An anxious Europe awaits

the presumably eventual announcement by the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, of the region’s secession from Spain.

Puigdemont has vowed to press ahead with his independence drive and is due to address the regional Parliament Tuesday. Rajoy, who will address the Spanish parliament on Wednesday, pledged that “national unity will be maintained” by using all instruments available to him. That includes suspending the regional administration and sending in security forces.

While Rajoy’s opening position is not surprising, what has raised the eyebrows of many is the not terribly-veiled threat made by a Popular Party spokesman:

Popular Party spokesman Pablo Casado, the party’s deputy secretary for communications, said during a press conference on Monday that Carles Puigdemont, the current First Minister of Catalonia, could “end up” like former First Minister Lluis Companys, who also declared the independence of the region on October 6, 1934.

Mr. Casado was referring to the 83rd anniversary, which was last Friday.

“Let’s hope that nothing is declared tomorrow because perhaps the person who makes the declaration will end up like the person who made the declaration 83 years ago.”

Casado did not specify if he was referring to what happened in the months following October 6, 1934—when Companys was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in prison for rebellion—or what ultimately happened to the former Catalan leader.

After leaving Spain for exile in France during the Spanish Civil War, Companys was handed over by the Nazis to the Francoist regime, tried before a war council and executed at Montjuic (Barcelona) on October 15, 1940.

Casado’s idiotic remark naturally led to swift condemnation, and indicates that chances for a peaceful resolution remain low.

However, that does not mean that such a resolution should not be sought out. Gerry Adams, president of Sein Féin, provided a refresher on what a framework for a peaceful agreement would look like:

While no two disputes are the same, the broad principles to address and resolve differences are very similar and can be adapted to suit specific needs. These principles have at their heart the centrality of dialogue and mediation: the process must tackle the causes that lie at the core of the dispute. The process must be inclusive, with all parties treated as equals and mandates respected. All issues must be on the agenda, with nothing agreed until everything is agreed. There can be no preconditions and no vetoes. There can be no attempt to predetermine the outcome or preclude any outcome, and there should be a timeframe. This will provide a dynamic. Participants must stay focused and be prepared to take risks and engage in initiatives to advance the process.

The problem with Spain’s Catalonian problem is that Catalonians, in many ways, are very Spanish, particularly in their temperament. As Eric Margolis writes:

The national government in Madrid now threatens to block any further votes, dissolve the Catalan government, the Generalitat, and lock up many independence leaders.  Doing so would be very dangerous.  Spaniards are a courageous, hot-headed people who are not to be bullied.  No one wants to even think again about the awful 1930’s civil war whose echoes still reverberate today.

Margolis also observed that King Felipe IV, who should have stayed above the fray, did not do anyone any favors by “denouncing the Catalan independence-seekers, thus bringing the wrath of the Catalans on his head.”

And while a debate could be had over whether Catalonia’s secession from Spain furthers the cause of liberty, in the end, it is up to the Spanish people to determine how best to resolve this conflict.

I simply pray that, regardless of what happens this week, Spaniards keep their wits about them, and figure out a way to resolve this without violence and bloodshed.

If the Spanish (and American) civil wars have taught us anything, “victory” through violence not only does not resolve any conflicts. Further, they also create new ones, and make previous grudges that much more intractable.

May the Spanish people always act to further peace among themselves and their neighbors.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for Spain!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for Catalonia!

 

Spain (and Europe) are losing control of the narrative

FILE PHOTO: Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini (C) poses with the Lion of Saint Mark flag, with politicians Luca Zaia (L) and Roberto Maroni, during a rally downtown Rome, February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

As Catalonia appears to be preparing to declare independence from Spain early next week, central governments across Europe are feeling increasingly anxious about their ability to control their respective secessionist movements.

Catalonia

The primary argument made by the Spanish government and its alles against Catalonian secession is that the region’s process to secede has been inconsistent with established law.

Thomas Harrington, professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College, calls that argument hogwash:

Do you remember all the procedurally pristine processes that led to the independence (and, in numerous cases, subsequent rapid entry into the EU) of countries like Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and a long list of others? I don’t either because they didn’t take place. And I certainly don’t remember any of today’s legion of newborn “proceduralists” raising any objections about it then.

What took place was that EU leadership class led by Germany saw in these countries as a new set of relatively virgin markets that were also filled with low wage labor that would allow them serve, in Emannuel Todd’s words, as Germany’s “Near China”.

Arguably more important that [t]his was NATO’s – which is to say the US’s – desire to surround the former Soviet Union with countries loyal to its geopolitical aims. They knew that by pressuring the Europeans to swiftly acquiesce to the independence of the newly declared independent countries of the east, they could quickly corral those countries into serving as part of the US’s emerging anti-Russian coalition, an absolutely essential element of the American’s long-term geopolitical plans.

In addition to avoiding these realities, the new army [of] oh-so-concerned proceduralists obviate the fact that from the very beginning of the current drive for independence in 2010 it has been precisely the Catalanists who have talked constantly about the need to carry the referendum off in the most transparent way possible, only to be told again and again by the Spanish state that there was nothing to talk about.

To hold up the lack of pristine procedure as a fatal strike against the Catalan cause when their natural interlocutor will not allow talks about proper procedure to even begin, is tantamount to severely penalizing a woman who finally walks out the door of her house after having had her perennial requests for a peaceful, no-contest divorce dismissed out of hand by the man she no longer loves.

