Mass Demo Taking Place in Barcelona Now, by Duncan Sutherland

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Dear Paul,

Article 155 will, among other things, enable the Spanish Government to replace the Catalan Police (the Mossos d’Esquadra) with the Spanish Guardia Civil and National Police, who can be expected to be policing demonstrations like this in future, if they are even allowed to take place. If they are permitted, they may well not be reported by Catalan TV and Catalan Radio in a journalistically respectable way, as these organizations are to be taken over by the Spanish Government under Article 155.

This scenario, in which the Catalan Government is now powerfully motivated to organize a vote in the Catalan Parliament on a unilateral declaration of independence before the new repressive measures are fully authorized and can come into effect, seems to be what the European Commission wants. Curiouser and curiouser. The European empire strikes back. Today it reaches out to punish Catalonia for stepping out of line, tomorrow Blighty.


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23 réflexions sur « Mass Demo Taking Place in Barcelona Now, by Duncan Sutherland »

  1. President Puigdemont has announced that the Catalan Parliament is to meet next Friday to debate the implications of the application of Article 155. Phrased in such a way as to prevent suspension by the Constitutional Court.

  2. I thought you might care to consider the thoughts of a former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, who has a well-frequented website on which he has today published a post (entitled Banning Democracy) in which he argues that the Catalan parliamentary general election which that nice Mr Rajoy intends to call within 6 months of the application of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution is conceived of by the inner circle of the Spanish establishment as a contest in which pro-independence parties will not be permitted to take part on constitutional grounds.

    Such a move would, of course, be quite contrary to the democratic principles on which the European Union is based, would it not? It would mean that parties which wish to change the constitution could not participate in the process by which constitutional reform can in theory be achieved according to the constitution. It would mean that pro-independence parties would be driven underground, where the security forces of the state would hope to pursue them to destruction, no doubt.

    There have indeed been indications from Partido Popular parliamentarians that this is indeed possibly going to be the case. What, after all, would be the point in calling an election which would result in a replication of the present stand-off?

    Yesterday evening, in an address in Oviedo at an awards ceremony at which the top Eurocrats were fawning at his feet, the King of Spain described his unsavoury country as one of the pillars of the European Union, and Mr Juncker et al duly nodded sagely. With pillars like that the EU should expect to collapse at any minute, I venture to suggest, and would deserve to do so.

    « The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom – they are the pillars of society. » (Henrik Ibsen)

    Here is the link to Craig Murray’s post:

    1. Rajoy’s Spain is indeed one of the most trustworthy pillar of euro-austerity. He manages the Catalonian crisis wih the same rigidity as the Eurocrats managed the greek one. But this time the « greeks » and richer than those who deny their right to democracy. A dramatically new and unpredictable situation.

    2. (English version below)

      L’Espagne, un très beau pays n’en déplaise à M. Murray qui le traite de « douteux » (unsavoury), est effectivement un pilier de l’Union européenne, comme l’a remarqué le roi Felipe VI.

      Parmi les pays les plus peuplés, c’est en effet une exception unique en ce qu’aucun mouvement eurosceptique n’y dispose d’un poids significatif.

      La France et l’Italie ont chacune des mouvements fortement eurosceptiques puissants quoique pas majoritaires – il s’agit de « fortes minorités ». La Pologne a un gouvernement eurosceptique sur au moins certains sujets. Le Royaume-Uni… eh bien 🙂 Même en Allemagne, le mouvement eurosceptique est certes une minorité beaucoup plus réduite, mais plus tout à fait négligeable puisque l’AfD a reçu environ 13% des voix.

      Si les responsables européens souhaitent mettre fin à cette exception espagnole d’un pays subissant certaines des pires conséquences de la politique ordo-libérale européenne ET restant cependant pro-européen, le plus sûr moyen serait de prendre parti pour des gens qui veulent casser leur pays en morceaux. Rappelons que les drapeaux espagnols se vendent comme des petits pains depuis quelques jours – le nationalisme espagnol mis au défi par les séparatistes catalans est en pleine phase de recrudescence.

      Je pense que les dirigeants de l’UE le comprennent parfaitement, qu’ils pensent avoir déjà assez de mouvements eurosceptiques sur les bras, et ne feront rien pour en créer un nouveau là où il n’y en a pas encore.

      Spain, which is a very nice country whatever insults Mr Murray may direct at them (« unsavoury ») is indeed a pillar of the European Union, as King Felipe VI recalled.

      Among most populated countries, it is indeed a one-of-its-kind exception in that no eurosceptic movement has any significant weight there.

      France and Italy each have powerful yet not majority strongly eurosceptic movements – these are « strong minorities ». Poland’s government is eurosceptic at least for some topics. The United Kingdom… well 🙂 Even Germany does have a non-neglectible eurosceptic movement now that the AfD has received about 13% of voices.

      If EU leaders want to terminate that Spanish exception of a country that has undergone some of the worst consequences of European ordo-liberal policy AND remains nonetheless pro-European, the best way for them would be to support people who want to break their country into pieces. Let’s recall that Spanish flags have been selling by the boatloads for a few days – Spanish nationalism that Catalan separatists are challenging is in full heating phase.

      I think EU leaders understand that very clearly, that they think having enough eurosceptic movements to cope with, and won’t do anything to create a new one where there is presently none.

  3. In his address to the Catalan people this evening President Puigdemont included a passage in English, as follows:

    « I want to address a message to Europe. Not only to its political leaders but also, and especially, to all European citizens, our brothers and sisters, with whom we share the European citizenship.
    If European foundational values are at risk in Catalonia, they will also be at risk in Europe.
    Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime. This goes against foundations that unite European citizens through their diversity.
    Catalonia is an ancient European nation. It is core to the European values.
    We do what we do because we believe in a democratic and peaceful Europe. The Europe of the Charter of Fundamental Rights that should protect each and every one of us.
    You should know that what you are fighting for at your home, we are also fighting for in Catalonia. And we will continue to do so. »

    Here is the link:

      1. Vigneron…

        C. Murray:

        Ses révélations seraient à l’origine de la découverte d’un réseau global d’enlèvement, séquestration et torture, qui aurait été mis en place par la CIA et le MI6 après le 11 septembre 2001 et dont le volet des « vols secrets » en Europe est le plus documenté. L’existence du réseau fait scandale en Europe.

  4. Dear Duncan, I’m not sure that Puigdemont will submit to a vote the declaration of independence. The risk of losing it is high. Catalan MPs of PDCat (Puidemont’s center-right party) are getting scared after the flight of banks and businesses. On the other hand I’m sure that Rajoy won’t dare to ban pro indepence parties for the next elections, he just trusts the effect of fear on older and richer Catalans. He might be right or wrong.
    And then, the part of Puigdemont speech adressed in English to the European public won’t have a great effect, except in Flanders, where it is already having it, without succeeding to convince other social or national groups.
    The best scenario, from my point of view, would be elections in Catalonia with all the parties running and non boycotted by pro independence parties. If these parties improve their present share of 47% of votes, the European authorities will change attitude. If they reduce it, they’ll have to accept that it is not the right moment to declare independence. And then, there should be general elections in the whole of Spain, because in any case the PP alone can’t pass the budget, and the rest of the parties, after helping the PP with this terrible crisis, will stop doing it, claim their reward, and try to reform the constitution and the electoral law.
    But I’m not optimistic. I hope this conflict will get a non violent solution, although the chances of violence are getting very high.

    1. As it happens, an opinion poll has emerged today which shows little change in support for the pro-independence parties of Catalonia: 47.9%, which would apparently enable them to maintain their overall majority in the Catalan Parliament if allowed to participate in the general election which the Spanish Government has stated that it intends to hold within 6 months of Article 155 coming into effect.

      How the Spanish Government would cope with renewed independentist control of the Catalan Parliament is something which it is presumably considering now.

      Reform of the Spanish constitution along federal lines, as the socialists propose and as may be considered in the foreseeable future by a parliamentary commission as a result of the agreement which the Spanish Government has entered into with them to secure their support for the action which it has initiated in respect of Catalonia, may conceivably be a tempting way out for some PdeCAT members of the Catalan Parliament, no doubt, if they are able to regard this as a realistic prospect.

      Here is a link to a report about the opinion poll:

    2. (English version below)

      Voici un autre lot de sondages en Catalogne qui sont assez éclairants :
      – 69% des Catalans soutiennent l’organisation de nouvelles élections afin de résoudre le conflit
      – Les souhaits pour l’issue finale du processus sont 36% pour l’indépendance, 46% pour davantage de gouvernement local, 9% pour aucun changement, 4% pour moins de gouvernement local
      – 56% pensent que le référendum du 1er octobre ne légitime pas une déclaration unilatérale d’indépendance
      – 81% pensent que le parlement catalan ne dispose pas d’assez de soutien international pour une déclaration unilatérale d’indépendance

      Les résultats sont assez clairs : si le parlement catalan souhaite tenir compte de l’opinion des habitants de Catalogne, il ne doit pas déclarer l’indépendance, mais il doit organiser des élections.

      La source :

      Here is another set of opinion polls in Catalonia which are rather enlightening:
      – 69% of Catalans support organizing new elections so as to solve the conflict
      – Wishes for eventual situation at end of process are 36% for independence, 46% for more local government, 9% for no change, 4% for less local government
      – 56% think the October 1st referendum does not legitimate an unilateral declaration of independence
      – 81% think the Catalan parliament does not have enough international support for an unilateral declaration of independence

      Results are clear enough: if the Catalan parliament wishes taking into account the opinion of people of Catalonia, they should not declare independence, but rather organize new elections.

  5. This morning on the Andrew Marr Show, a key BBC politics programme, the Spanish Foreign Minister put on a straight face and calmly assured the Great British public that Spain was not carrying out a « coup d’état » in Catalonia and that reports of Spanish police violence against Catalans voting on October 1st were mainly « fake news ».

    Here is the « fake news » as reported by the BBC:

    Here is part of the interview:

  6. I see that the debate in the Catalan Parliament on the subject of the activation of Article 155 has unsurprisingly been brought forward to Thursday, i.e. the day before the Spanish Senate is expected to give its approval to this measure.

  7. You may be interested in an article published by VilaWeb today on the subject of the Spanish Government’s proposed activation of Article 155. The author is an expert in constitutional law, Professor Marcel Mateu. It begins as follows:

    « PM Rajoy’s government has decided to wipe out Catalonia’s self-rule by resorting to an ad-hoc interpretation of Article 155 [of the Spanish Constitution] in what constitutes a modern version of the 18th century Nueva Planta decrees. They have given themselves carte blanche, ignoring the Spanish constitution and Catalonia’s Statute. With the PSOE and Ciudadanos as its accessories, the PP government has unilaterally razed Spain’s system of autonomous regions by replacing some of the pillars that held the edifice of devolution and stripping Catalonia of what little political power it still had.

    In fact, Madrid’s euphemistic monitoring of Catalonia’s finances –brought in a few weeks ago– had already dealt a deadly blow to the political nature of Catalan autonomy, and now they have administered the coup de grâce by twisting Article 155 of the Constitution to pretend that it says precisely the opposite of what it states. Article 155 allows the Spanish government to “issue instructions” to any regional authorities (and that’s something!), but it does not exempt it from obeying the law and, therefore, any steps taken by Madrid and any instructions given must be lawful. And every measure announced by the Spanish cabinet contravenes Catalonia’s Statute, which is, in itself, a fundamental law of the Spanish State. »

    Here is the link to the article:

  8. I unhesitatingly agree that Spain is a very beautiful country, but the numerous ghosts of the historically recent past have evidently not all been laid to rest.

    Catalonia, unlike Spain, is an intensely republican country, which has struggled throughout its history to preserve and protect its institutions, not least during the Spanish civil war, when it was the last part of the territory of the Spanish republic to be overrun by the fascist forces of Francisco Franco, under whose rule President Lluis Companys of the Generalitat of Catalonia was executed by firing squad for « military rebellion », which is in fact the crime which Franco committed but got away with as a result of holding on to power until his death.

    The authoritarian instincts of the political clans of that era, which still constitute an important element of the political establishment of present-day Spain, are currently on display for all to see. Do take a look at the constitutional lawyer’s article to which I have provided a link today in another commentary.

    It is ironic that an enthusiastically Europhile country such as Catalonia should be so disregarded by the European Union. However, one understands that Spain is not the only member of the EU to have provided itself with a constitution which is inimical to the right of peoples to self-determination. This factor is arguably one which makes the EU an unsuitable organization for an enlightened democracy such as the United Kingdom to belong to.

    It is also ironic that Scotland, which has benefited from the flexibility of the highly developed UK constitution in being permitted to hold an independence referendum, is, like Catalonia, highly Europhile, even though at the time of our independence referendum in 2014 it was made clear to us that the EU was no more interested in an independent Scotland than it is now in an independent Catalonia, partly because our referendum displeased Spain, which, while respecting the right of the UK to allow our referendum, does not take the view that it is in principle appropriate or desirable for the opinion of the population of a constituent territory to determine which state it belongs to in any circumstances.

    The UK and continental Europe simply do not see eye to eye on this matter and a host of other ones, just as Catalonia and Spain cannot agree. The UK has finally decided to leave the EU. It remains to be seen whether Catalonia will leave Spain.

    One thing is clear. The EU does not like to lose territory any more than does Spain. They are bosom brothers in that respect and consequently very difficult to deal with, as the currently deadlocked Brexit negotiations would appear to indicate.

    When partners conclude that they have irreconcilable differences, the logical conclusion is, I venture to suggest, that they should part, or at least form a relationship which takes full account of those differences. Spain, unfortunately, like the EU, does not seem to like logical consequences if they mean that it cannot get its own way.

    1. La mauvaise appréciation de la logique , me semble plutôt assez clairement du côté du gouvernement catalan , dès son premier pion avancé , et peut être même avant .

      1. What is logical can seem illogical if the assumptions upon which it is based are not appreciated or accepted or are perhaps even not perceived by the observer. The Catalan independentists’ strategy is founded on a different set of assumptions from that of the Spanish Government. That is why there is consistent divergence and no convergence.

        What is at stake is the Generalitat of Catalonia. This is an entity conceived of by the Spanish Government purely in terms of the 1978 constitution, whereas in reality it is an ancient institution predating that document by centuries. From a Catalan perspective that constitution was a means to restore what Spain had taken away. In other words, the Generalitat is viewed as essentially a Catalan institution rather than something which belongs to the Spanish state.

        This view is reinforced by the belief that the Catalans are a people entitled to self-determination, although the Spanish constitution does not accept that. Furthermore, the Catalan Parliament is commonly regarded in Catalonia as sovereign, although that is, of course, not its status as defined by the Spanish constitution.

        The Catalan Government has accordingly essentially been proceeding on the basis of a popular Catalan understanding of the Generalitat combined with its own understanding of international law in its pursuit of independence, whereas the Spanish Government has been maintaining its own particular interpretation of the 1978 constitution, which is disputed although approved by its Constitutional Court.

        In view of the foregoing the current attempt to interfere with the powers and functions of the Generalitat would appear to be doomed to heighten conflict rather than reduce it. This rather predictable Castilian reaction is the logical consequence of the independentists’ strategy, and it does appear to be what they wanted, as they seem to believe that it will serve their purpose.

  9. As you may be aware, the organization of the Catalan independence referendum relied to some extent on support from what is known in the Catalan lands as North Catalonia, i.e. the Pyrénées Orientales department of France.

    For example, while the Spanish Guardia Civil and National Police were busy tracking down and destroying ballot boxes and ballot papers in their part of Catalonia, supporters of Catalan autonomy on the northern side of the Pyrenees were busy making up the deficit by providing the needed materials from resources which had been prepared in advance beyond the reach of the Spanish authorities.

    I mention this to indicate that I do realize that the independence of Spanish-occupied Catalan territory would understandably not be welcomed by authorities in France for reasons which are not far to seek. I also mention it to draw attention to a further development involving North Catalonia.

    It appears from a report in El Periodico, to the reliability of which I cannot testify, that sympathisers on the French side of the border have been preparing to offer accommodation and other facilities to the Catalan Government so that it may have a bolt hole in which possibly to establish itself, improbable though that may seem, and avoid prosecution for rebellion, presumably while awaiting the result of applications for political asylum. What, I wonder, would the European Commission make of that? (I fear my tongue may have found its way into my cheek but am not entirely sure.)

    To be fair to the EU, President Juncker has claimed that he privately advised that nice Mr Rajoy to « head off » the Catalan Government by defusing the situation with an offer which it could not refuse before the referendum was due to take place. If he did indeed do this, he was evidently wasting his time, as there are subjects on which Mr Rajoy is not amenable to reason, and Catalonia is one of them. Mr Juncker needed to take the bull by the horns publicly to put pressure on the Spanish Government but failed to do so. Consequently, matters are now getting out of hand, and a potentially monumental and cascading crisis appears to be building up. One can but hope that it will finally concentrate minds, even in Madrid.

    « Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think. » (Jawaharlal Nehru)

    Here is the link to the El Periodico report:

    1. I can’t guarantee what would be the reaction of the French government if Puigdemont and his close associates were to establish themselves in France. I strongly suspect however they would be content with applying the law, all of the law, nothing but the law – for the very simple reason that it would make the most sense 🙂

      The legal situation seems as follows:
      – Carles Puigdemont is citizen of a EU country, therefore he has the right to reside in France as he sees fit
      – If the Spanish justice presents French authorities with a request to send them a Spanish resident of France who is wanted for a trial, the request will be granted as a matter of course, because Spain is a country with democracy and rule of law

      Therefore Puigdemont’s ability to reside in France would depend entirely on his not being wanted in Spain.

      But then, if he is not wanted in Spain… why would he choose to reside in France? He would be entirely welcome, for sure, but what would be interest for him?

      1. As I understand it, there would be no question of Mr Puigdemont seeking refuge anywhere, as measures taken under Article 155 cannot remove him from membership of the Catalan Parliament, which is to continue to operate after a fashion. The same applies to those members of his administration who are also members of that legislature. Those ministers who do not have parliamentary immunity would probably in fact rather stay and be prosecuted, I imagine, to strengthen the campaign of public disobedience which may be expected.

        Facilities provided by sympathizers over the border will presumably be made use of by various and numerous individuals who may be about to lose their livelihoods through dismissal or unwillingness to serve the Spanish control regime that is to be installed by means of takeover of Catalan ministries, the Catalan police and the Catalan public media, which might in this way conceivably contrive to disseminate news free of Spanish Government control.

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