Tag Archives: Europe

Guardian: “Catalonia’s separatists were jailed for sedition, but brought down by hubris” — Giles Tremlett

10 Nov

It could have been very different. But the 2017 declaration of independence threw away the campaign’s moral advantage.

Giles_Tremlett,_LGiles Tremlett

5568

‘Those now in jail will be hailed as martyrs to their cause and become an inspiration for future generations of separatists.’ Pro-independence protesters hold Catalan flags in Barcelona. Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

[My emphases throughout]

Some things are impossible. Catalan independence is currently one of them. The stiff jail sentences handed down to the leaders of the separatist campaign that peaked in 2017 with a banned referendum, police violence and a fudged declaration of independence make that clearer than ever.

There are huge practical obstacles to independence, starting with the many hurdles written into Spain’s constitution. Overcoming these requires massive support in Catalonia itself; but the separatist leaders who orchestrated a head-on collision with the law never had anything like that. The jail sentences are for sedition, but their real problem is hubris.

That was already obvious on the streets of Barcelona and elsewhere when a unilateral proclamation of independence in the Catalan parliament on 27 October 2017 changed exactly nothing. It was, indeed, the day that an otherwise peaceful and often remarkable separatist campaign derailed itself.

A decision by the separatist Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, to flee the country only served to underline that. Now living in Belgium, he was not among those sentenced on Monday, though an international arrest warrant has now been issued. The independence campaign embraced the tactics of civil disobedience, where people who deliberately flout the law know they may go to jail. This is often a key part of the process, since it provokes the outrage that brings change. The nine men and women sentenced to between nine and 13 years of prison have stuck honourably to that tradition. Puigdemont clearly has not.

Those now in jail will be hailed as martyrs to their cause and become an inspiration for future generations of separatists. In court, they were unrepentant. “I would do it all again,” said Jordi Cuixart [ok…], who received a nine-year sentence. As protesters reacted to the sentences by blockading Barcelona’s airport, it was not clear whether calls to avoid violence would be respected. After the events of 2017, the police response will be watched closely.

Yet the fury felt today by Catalan separatists is not shared in the rest of Spain, nor, more crucially, does it extend very far in the rest of Europe – where they had hoped to provoke a sudden flowering of sympathy. Their campaign, in other words, has failed. The only visible result is a divided Catalan society where explicit support for independence remains below 50%.

It could all have ended very differently. Separatists do best when, like the Brexiters who they sometimes resemble, they can claim to be victims of the status quo. In that sense, the police charges during the banned referendum of 1 October 2017 were a gift. The sight of helmeted, baton-wielding officers beating up peaceful voters played directly into their hands. The Spanish state looked, and behaved, like an ogre.

Separatism could have built on that. Instead, it threw its moral advantage away with the independence declaration.

The court sentences concentrate on the referendum and are harsher than expected, and some will argue about the definition of “sedition”, but there is no doubt that the law was deliberately broken. The Catalan parliament does not have the power to declare independence. Nor can it unilaterally call a binding referendum on the subject. In that sense, it is no different to, say, the Scottish parliament. When politicians break the law and cross lines set by the constitution, the courts tell them so. Just as Boris Johnson cannot arbitrarily suspend the Westminster parliament, so Puigdemont could not hold a referendum. And unlike Johnson (so far), his government ignored court rulings – and went ahead with the vote anyway.

Declaring independence ramped up the level of defiance. It was also dishonest, since it was based on a referendum in which only one side campaigned. “Remain in Spain” voters mostly boycotted the illegal vote and, inevitably, the “leave” side won. That is not a solid basis on which to announce an epoch-defining, existential change to the lives of all 7.6 million Catalans.

3500‘When politicians break the law and cross lines set by the constitution, the courts tell them.’ Carles Puigdemont. Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

Spanish right-wingers are today gloating over the court’s sentencing. Yet they are part of the problem. The anti-Catalan rhetoric that has accompanied their periods in power has only served to boost separatism. And even the socialist left, which talks up the idea of a “pluri-national” Spain, has done little to make Spaniards in other parts of the country proud of the languages and cultures that coexist within it.

