A past chauvinist Spanish “war” – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” wrote Samuel Johnson in the 18th century, and unfortunately history continues to justify this early political essayist. Over the past few days, the Catalan separatists and the Iraqi Kurds held referendums to declare national independence, which was not at all necessary. The two regions have as much autonomy as they need. It was the political leaders who needed the catastrophic chauvinistic climax and precarious confusion, not the people. Such referendums usually rekindle perilous chauvinism and reinforce blinding “patriotic pride”. Not to mention the fact that it also refueled Spainthe deep social and economic problems of, such as the unemployment rate of 35% suffered by young people in Catalonia.
On the other side of the spectrum, the UK hosted the Scottish referendum in 2014, in an atmosphere of functional democracy and civilized debate. It was a calm confrontation between the two opposing camps. Compare the political idiosyncrasies and broader political backgrounds of four politicians; former British Prime Minister David Cameron who authorized the Scottish referendum, the Catalan populist president Carles Puigdemont, the quasi-dictatorial president of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani and the political “robot” of the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The real comparison is actually between an old democracy, a new democracy and an Asian autocracy. Let us return to the developments of last week.
Pure jingoism or deception?
The three main players in the current unjustified unrest Puigdemont, Barzani and Rajoy are doing what they do, without paying attention to the damage they are causing to their nations and countries. All three are politically in a state of limbo. The first is a populist who chooses chauvinism to secure his lead. The second is undoubtedly an unscrupulous Asian despot and the third, nicknamed a political “robot”, heads a faltering minority government. All of them are invariably tainted with corruption scandals and run near-bankrupt administrations.
But let’s focus on the Catalonia referendum, not because it plays a more important role globally than Iraqi Kurdistan, but because it strikes a chord in our European values. Not to mention that Catalonia was the first European nation to oppose Nazi Germany militarily, when Berlin supported General Franco to destroy democracy in Spain. In addition, it is first and foremost a European newspaper, and what is happening in Barcelona is much more painful for all of us Europeans.
The Catalonia of our dreams
Currently, now everyone knew that under normal circumstances the Catalan separatists, that is to say those who really want to leave Spain, before last week were surely – probably still – in the minority and deeply felt each other. divided. They include quite different political groups, from far-right leftists to right-wing “patriots”. So it wasn’t too hard for Madrid to split them and win the game.
Rather cruelly, Rajoy thought he had an opening, to gain political capital on a national scale, by turning a “fiesta” into a real political war. the English lesson suggested by many for him, to follow the paradigm of what David Cameron did with the Scots, went to no avail. Rajoy didn’t want to miss the opportunity to show how much of a “Spaniard” he was, by creating a much bigger issue, from a “national festival”. Madrid’s reaction under him went beyond any European political code of conduct or set of principles.
A risky game
No wonder the Spanish and British political worlds are on different worlds. Thus, Rajoy’s political myopia prevailed and everything got out of hand. However, not all Spanish prime ministers reacted to Catalonia separatism violently. In this matter, there is no room for the selfish attitude on the side of Madrid or the toxic chauvinist mentality, reminiscent of the past catastrophes of Europe. The attack of General Franco’s murderous regime on Barcelona kind of sparked World War II.
On the other side of the fence, the governments of socialist prime ministers Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had granted a high degree of autonomy to Catalonia. In this way, they effectively controlled separatism. Unfortunately, the Rajoy administration has greatly diluted the powers of regional bodies in the region, somewhat reviving the separatist movement.
On the one hand, he tried to present himself as the uncompromising guarantor of Spanish unity, thus hoping to secure his grip on the country’s highest post. There must be more. Many analysts believe his target was not the Catalan separatists but something else. Being a minority prime minister, Rajoy may have felt that the Socialist Party’s support in parliament would be cemented in view of a national crisis. It can work both ways. A major Catalan problem may also justify the Socialist Party’s support for its right-wing government.
Of course, today’s socialists are not González’s powerful party. The Spanish socialists followed the fate of their Greek counterparts in PASOK. They became a single-digit political party, supporting right-wing party governments as junior partners for years. They jointly imposed unpopular economic measures in order to save their countries’ reckless banks. Not to mention the repeated corruption scandals that have erupted in recent years.
The other part of the Spanish crisis duo, President Puigdemon turns out to be faster and less scrupulous than Rajoy. He cruelly exploited a national crisis to establish himself in the rocky political landscape of today’s Catalonia. Let’s follow his last thong. Last Monday, after the traumatic experience of the painful scenes on Sunday, he said: “We don’t want a traumatic breakup… We want a new deal with the Spanish stateIt was a clear attempt to tone down and be seen as a thoughtful and moderate politician, concerned above all with the safety and well-being of his fellow citizens.
Yet a few hours later, Wednesday morning, Puigdemon told a BBC journalist, the region would declare independence “at the end of this week or the beginning of next” and in any case when the results of the referendum are published. It was in the opposite direction, strongly fueling the fire he had tried to put out on Monday. Worse still, the little loved one King Felipe spoke harshly about Catalonia in a statement. It was as if he too wanted, like his Prime Minister, to turn the issue into a perilous, hopeless conflict between Madrid and Barcelona.
The head of state said those who organized the referendum are “disrespectful to the powers of the state”. Felipe solemnly added “They have violated the democratic principles of the rule of law”. Not a word on the unnecessary and brutal police violence of last Sunday aimed indiscriminately at the general public. Police equipped with batons and plastic bullets sent more than 900 wounded peaceful civilians to hospitals, who just wanted to vote in a more or less gracious frame of mind. The whole world has watched semi-military police units assault the elderly, women and even children.
As it stands, there are no communication channels between Madrid and Barcelona. Unfortunately, after the King’s harsh statement, a fairly certain statement from the independence of Catalonia Monday will make future developments completely unpredictable. the Spanish The constitution gives Madrid the right to install direct administration in Catalonia and to arrest members of the regional parliament who voted for “independence”. It will certainly make matters worse, also because both sides have locked themselves into an aggressive position. Apparently there is no light at the end of the animosity tunnel.
Who is going to clean up the mess?
In any case, the issue does not appear to significantly affect the rest of Europe. No other country or EU leader is taking sides. Likewise, there is definitely no discernible support for any separatist movement in the EU. In conclusion, similar separatist ideas, for example in Scotland or Flanders, are strongly opposed by EU institutions and governments and the same will happen in the case of Catalonia. The Spaniards have to clean up their mess themselves. They will only find voluntary mediators if they show signs of reconciliation. This is not a “Tribute to Cataloniathat’s a harlequin of it.