Finally, if there is one thing that established states can always do, as we saw on Sunday in a particularly crude way, it is to sabotage the “procedures” of the the incipient states within its borders. To appoint the potential sabotager of democratic procedures, in this case Spain, as the judge of whether proper procedures were followed in the region seeking independence is, in addition to being patently absurd, to hand the established state an effective veto power sine die in the clash of political interests

I don’t remember anyone granting the Serbs or the Russians this absurd privilege in earlier times. Why then are supposedly liberal and democratic people bending over backwards to provide the Spaniards with it now?

Lombardia and Venezia

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s relatively successful attempt at holding a secession vote has given northern Italians an additional impetus to seek further autonomy from the central Italian government:

This month the Lombardy region and the city of Venice will both vote on new powers of autonomy at referendums which are now taking on increasing levels of controversy.

Previously seen as a low-scale vote on local powers, the referendums are now experiencing symbolic overtones following last Sunday’s Catalonian chaos.

Last weekend more than 800 people were injured by police as a referendum on independence for Catalonia was held – against the express wishes of leaders in Madrid and Brussels.

And now  is facing similar chaos with two referendums set to be held on October 22, although in these instances the votes are state-approved and will not face violent opposition.

The autonomy referendums for Lombardy, a region which includes Italy’s second-largest city of Milan, and the travel hotspot of Venice will also differ from Catalonia in that they are not binding.

The referendums will ask voters if they want their regional council to invoke the third paragraph of Article 116 of the Italian Constitution.

This allows regions with a balanced budget to ask the Italian government to entrust them with new powers and a greater degree of autonomy.

(h/t Vox Day)

Just the beginning?

Additionally, the Express correctly observed that “the consequences of two yes votes could be shattering for Italy, sparking other separatists movements across the European Union nation.” (By the way, isn’t it interesting that the article calls the EU a “nation”?) For example, in addition to Catalonia, many Basques want to be independence from Spain. Scotland is considering seceding from Britain. Furthermore, Belgium, France, and Denmark have to contend with secession movements of their own.

While EU bureaucrats had been dreaming about creating a European superstate, for now it appears that they’ll have to turn their attention to helping their member states remain in current form.

Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.

 

Catalonia votes for independence from Spain

From the Daily Mail:

Catalan officials claimed 90% of 2.2million voters had called for independence in an ‘illegal’ referendum blighted by violent scenes which left at least 888 people injured.

World leaders condemned the brutal scenes after officials revealed that hundreds of protesters have been injured so far.

Officers were seen kicking and stamping on protesters as they stormed buildings and seized ballot boxes.

Footage captured in the village of Sarria de Ter in the province of Girona showed authorities using an axe to smash down the doors of a polling station where Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was due to cast his vote.

He said the region had won the right to become an independent state with the referendum results due in a few days.

And in Barcelona, the region’s capital, officers fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters demonstrating against their votes being denied.

While one can argue over whether the referendum truly reflects the general sense of Catalonians, one thing is clear: Spain has lost the moral high ground. As Vox Day writes:

Spain is losing the moral level of war in Catalonia. Badly. The Spanish can cry “the vote is illegal” all they like, but the Spanish government can no longer pretend to have democratic legitimacy in Catalonia or to be anything but an imperialist state governing an unwilling people by force. The vote is no longer even necessary at this point; world opinion is actively turning against Spain. Had Spain encouraged the vote and offered incentives for a No vote, it might well have won. But by fighting against it and resorting to violence – even well-restrained violence of the sort it has utilized thus far – it has significantly increased the likelihood that Catalans will vote for independence.

I also agree with Vox when he argues that while the Catalonian elite may well be a collection of economically ignorant fools, and rule by the will of the people may well be an illusion, Catalonians have the right to decide for themselves how they wish to be governed. Or put another way, regardless of what Spanish law may say, Spain does not have the right to prevent Catalonians from seceding.

Of course, this devolution from the center could lead to the further splintering of Spain. And Catalonia, for that matter. After all, the principle of self-determination naturally flows down to the individual.

In any event, Spain and the European Union have their hands full. Central governments have been plying their socialist trade for far too long. They have clearly failed their subjects (as if the elite cared about them in the first place), and the subjects are fighting back. Time will tell how Spain’s Catalonian problem will resolved.

Hopefully it will be done so peacefully.

Europe Watch: United Kingdom formally begins process of exiting the European Union

It is official.

The formal process of the United Kingdom exiting the European Union has begun:

The U.K. formally began the process of exiting the European Union on Wednesday, embarking on an unprecedented path from which British Prime Minister Theresa May said there would be no turning back.

Nine months after Britain voted to leave the EU, Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the bloc, hand-delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk formally notifying the bloc that the U.K. will be the first member state ever to leave it.

“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” Mrs. May said in Parliament. “Britain is leaving the European Union.”

This is the first of potentially many steps that could not only lead to the unraveling of the European Union, but of countries with the Union as well, including the UK. Among the current moves away from either the EU or European countries include the following:

  • Scotland: The Scottish Parliament has approved a referendum that would ask citizens whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom so that it can become a member of the European Union. However, UK Prime Minister Theresa May says that “now is not the time” for a referendum.
  • France: Marine Le Pen, who has called for Franch to leave the EU, is leading in one of the latest opinion polls, and now stands to win 25 percent of the first round of voting.
  • Spain: The regional government of Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, has pledged to hold a binding referendum on independence this year, notwithstanding Spanish government’s refusal to recognize the outcome.

Meanwhile, there are active Euroskeptic movements in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland.

How the European Union and the countries within it reacts to all of these movements will be fascinating to watch.