[The above is complete bullshit; there is no more decentralized, devolved, regional-cultural-rights-respecting country in Europe.  None.  See: “As prime minister, I refuse to let Catalan separatists undermine Spanish democracy” – Pedro Sánchez]

Paradoxically, an obvious solution is to hold a proper referendum. This would force Catalan voters to face reality. Just the idea of being expelled from the EU would probably be enough to secure a resounding victory for remain. So why won’t Spain do that? The country’s written constitution makes both a referendum and independence theoretically possible, in a process controlled from Madrid. In practical terms, however, it hands a blocking vote to 40% of the senate. Even when the left is in government, the right normally commands that. It will never permit a separate Catalonia.

Since independence is possible in theory, but currently impossible in practice, some separatists may conclude that only violence will achieve their aims. Police last month arrested a group that was allegedly planning to mark this decision with bomb attacks. That is the worst mistake separatists could make. At the first sight of bloodshed, support would likely shrink so far that their cause could take decades to recover.

Their only hope is to keep following the advice of the jailed regional MP and ex-president of the grassroots Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sànchez. “Let’s express ourselves without fear and move forward, nonviolently, towards freedom,” he said. That is a very long journey.

Giles Tremlett is a journalist and author based in Madrid

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Guardian: “As prime minister, I refuse to let Catalan separatists undermine Spanish democracy” – Pedro Sánchez

10 Nov

My government will act with restraint and moderation to defend peaceful coexistence in our country

Pedro Sánchez is prime minister of Spain

CAT6720
Demonstrators march in support of Catalonia remaining part of Spain, Barcelona, 27 October 2019. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP

[my emphases throughout]

Europe, above all, is about freedom, peace and progress. We must move forward with these values and make it the leading model of integration and social justice, one that protects its citizens. The Europe that we aspire to, the Europe that we need, the Europe we are building is based on democratic stability within our states and cannot accept the unilateral breach of its integrity. The Europe we admire has been built on the principle of overlapping identities and equality for all citizens, and on the rejection of nationalist ideologies and extremism.

For this reason, the challenge of separatism in Catalonia, devised against and outside Spain’s constitutional framework – and silencing the majority of Catalans who are against independence – is a challenge for Europe and Europeans. Preserving these values in Catalonia today means protecting the open and democratic Europe for which we stand.

In 1978, Spain adopted a fully democratic constitution, thus escaping the long and dark shadow of dictatorship. That historic document was endorsed by almost 88% of voters in a referendum. In Catalonia, support and turnout were even higher: 90.5% of Catalans backed the new constitution. Today, the Democracy Index, published by the Economist, rates Spain as one of the world’s 20 full democracies.

Contemporary Spain is Europe’s second most decentralised country, and Catalonia enjoys some of the highest levels of regional self-governance on the continent, with wide-ranging devolved powers over crucial sectors such as media and public communication, health, education and prisons.

Today, however, Catalonia is associated with a profound crisis, caused by the unilateral breach of Spain’s constitutional order brought about by the region’s separatist leaders in the autumn of 2017. Catalonia’s leaders reneged on all the resolutions set out by the constitutional court, passed unconstitutional “disconnection” laws from the Spanish state, held an illegal referendum and declared a purported Catalan republic.

No state would ever allow the unilateral secession of a territory that forms part of its constitutional order. And no democrat should support the path taken by the separatist leaders, who won less than 48% of the votes cast in regional elections.

My government has promoted the expansion of rights and liberties and would never agree to even the smallest restriction of freedom of expression. The president of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalonia’s regional government), Quim Torra, is a radical separatist, but he is not prevented from expressing his views freely, despite the pain and damage they cause to peaceful coexistence in Catalonia. In Spain, everyone may express their opinions as they wish, provided that they do not promote and encourage criminal acts.

The supreme court recently ruled against nine separatist leaders charged for the illegal acts they carried out in the autumn of 2017. The court acted with the greatest transparency: the entire proceedings were televised live.

I fully respect those Catalan citizens who have peacefully exercised fundamental rights to protest and to strike against the ruling. But the organised and intentional acts of violence that have occurred across Catalonia in recent weeks are something else altogether and in no way represent the region’s tolerance and welcoming spirit.

5217A burning barricade in Barcelona, on 19 October 2019. Photograph: Manu Fernández/AP

The illegal effort to bring about Catalonia’s independence has followed a roadmap that is all too familiar in today’s Europe. It has used a web of lies, spun by fake news and viral messaging, to divide societies by exploiting the rhetoric of reaction to encourage polarisation and confrontation.

