties argue for something close to federation, perhaps even with a right to self-determination for the Basques and Catalans.
  • Nationalists on the right, who felt Rajoy didn’t intervene strongly enough to disrupt the October 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, argue for centralization. Read more

Don’t Exaggerate Russian Meddling in the Catalan Independence Crisis

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011 (Mark Turner)

Spanish media exaggerate Russia’s role in the Catalan independence crisis.

Russian state media, like RT and Sputnik, and Russia-friendly trolls, like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have predictably sought to exploit the crisis in a major European Union and NATO country, for three reasons:

  1. To encouraging Catalan separatism.
  2. To provoking an overreaction from the Spanish right.
  3. To legitimizing the self-determination referendum it organized in the Crimea in 2014.

But there is little evidence Russian propaganda has changed anyone’s mind. Read more

Pro- and Anti-Independence Parties Fail to Unite in Catalonia

Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia's Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015
Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia’s Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015 (CDC)

Catalan parties in favor and opposed to seceding from Spain have failed to unite in time for the election in December.

A unionist list proposed by the liberal Ciudadanos has been rejected by the Socialists and People’s Party.

A separatist alliance fell apart when the Republican Left conditioned it on the participation of other left-wing parties. Read more

Belgians Criticize Persecution of Catalan Leaders

Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015
Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015 (European Council)

Belgian politicians from the left and right have criticized Spain’s persecution of Catalan leaders, five of whom, including the deposed regional president, Carles Puigdemont, have sought refuge in Brussels.

  • Jan Jambon, interior minister and member of the New Flemish Alliance: “Knocking on peaceful people, government members who are jailed… What did they do wrong? They carried out the mandate they received from their voters. I wonder where Europe is in all this. This is happening in a European member states and the silence is deafening.”
  • Elio Di Rupo, former prime minister and leader of the opposition Socialist Party: “Puigdemont has abused his position, but Rajoy has behaved like an authoritarian Francoist. Let’s find the path to a more federal Spain.”
  • Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister and leader of the liberal bloc in the European Parliament, which includes Spain’s Ciudadanos and Catalonia’s European Democratic Party: “While we have to respect the right and the obligation of Spanish courts to defend and to protect the rule of law, the question must be asked if this imprisonment is disproportionate. Are there no other ways to secure that these separatist leaders receive a fair trial and a judgement?”
  • Bart De Wever, mayor of Antwerp and leader of the New Flemish Alliance: “Things are happening here which we wouldn’t tolerate in any country of the European Union. You don’t lock people up for practicing their democratic rights.” Read more