Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Catalonia's Drive to Vote on Independence
The referendum on independence planned for Sunday in Catalonia, Spain, is about more than a people's wish for self-government. It threatens the very democracy and rule of law that Spain insisted upon after the decades-long dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco came to an end in 1975.
Our 1978 Constitution sought to guarantee freedom, civil rights and prosperity for all citizens. We aligned our country with the European project of continental integration. Spain has always been an amalgam of distinct regions demanding greater self-government, and the writers of our Constitution bravely put an end to three centuries of highly centralized government.
The Constitution established a system of autonomy that empowered each region and some "nationalities" to have their own government and parliament. The regions were given important powers – some have fiscal autonomy – that went beyond the powers delegated to semiautonomous regions in most federal countries. And like every other democratic Constitution, ours provides for procedures to amend it.
Our national consensus has worked for 40 years. It is now being challenged by the Catalan government's irresponsible drive for a referendum on independence.
The crisis is not just about the desire for independence. Catalans are free to hold any political views they wish – and that happens on the Catalan streets every day.
The problem with the movement for a referendum is that the Catalan leaders are disregarding democratic procedures. The government in Madrid and the courts have ruled that the referendum is illegal. But Catalan political parties that favor secession have accelerated their divisive, unconstitutional plans.
Earlier this month, political parties that represent a minority of the Catalan people but hold a slight majority of seats in the Catalan Parliament passed a set of laws to hold the referendum and to "disconnect" Catalonia from the rest of Spain. The pro-independence parties broke the rules of parliamentary procedure.
Spain is a highly functional democracy. Freedom House has awarded our country its highest score for political and civil rights. The Economist places Spain among the "full democracies" in the world. As someone who was persecuted by Franco's regime for my political convictions, I never could have dreamed of such democratic success.
Yet the Catalan regional authorities are putting this remarkable achievement in danger.
There is no "de facto emergency state" in Catalonia, as some in the region claim. There is no suspension of human or civil rights. Federal authorities are not prosecuting people in Catalonia for supporting independence.
That said, my fellow social democratic mayors are being singled out by the Catalan government for taking a stance against the referendum.
George Orwell, a great admirer of Spain and Catalonia, once said that "nationalism is power-hunger tempered with self-deception." Catalan's extreme nationalism is no exception to the Orwellian rule. What has been unfolding since early September runs counter to the kind of open society that has allowed Catalonia to thrive and Barcelona, its regional capital, to become a global icon as part of a diverse Spain.
We should address this challenge with the full strength of our values and with the weight of our democratic laws and institutions. And we should also have a frank and constructive conversation about the mistakes that all sides have made in recent years, and how to overcome them.
Like many Spaniards, I am concerned that disregarding the Constitution will shake the foundations of our democracy.
Throughout my life, I have witnessed the fragmentation of many countries, and I cannot conceive of that happening in the European Union of today. I hope that dialogue will prevail and that solving this crisis will be an opportunity to improve our democratic system and strengthen our institutions.
Javier Solana is a former secretary general of NATO and a former head of foreign policy for the European Union.
[Source: By Javier Solana, The New York Times, 28Sep17]
DDHH en Espaņa
|This document has been published on 29Sep17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|