Recently, the president of the main pro-separatist association, Elisenda Paluzie, stated that images of violent clashes between protesters and police officers had “positive and negative effects” as they “lent visibility to the conflict” and “keep us in the international press”. But if we have learned anything from Europe’s painful and bloody history, it is that no political ambition can ever justify resorting to violence, much less the normalisation of violence as a political tool.

My government has responded with speed and proportion to restore peace and stability to Catalonia’s citizens, a majority of whom reject the current unstable impasse.

I call on the president of the Generalitat to condemn the violence fully and clearly, and to act as president of all Catalans, not only those who share his political beliefs.

I will not allow another extreme nationalist outbreak to undermine the success of Spanish democracy. In the discussion about the future of Catalonia, only the healing and coexistence of the Catalan people and society, not independence, is on the agenda. This is our main challenge: to ensure that all understand and accept that a unilateral path toward independence constitutes a direct affront to fundamental democratic principles.

At this moment, restraint and moderation are imperative. We will act with all the firmness needed to defend peaceful coexistence, all the while recognising that we have an opportunity to start a new chapter.

I know that there are open wounds, pain and frustration. But, despite this, there is an opportunity for dialogue and hope, recognising what we have achieved together and thinking about what we can do, together. I will never turn away from dialogue, but for this to happen the separatist leaders must abide by the constitution and respect the rule of law.

My government has positioned Spain at the forefront of the project of European integration and the fight against our greatest global challenges. These objectives transcend a nationalist vision, and we need Catalonia and Catalan society to help achieve them.

  • Pedro Sánchez is prime minister of Spain. This article was originally published by Project Syndicate

Erdoğan will send ISIS prisoners back to Europe

4 Nov

You know…  I half-hope he does do something like that, and maybe Americans and Frangistanis will get a reality check as to what Turkey’s about.

Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 11.53.08 PM

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

“I demand either city-states or a universal imperium of humanity” — great line from Murtaza Mohammad Hussein

4 Nov

So great I put it on my homepage.

Murtaza Mohammad Hussain (@MazMHussain) does some great work at The Intercept (@TheIntercept), on a broad variety of issues.  Check him out.  Here he comments on an article from Foreign Policy on the Kurds and the nation-state that’s worth looking at.  Lifted the motto from there.  Whole text of FP piece by Malka Older pasted below.
Nation-state tweet .png
**************************************************************************************

The Kurds Are the Nation-State’s Latest Victims

The global order has been stuck with states since 1648. It’s time to move on.

By Malka Older
 

October 31, 2019, 3:47 PM

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters patrol the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey on Oct. 31.

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters patrol the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey on Oct. 31.  Bakr Alkasem/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-held areas of Syria is horrific and the decisions that led to it shameful. But it is also representative of a larger problem. The global system is built around sovereign states, and it shows. This is an enormous problem for groups that define themselves, or are defined by others, as distinct from the country within whose borders they happen to reside, and it’s also terrible as a framework for navigating the global politics of a rapidly changing world.

Sovereignty is usually traced back to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which was pivotal in shifting conceptions of government toward a secular state with entire authority inside inviolable territorial borders. Designed as a diplomatic solution to catastrophic religious wars among feudal, monarchical territories, its tenets have persisted into the modern world largely due to the entrenched power of those states, jealously guarding their unfettered rule over their slice of geography. An arrangement of convenience between princes to end a religious war has become the be-all and end-all of the way the world is governed. Even as sovereigns in Europe fell, the idea of the nation came to the fore—with all its possibilities for excluding those who were not truly German or Italian or Polish. And even as European empires crumbled elsewhere in the world, they left behind a very particular view of nationhood.

Over the next several centuries, as the power of monarchy eroded and European countries needed something else to inspire loyalty among their citizens, the ideal of the nation-state—that the people within those arbitrary borders would feel some sort of collective identity—became popular. This led to more wars as European states expelled or converted anyone who didn’t fit their concept of nation: not French enough, not German enough, not Italian enough. They also spread this idea to their colonies, exporting successive waves of destructive conflicts.

