Friday, 27 November 2009

Catalonia's Dignity

In an unprecedented move, all the Catalan newspapers have joined together to issue the same statement on their front covers about the legal decision pending on the future of Catalonia.
Almost three years have passed while the Constitutional Tribunal has dragged its collective feet in reaching a decision on the Catalan Estatut, the central document defining Catalonia's status and relationship with the Spanish state.
First published in 2006 and thrice democratically approved: first by voters through a referendum; secondly by Parliament and thirdly by the Head of State King Juan Carlos, the law has been batted back and forth to the point that serious doubts have been raised as to the validity of the process. It will be the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1977 that a tribunal will make a decision on a law that has been fundamentally approved by voters. Expectation is high.
One of the main causes of concern has been the the membership of the tribunal itself Out of the twelve judges that make up the tribunal, only ten are allowed to decide upon the official outcome as one (Pablo Pérez Tremps) has been disenfranchised after a deliberate move to influence the balance of the debate, and another (Roberto García-Calvo) died. Out of the ten judges able to vote, four remain in office despite losing their mandate as a consequence of the sordid disagreement between the government and the opposition over the renewal of an entity recently named by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as the 'Heart of Democracy'. A heart with hardened valves and no more than half of its parts neither free or able to reach an independent decision. This is the make up of the cassation court about to make a decision on Catalonia's Estatut.
The definition of Catalonia as a nation forms the opening part of the the Estatut. Matters of language and jurisdiction are central to the issue and have been cause of a constant friction which many people consider can only be cured through radical surgery: amputation of the Spanish state.
The Catalan press expressed concern that Catalonia has reached a cross roads and an important decision has to made about future direction. They reiterated the feeling that for too long Catalonia has been depicted by others as the thorn in the side of a strong unified Spain and underlined the annoyance caused by the continuous lack of respect shown towards its institutions, economic infrastructure, language and cultural traditions. They also pointed out that, despite this negative treatment, Catalonia has continued to make a huge contribution to the finances of the Spanish state while receiving little fiscal benefit in return.
An important part of the concluding part of this joint declaration was a warning that nobody should underestimate the determination of the Catalan people to have a satisfactory outcome to this judicial process: 'Nobody who knows Catalonia would doubt that a recognition of its identity, improvement in its self-government, a just financial agreement and marked improvement in infrastructures are, and will continue to be, pursued with due political and social vigour.'