What happens in Catalonia?

Radical nationalism and political recklessness are creating unneeded instability and uncertainty in one of Europe’s richest regions.


Catalans have always been part of Spain. Now radicals and greedy politicians are endangering catalan´s future.

The Kingdom of Spain is one of the oldest european nations. Known by the Romans as “Hispania”, it emerged as a modern nation state in the XV century when the medieval kingdoms of Aragon and Castile willingly united their fates under a common Crown. The Princedom of Catalonia, in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula, was part of the Crown of Aragon.

In 1978 the Spanish citizens voted the national Constitution. The Constitution established a democratic political system and proposed a highly decentralized model, organizing Spain in 17 autonomous regions with wide and relevant powers. The Constitution was voted in a nationwide referendum: 68% of catalans voted, of which more than 90% in favour of it, a higher percentage than other regions.

Since 1980 the autonomous Catalan government -the Generalitat- has been held by nationalist parties. Mr Jordi Pujol (CiU party, center), governed from 1980 to 2003, the best part of those years with absolute majority. A leftist nationalist coalition governed from 2003 to 2010, before CiU returned to power by the end of 2010 until today, under Mr Artur Mas.

During this 34 years Catalonia evolved, with the acquiescence and collaboration of the national Spanish government, into an almost completely autonomous region. Parallel to this increasing autonomy, the grip of the Generalitat on the political, legal, economical and social life of Catalonia expanded dramatically. The regional administration owns an almighty communications conglomerate (the CCRTV with 9 TV channels and 4 radio stations), subsidizes and controls all the regional press (including the local leader, La Vanguardia), manages its own regional police corps with 21,000 officers, has full powers over the Education (altough 55% of catalans have Spanish as mother tongue, early year´s kids only receive education in Catalan, Spanish being treated as a foreign language), manages the Health system, sets income tax rates, creates new taxes, issues sovereign bonds and manages a budget of €36 billion (half of Ireland´s and 40% of Israel´s). In 2006 a new highest rank regional law, the Estatut, replaced the one from 1979 and secured greater powers to the Generalitat, even though it was voted only by 36% of Catalans entitled to vote. Catalan regional powers are unparalleled in other decentralized countries.

Despite Catalonia being one of the richest regions in Spain (19% of Spanish GDP, per capita income index 125 vs Spain´s average), since 2011 the autonomous catalan government is broke. Today regional debt is above €62.000 millions, up from €30.000 millions in 2010. The Generalitat´s sovereign bonds are rated as junk. All the regional financial institutions except Caixabanc and BancoSabadell have been nationalised and bailed out by the national government. Pharmacists and other local administration suppliers do not get paid. Thanks to the regional taxes and tax rates, Catalan taxpayers suffer the highest fiscal pressure in Spain. The Generalitat is financially kept afloat thanks to a special credit line from the national government (the FLA).

Nationalist politicians blame the financial situation on the “fiscal deficit”, ie Catalonia gives more money to the rest of Spain than what it gets back. Independent estimates set this deficit at 5-6% of the regional GDP (Madrid has 10.8% and Valencia 2%), similar to what happens to the richest regions in other countries such as USA, Germany or Australia. Catalan nationalists from CiU voted in favour of the current Spanish financial redistribution system between regions in 2009.

Nationalists have relied on this alleged fiscal deficit as a rational motive to push for separation (“Spain robs us”). Thousands have been mobilised by separatist parties in awkward demonstrations and disturbing happenings like night torch marches. The once moderated Mr Mas adopted a radical approach and lost 20% of the seats in the 2012 election. His goal for the last 2 years has been to hold a referendum on the separation from Spain, no alternatives accepted. Mr Mas unilaterally decided the date -November 9th 2014- and the questions to be voted -they are two and have been described by Stéphane Dion, a quebecois expert as “manipulative-. However, like in most countries (USA, France, Germany…), the Spanish Constitution does not grant regional governments the power to hold a secession vote. Therefore the nationalist referendum has been suspended by the Constitutional Court and any step towards its preparation declared illegal. Mr Mas statement that (nationalists politicians) “must cheat on the Spanish State” made it to the headlines in october. Non nationalist catalans deride the nationalist referendum as a “butifarrendum” (a joke relating it to a family gathering to eat sausages).

Significantly, the governing catalan politicians have been immersed in corruption scandals during the last decades. In 2005 Mr Pasqual Maragall, then president of the Generalitat, accused in the regional parliament CiU politicians of bribing 3% of all the civil works. A judge ordered years ago the seizure of CiU´s headquarters building. The nationalist political icon, Mr Jordi Pujol, confessed last summer to have kept milions in tax heavens since 1980, allegedly inherited from his father, a statement he has been unable to prove; his seven children are millionaires and three of them are indicted in corruption cases. Recent estimations set the Pujols as the 6th richest family in Spain.

In last May´s European election, Catalan nationalist parties (CiU + ERC) did not reach 45% of the votes, a similar outcome to the 2012 regional election, when they gathered 47% of votes, surely not all of them separatists. Surveys by the Generalitat show that 71% of catalans also feel naturally spanish. Another local government poll from last week shows only 12% of catalans consider the “relationship with [the rest of] Spain” as the main Catalan issue: 40% think it to be “unemployment”, 17% “the politicians” and 17% “the economy”, very similar to what worries the rest of Spain.

What shall happen in the coming months? A lot of political noise, some uncertainty and instability. True, not the best environment for business to thrive. Surely, the famous catalan seny (common sense) shall prevail at last, hopefully before it seriously hurts the prospects of the Catalan people to live a decent, normal life together and pursue our happiness…just as we were doing until three years ago.