Today, norms have shifted to a greater focus on individual rights, and power has eked out to nonstate players, but governments still harass, expel, and attempt to exterminate minority groups in the name of the nation-state ideal, and sovereignty still gives them carte blanche to do so.

The insistence on the nation-state as the only legitimate and legal actor on the world stage leaves substate groups vulnerable to exploitation, attack, and shady dealing.

The Kurds have been promised and denied so many times over the past century that it would be a wonder that they trusted anyone anymore if they had a choice. But the issue isn’t limited to the Kurds. In the news this week are Rohingya refugees stuck between two countries that don’t want them, Uighurs forced into detention camps, and Catalan protests for independence. History offers even more parallels, from the United States repeatedly breaking treaties with Native Americans to World War II, in which the United States was willing to go to war to protect the territorial integrity of France along with the people in it but was not willing to accept refugees fleeing the Holocaust. The nation-state system is designed to protect itself and its members, rather than people.

True, strong states screw over weaker states sometimes, too. But nonstate groups are at a particular disadvantage. Though they may hold de facto territory, they don’t hold it legally; they have no international rights to a military or to self-defense. They have no seat in international or supranational organizations, leaving them outside global decision-making and with no recourse in attempting to hold states accountable for their actions. Their leaders are not accorded head of state status, and they have no official diplomats. Since even the most generous autonomy statutes don’t confer the protections of statehood, separatist groups are often willing to risk high losses to win independence, fueling conflicts.

The global order provides more mechanisms for states to deal diplomatically with each other than with the people inside them. While interstate conflicts have fallen over the past 50 years, intrastate fighting has soared. These wars disrupt trade and world politics, weaken countries, and raise uncertainty in neighboring states. On the other hand, states have proved themselves adept at using substate actors to further their own interests within foreign countries while evading responsibility for it, from the United States arming the Contras in Nicaragua to Sudan and Chad supporting each other’s rebel movements.

The state-focused global order has shown itself poorly equipped to deal with these conflicts. States remain reluctant to break the collective agreement on the legitimacy of sovereignty. They are similarly reticent about adding more states to their exclusive club, in part because it might suggest to dissidents within their own area that renegotiation of borders is possible. Although a large number of states emerged from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and there have been a few more recent exceptions such as Timor-Leste and South Sudan, it remains difficult to garner international recognition for a new state. That leaves mediators attempting to convince vulnerable groups to settle for something less, in the face of all evidence that a recognized state is their best chance for security and self-determination.

There have been some efforts to mitigate the effects of sovereignty. The responsibility to protect movement posits that states must protect their citizens and that if they fail to do so, others can step in to assist. It is intended as a way to justify and streamline the use of U.N.-sanctioned force in saving populations from genocide or other attacks perpetrated by the government they are subject to, but so far at least it has not proved successful as a way of overcoming the reluctance to breach sovereignty.

Substate groups are not the only example that the system is failing. Nonstate actors from terrorist groups to multinational corporations have increasing impacts on global politics, and traditional geopolitical theory does not do a great job of dealing with them. Even for bilateral issues, the nation-state is not always the most useful unit of analysis.

Take the numerous headlines and articles proclaiming that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. To imagine this as a coherent national policy designed to attack the United States is not an accurate depiction of reality. Russia is not a democracy, and such interference is not aimed at, for example, winning territory from the United States. A more precise description would be that Russian elites attempted to tip the scales of U.S. leadership in order to win more modern spoils: unfettered soft power in their region, access to trade, and, notably, the ability to infringe on other countries’ sovereignty without consequences.

[my emphases throughout above]

*************************************************************************************

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Yugo p.s. “So, this was Bosnia before the war?” Er…no.

3 Nov

That “self-determination” is just nationalism — and often a fiery, violent kind — writ small and wanting to be bigger, may be one of the most important issues we need to face in the 21st century.

Maybe the most frustrating, teeth-gritting moment of news coverage — in terms of the selective blessing of nationalisms and self-determinations — I’ve ever experienced was a BBC report, which unfortunately I haven’t been able to find and post, that aired on the July anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre the summer of 2016.

At the end of it the BBC reporter was interviewing a Bosnian man, in his forties maybe, selected for his Bosnian-ness — tall and handsome — whose father had been killed by a Serbian sniper in Sarajevo in the 90s.  In their interview on a bridge over the lovely, gurgling Miljacka, he talked about how he was happier that he was the child of that sniper victim and didn’t have to live with the conscience of being the child of that sniper instead.

