Talking Time

11 October 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Catalonia Declares, Delays Independence

Yesterday, the nationalist government in the Spanish region of Catalonia declared its independence. In almost the same breath, it suspended its declaration in order to open talks with the government in Madrid. It appears to be an attempt to do whatever comes next in a peaceful and orderly fashion. The central government led by conservative Mariano Rajoy immediately asked for a clarification, saying that his reply would be conditioned by the answer. He has also begun taking steps for direct rule of Catalonia. It's time to talk.

Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, said yesterday before the regional assembly, "We propose the suspension of the effects of the declaration of independence for a few weeks, to open a period of dialogue. If everyone acts responsibly, the conflict can be resolved in a calm and agreed manner." Some claim to be confused by this, but it's meaning is quite clear. Catalonia is an independent country, and it has business to discuss with Spain regarding their new relationship and the dissolution of the old one. It will continue to function as a part of Spain while all of that is settled.

On TV earlier today, Mr. Rajoy said, "The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally require the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared independence after the deliberate confusion created over whether it has come into effect. This request, which comes before any of the measures that the government could adopt under article 155 of our constitution, is meant to offer our citizens the clarity and security that such an important issue requires."

Mr. Rajoy and his supporters say that the Spanish constitution forbids secession by Catalonia or any other region. Therefore, they claim to be upholders of the rule of law. Mr. Puigdemont points to the right of any people (and the Catalans, he says, are a unique people) to self-determination, which is a basic fundamental in international law. Therefore, he and his claim they are acting legally.

Complicating the matter, when it should be doing the opposite, is the EU, which has made clear that an independent Catalonia would not be a member state. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, seems to have taken Madrid's side. As a member of an ethnic minority (a Kashubian in Poland) and "as a man who knows what it feels like to be hit by a police baton," he said to the Catalan nationalists, "Today, I ask you to respect, in your intentions, the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such dialogue impossible. Diversity should not and need not lead to conflict, the consequences of which would obviously be bad for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe." A few days ago, he only asked Mr. Rajoy to avoid violence.

This journal takes no sides on the question. What it does believe in is a peaceful and amicable solution with which most people can live. Mr. Rajoy, in threatening direct rule, is making it harder for Mr. Puigdemont to talk. Mr. Puigdemont held a referendum the Spanish supreme court ruled was unconstitutional limited Madrid's room to maneuver (although the idea of a court telling the people they can't vote is disgusting in its own way). And Mr. Tusk has rendered the best possible mediator a partisan actor.

While arguing from historical analogy is fraught with problems, the American Civil War is a useful example of what happens when independence and negotiations do not go hand in hand. The break-up of Yugoslavia is another. Messrs. Rajoy and Puigdemont have a duty to the people of Spain and Catalonia to keep them all safe and secure. Anything else is, in the immediate term, secondary.

Gentlemen, it is time to talk directly and earnestly with one another. A duty is owed the people. Do the job.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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