Saturday, September 9, 2017

What is the matter with Catalonia

September is the season of marches and pseudo-referendums in our land, and this year is no exception. A narrow majority in the Catalan autonomous Parliament tries to impose a new illiberal democracy that will be stopped by the Constitutional institutions of Spain with the support of the European Union. Catalonia has an average income that is above the average income of the EU citizens. Its original language is official and the one used as a priority in the school system. The police, prisons, universities, hospitals, are run by the regional government. Nevertheless, a successful campaign by the Spanish Popular Party, now ruling in Spain, in 2010, to put pressure on the Constitutional Court to reject parts of a new Statute of Autonomy, triggered a campaign for Independence that has been used by the conservative nationalists in Catalonia, under pressure from their own corruption scandals and austerity policies, to start a scalation of commitments to something that is ultimately impossible: a unilateral and peaceful process of Independence that disconnects Catalonia from Spain but not from the European Union. The Catalan society is deeply divided and examples of intolerance and the mob rule (so fare, limited to the social networks) now abound. We can afford it as long as tourists keep visiting us and our economy remains healthy, but we are giving a very sad example of fanatic nationalism and illiberal democracy. The narrow majority in the Catalan government (with the necessary support of a radical euro-phobic group) tries to impose a procedure to vote in a referendum excluding half of the citizenry from the decision about the question, the date, the legal framework, the electoral authority, etc., of the pseudo-referendum. Those who oppose it need more than reasons, we need emotions and narratives. We keep working on it, for example reading today Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian (the answer is Europe, not making the mistake that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is about to make, of visiting Donald Trump days before the pseudo-referendum): "In a talk on Thursday night, Le Carré spoke of the behaviour of Donald Trump and others as “absolutely comparable” to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. “It’s contagious, it’s infectious. Fascism is up and running in Poland and Hungary. There’s an encouragement about,” he said.
This is a warning to take seriously. Hungary is indeed led by a man who boasts that he is building an “illiberal state”, while Poland’s government is trampling over fundamental democratic protections, including an independent judiciary and freedom of the press (and Trump is cheering them on as they do so).
The US president is not making America great again, but he is making the 1930s current again. Perhaps, then, and in a way he would not want, Trump is providing the anti-Brexiteers with the one thing they always lacked: an emotional heart to their argument. Trump and the fascist contagion is reminding us why the EU exists: to ensure that the neighbourhood we live in is never again consumed by the flames of tyranny and hatred.
On that fateful day in June 2016, it’s possible that some of those who voted leave did so because they believed that democracy and peace were now safe and secure in Europe. In the short time that has passed since, we have seen that those things are, in fact, fragile. As the head of Nato warns that the world is at its most dangerous point in a generation, Britain’s duty, to use a word that might make Smiley wince, is surely to defend the body that helped lead Europe out of its darkness."

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