He then pulled out a photo of his high school class:

“See…

“This guy was Serbian.  This guy was Croatian.  This guy was Croatian.  This guy was Bosnian.  This guy was Serbian…  That’s how it was then.”

“So,” says the dull-tool BBC reporter:

“This was Bosnia before the war?”

“Yes,”

says the Bosnian, shaking his head sadly with the weary, self-righteous pride of the victim,

“This was Bosnia before the war.”

No, buddy.  That wasn’t BOSNIA before the war.  That was YUGOSLAVIA before the war.  AND YOU DIDN’T WANT TO PART OF IT ANYMORE…

So, to paraphrase the identity-politics, American new “left” cliché: “Check your victimhood!”

Yugo ethnic breakdown

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

More indication that Catalonia is bringing YUGOSLAVIA up again as an object of moral reflection

3 Nov

Just one line in Guardian article Catalonia isn’t just Spain’s nightmare – it is Europe’s:

Old feuds are rekindled and jealousies revived. Hypocritical Britain cannot talk. It long opposed Irish separatism and denied devolution to Scotland and Wales, while it sent soldiers to aid the break-up of Yugoslavia. [my emphasis]

My hope is that there will be new de-villainizing discussions of certain past, led by a new review of Serbian actions in a dissolving Yugoslavia, or even early twentieth-century Ottomans/Turkey (might want to see my “Screamers:” Genocide: what is it and why do we need the term?“)

While we’re adjusting our moral compasses about whose self-determination is “cool” and whose isn’t, we might want to look at the role the public relations industry plays in so manipulating the image of political conflicts throughout the world.  And I don’t mean that as a metaphor: both Croatia and then Bosnia hired American public relations firms to push their cause during the Yugoslav War; this is covered extensively by Diana Johnstone in her Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato and Western Delusions.  Unfortunately, since Johnstone’s thesis is that NATO aided and abetted the break-up of Yugoslavia as part of its plan to weaken a Serb-hegemonied Yugoslavia, which wouldn’t play along with NATO, the European Union or the post-communist, Neo-Liberal, New World Order; that is, that these forces wouldn’t tolerate, just like Stalin couldn’t, Yugoslavia’s fairly benign and most successful of communist states’ strength, and the power a post-communist, unified Yugoslavia would still hold — she’s dismissed as a conspiracy theorist or a crackpot.  Her argument, however, is perfectly documented and argued.

But even a good friend of mine who’s incredibly smart about and immersed in things Yugo said to me: “Really, Nick?  I dunno…  Diana John-stone…”

fool's

Yeah.  Diana John-stone.  Read it.

And next time you go back to your fun and Euro-spring-break memories of unbearably hip Barcelona, thing of how advertising and public relations got you to spend your tourist dollars there — and how that indirectly funded, both in terms of real and symbolic capital, the current crisis in Spain.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Ha… Catalonia is finally getting the West to rethink what it did to YUGOSLAVIA!

10 Oct

Sapnish flag demonstrationProtesters hold a giant Spanish flag during a demonstration to support the unity of Spain on 8 October in Barcelona. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian has an interesting take on things in Spain: A dangerous time for Catalonia, Spain and the rest of Europe that is original in that it brings together commentators from different parts of Europe who each have their own particular p.o.v. on what’s going on in terms of secession and identity politics.  They’re each interesting in their way — though I expected Gerry Adams to have something more compelling to say and sort of can’t tell if he’s being ironic (David Cameron?).  The most important one for me, though, is the comment on Kosovo (though it also angers you because it took so long for someone to say this):

“Since Nato illegally bombed Serbia in 1999 to wrest control of Kosovo from the Balkan nation, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of secessionist efforts around the world as borders have unravelled in Ukraine and elsewhere (Catalan president vows to press on with independence, 5 October). Western leaders should be ashamed at having encouraged the hopes of terrorists worldwide that borders can be changed and national sovereignty and international laws are meaningless if they can get Nato to support their cause. Get ready for a lot more trouble ahead.”

Dr Michael Pravica
Henderson, Nevada, USA

1280px-Flag_of_Kosovo.svg

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: