A setback for Catalonia's separatists

Spain's Constitutional Court has put a stop to the plans to hold an independence referendum in the autonomous community of Catalonia. Just a day before the parliamentarians in Catalonia's regional parliament had passed a law that was to pave the way for a referendum on October 1. Could it be that the separatists' goal is right but their strategy wrong?

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El Punt Avui (ES) /

Referendums are part of democracy

Letting the people vote can hardly be undemocratic, the separatist daily paper El Punt Avui points out:

“Yesterday the Spanish head of government repeated the ideas we've already seen in media published in Madrid or written from the Madrid point of view: phrases like 'attack on democracy', 'authoritarianism', 'imposition', 'on a cliff edge' or 'destroying peaceful coexistence'. Nothing but platitudes and exaggerations which no one who lives in Catalonia believes. … Apparently Spain is a country in which parliamentary decisions and elections damage democracy.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Catalans taking the wrong approach

In the eyes of Helsingin Sanomat the vote in the Catalan parliament was far from exemplary:

“The way the regional parliament conducted the vote on holding the October 1 referendum testifies to the pitiful state in which the independence front finds itself. It was a dark omen for Catalonia's potential future as an independent European state. … The decisions on the referendum were taken on Wednesday evening without the hearings that usually precede them having taken place. It was the little far-left party CUP that tipped the scales, because the pro-independence centre-right parties failed to achieve a majority in the 2015 elections. The Catalans may earn their independence but this is a bad way to go about it.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Conflict plunges Spain into crisis

The unionists may have the law on their side but Spain is still in for a hard time, Dagens Nyheter is sure:

“Already on Thursday the first legal steps against the separatists were taken. … The separatists are hoping for an overreaction; hoping that the army is already on the march. Because there is nothing that would arouse sympathy more effectively. Meanwhile they spread myths about the golden age of independence and how the EU is just waiting to fold them in its arms. But a brutal awakening may well lie ahead. Even if negotiations aren't booming right now, the future status of Catalonia is not clear. … Catalonia is deeply divided. Spain as a whole is in crisis.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Trapped between two fronts

The majority of Catalans may want more independence but they are against illegal secession from Spain, La Vanguardia argues:

“A large part, probably even the majority of Catalan society, is between two extremes. These citizens see themselves as Catalans but not necessarily as separatists. They want a stronger position for Catalonia, and they detest the central government's obstinate stance. But they nonetheless believe the separatist majority in the regional parliament is making a grave mistake in trying to break the law. … Trapped between two fronts, this section of Catalan society is very concerned about the way coexistence is deteriorating.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

There can be no democracy outside the law

The laws of democracy also apply to the popular will, El Periódico de Catalunya stresses on the day Catalonia’s regional parliament wants to approve plans for a referendum on independence:

“'Democracy' is one of the words most frequently launched as a weapon from the trenches of the secession process. On the day the head-on collision between institutions takes place we should remember once more that although it's true that voting is a basic act of democracy there is no democracy outside the boundaries of the law, and that the solution to the separatist challenge in Catalonia will not come from the courts but through political negotiation. Years of bad politics are coming to a head today in an institutional conflict.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Trying to pass off secession as an easy step

The Catalan separatists are trying to present the upcoming referendum as a natural step, observes El Periódico de Catalunya:

“The supposed seriousness of the project clashes glaringly with the swiftness and lack of transparency with which the separatist majority in the regional parliament plans to process and adopt the legislation. But this won't prevent the the Constitutional Court from annulling it. Just 33 days before 1 October the Catalan separatists are sticking to their course against the wind and the currents to push through a goal that, no matter how much they try to present it as easy and painless, can't be that, as any halfway reasonable person realises.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Separatists are planning a coup

The legislation the Catalans are trying to pass off as a normal law is in fact an illegal coup, the centralist daily El Mundo comments:

“Aware of the government's determination to stop the referendum, [the separatist parties] haven't stipulated a minimum participation or a minimum percentage of votes in favour of independence for the result to be valid [in the case of a yes vote for independence], because their real intention is that the law should serve as a legal instrument that enables them to effect a coup independently of the referendum. Once the law comes into effect, not only the Spanish constitution but also the Catalan regional statute will cease to apply. … This is unquestionably a law aimed at effecting a coup that contravenes national and international law.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Rajoy must take steps to avoid disaster

Instead of simply waiting for a head-on collision Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should take action, La Vanguardia demands from the Catalan capital Barcelona:

“Rajoy once explained that 'sometimes it is crucial to do nothing'. … The central government has decided not to put anything on the table in the next two months and to wait and see how far the regional government is willing to go, which is being bombarded with demands to stop its challenge at the ballots on a daily basis. … But it's not true that the government can't do anything until the day after the referendum. There is always room for action. And above all the citizens of this country have the right to know that at least an effort has been made to avoid disaster.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Referendum won't provide clarity

Even if the referendum does take place it wouldn't show what the people of Catalonia really want, El Periódico de Catalunya points out in view of the most recent surveys:

“On the one hand support for independence is dropping (41.1 percent of the respondents are in favour of an independent Catalonia while 49.4 are against it) in what has emerged as a clear trend in recent months. On the other hand the Yes is the clear winner among those who are willing to participate in the referendum; no less than 67.6 percent of those included in the survey. … The study also shows that many of those who are against independence have no intention of going to vote on October 1. … This leads to the conclusion that even if despite all the obstacles the vote took place on October 1, it wouldn't put an end to the process but would only open a new phase.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A Europe of 50 Denmarks?

The Catalan independence movement could become a problem for Europe, Le Figaro warns:

“At a time of major civilisational challenges and the return of the major powers, any breakup of Europe seems dangerous. Certainly one understands the Catalans' desire to be a 'Denmark of the south'. But the Europe of 28 or 27 already has a hard time weighing in on the international stage. How much clout would it have if it were composed of 40 or even 50 Denmarks? If, after the Scots and the Catalans, the Tyrolians, Walloons, Bavarians, Corsicans, Bretons and a whole barrage of Central European minorities were gripped by an emancipatory fever? ... Our old countries must reinvent themselves so as to inspire their populations once more.”