Sweet and misgoverned Catalonia…



Categories: En el Butifarrèndum, Historia, Huid del nacionalismo

Tags: , , , , , , ,

24 comentarios

  1. Great article. I couldn’t agree more with it, congratulations!

  2. Catalonia is bankrupt and the rest of Spain has to save their asses for the 5th time in the las 30 years.
    Do you think that 70,000,000€ of internal debt can make Catalonia one of Europe´s richest regions?

  3. Absolutely fantastic article: clear sharp and accurate. The best way to make foreigners understand the truth about what’s going on here.

    Stop nationalism, no more manipulations!

  4. Acordaos que en el ingles los nombres de días, meses, nacionalidades, etc… van en mayúscula, y que el artículo definido pocas veces acompaña a sustantivos en sí definidos (nacionalidades y grupos definidos), como serían “Catalans,” “Spaniards,” o “politicians.” Se escribe, por ejemplo, “…because Catalans want to vote…” y no “…because the catalans want to vote…”. El título del artículo sonaría mas natural usando el progresivo “What is happening in Catalonia?” aunque criticarlo ya es tiquismiquis.

    Aprendí el inglés viviendo en EEUU de niño y he un nivel nativo, y debo decir que aunque me borreis los comentarios y me bloqueeis, quien este artículo escribiera lo hizo muy bien.

  5. This is a real and racional inform over de Catalonian situation. Every body in Europe have to know the totalitarism is happening in de South of Europe. The nacionalits Regim are working whith the same tactics used for de Nazional Socialist Party at Germany in 1930

  6. Magnífico, y esperanzador porque hasta ahora el inglés no está perseguido en Cataluña. Muchos analistas consideran que la solución vendrá de fuera, cuando la UE y gobiernos poderosos terminen haciendo piña con la unidad de España. La internacionalización del “conflicto” curiosamente nos hermana con los propósitos independentistas. Sea. Sería una excelente idea que todos los post dolços, o al menos los más significativos, tuviesen versión en inglés para multiplicar exponencialmente la difusión y por tanto la complicidad ahí fuera.

    • Abundo sobre lo anterior: sabemos el impacto que en sociedades honestas como la danesa, tan de referencia últimamente gracias a Évole, tienen las noticias sobre la corrupción en España. Logran un inmediato efecto de desafección, de ahí se lo coman. No podemos reprochárselo. Pero aprovechemos ese efecto en el caso del independentismo catalán. En los detalles está el diablo… y la comprensión de los fenómenos complejos. ¿Cómo valorarían esas sociedades europeas, que hasta ahora tienen un conocimiento superficial y seguramente prejuicioso sobre el pleito catalán, noticias como las visitas de los “testigos de Jeomás” casa por casa, el intento de represalia a Encarna Roca hoy destacado por El País en editorial, el despido al director de urgencias del Vall d’Hebron por denunciar los efectos de los recortes, los gastos públicos y opacos en propaganda, el infantilismo de los carteles de la ANC, los vídeos de la Forcadell o el Cucurull para saber en manos de quiénes está el golpe de Estado? Adelante Dolços, hagamos planeta!

  7. Brilliant briefing about the situation we suffer in Catalonia (how come they do not write Catalunya also in English? XDDD)

  8. Great synopsis on recent Catalonia’s political events, wrote in an excellent English by an Spanish bilingual writer (Am I wrong?). You should apply for a -much needed- post at the Generalitat to manage English press notes and English propaganda articles, and we DC’s readers would like to know who is behind this brilliant text.

  9. Que alguien lo traduzca

  10. Fine Dolca Cataluña, To write the articules in English is a excellent idea. The international readers may be to Know the true of situation in Cataluña. Congratulattions

  11. Fine and useful view of true facts. I encourage to DC for a new effort sending this letter to all Media abroad. It’s very necessary to show the statu quo of Catalonia and what happens.

    May be a Copy and Paste of the text and to send it by a lot of DC fellas to a màximum of Newspapers and Magazines on line (part of them with their own paper edition) could be enought for this purpose. I’ll do it.

    Act right now!

  12. Just a correction, the TC has suspended (twice) the referendum. It hasn’t said anything about its legality (yet). What is ilegal is to continue the prepare the referendum after it has been suspended

  13. Excelente artículo. Deberíais difundirlo por la prensa internacional. Obviamente, no tenemos medios para comprar editoriales propagandísticos como la Gene, pero podría enviarse como una “letter to the editor”, porque es un brillante resumen de la situación.

    Enhorabuena por vuestro trabajo, dolços.

  14. Thanks all for explaining to world what’s happening here.

  15. Our small ex presidenthas confessed to being a corrupt and is investigating most of his family, our current president is challenging the state that has publicly considered and enemy and divided catalan society creating problems where i had not, it is irresponsible to disobey the law.

  16. Awesome wording, I hope the world knows what it means nationalism.

    Show them as once more repeated every mediocrity suffered in century XIX Europe.
    I only add to this article, our government divides society on lists of good and bad citizens depending if u agree or not to political nationalism.

    Any person disagree with nationalism automatically is bad people or accused of support to totalitarian government. This is democracy on catalonia. If you disagree, you become the enemy.

    Many associations speak of enemy internal of catalonia en reference of all people disagree. “ANC” is one example of association with this discourse with support political by chamber of parliament.

    HELP WORLD! Nationalism in catalonia its crazy!.

    (Srry my grammar).

  17. el editorial del New York Times…. da en el clavo!….ja ja

  18. The regional government of Catalonia is NUTS. They want to hide their failure and corruption under their ‘national flag’, the one of the old Spanish kingdoms: Aragon.

  19. Reblogueó esto en 1siquierespuedesy comentado:
    Catalonia’s industry thrived under Franco’s dictatorship, he was the protector of the “familias” who own the catalan provinces.

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