Catalonia and Madrid head for confrontation

The central government in Spain is upping the pressure on the Catalan separatists. The military police arrested twelve senior officials of the regional government today, Wednesday. Meanwhile a growing number of Catalan politicians are speaking up in defence of the independence referendum slated for 1 October. People in other regions of Spain are demonstrating to show their support. Is all hope of an agreement in vain?

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El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Dividing lines not as clear as they appear

The socialist MPs in the Spanish Congress on Tuesday refused to back a joint declaration by the government and the opposition against the referendum in Catalonia. El Periódico de Catalunya hopes this will create more leeway:

“If we see the current political crisis as a collision between institutions, legitimacies and sovereignty, the dividing lines are clear. However, they are less clear if we consider it as a renegotiation of the relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish state. The rupture of the constitutional bloc in Congress yesterday and the demonstration in Madrid in support of Catalonia's right to decide its future are signs that within the legal and institutional framework and beyond the political paralysis there is some room for manoeuvre.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

EU ignoring human rights violations

Spain is resorting to disproportionately harsh measures to stop the independence movement, the taz newspaper's Spain correspondent Reiner Wandler writes:

“More than 700 mayors, parliamentarians and the autonomous government are all under investigation for offences that could lead to prison sentences. Printing companies and editing departments are being searched, posters and leaflets confiscated, the addresses of those who distributed flyers or put up posters for the October 1 referendum documented. Even in the rest of the country, events on the topic of Catalonia are being banned. The debate itself is being criminalised. ... And Europe is looking away. This is an internal Spanish conflict, it says. But if that is the case one might ask what right does Brussels have to interfere in Poland or Hungary? Civil and human rights apply everywhere and must not be subordinate to the political interests of the moment.”

Diena (LV) /

Catalans needn't bother voting

The Catalans don't stand a chance of gaining independence right now, Diena believes:

“In a situation in which the Spanish government and parliament observe the traditions of kings and dictators and reject freedom for the Catalans, we can be 100 percent certain that the story won't end well for the Catalans. We must take account of the fact that they don't have much support, also not in the corridors of the European Union. The EU and the major powers of the united Europe are fighting for the centralisation of power and the unity of the entire EU right now. So the Catalan activities will only be perceived as an undesirable precedent.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Risk a legal vote

To avoid an escalation Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should just offer to hold a referendum himself, writes the Tagesspiegel:

“It should be a legal referendum following the same model as the one on Scottish independence in 2014 which didn't lead to independence. In polls the Catalan separatists don't have a majority either. Rajoy could risk a referendum that is acceptable to all sides. If he doesn't Puigdemont will hold the illegal vote on October 1. A risky undertaking. For Catalonia, for Spain, for Europe. All those involved still have two weeks to go. And the EU could think about whether it shouldn't make a discreet and last-ditch attempt to bring about an agreement.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

A compromise is possible

The former president of the EU Parliament, Catalan politician Josep Borrell, has published a book on the Catalonian issue which La Vanguardia's chief editor Màrius Carol cites in a leading article:

“Borell believes in a compromise: the separatists could give up the project of the October 1 referendum and in return the dialogue would be resumed, the flow of information would improve, mutual respect would be restored and tax and financial measures in Catalonia's favour would be taken. And some of the autonomous powers rescinded by the Constitutional Court would be returned to the community. There are even politicians of the People's Party who see this as a sensible approach, but they only suggest it quietly. Tempus fugit.”

Dilema Veche (RO) /

Not just Spain would reject Barcelona

Dilema Veche speculates on how the rest of the EU would react to an independent Catalonia:

“The government in Barcelona says it would immediately join the EU and that the province would also be able to use the euro as long as it continues to have a GDP that is higher than that of Greece and almost as high as Finland's. In other words: the EU wouldn't want to lose such a member. From a political point of view, however, a new EU member would have to receive unanimous approval. We don't need to discuss the likely position of Madrid here, but Spain certainly won't be the only country to slam the door on Barcelona. Other member states with constituent regions pushing for independence could do the same.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

No right to self-determination

Commenting in Diário de Notícias columnist Ferreira Fernandes sees the referendum in Catalonia as a crime:

“The right to self-determination doesn't exist in Catalonia. … If the region were to become independent nonetheless, this would constitute an attack on the historical, cultural and economic community of which Catalonia has been a part for centuries. And for the rest of Spain as well as for the 49 percent (or the 45 or 40 percent) of Catalans who vote against independence, this would mean that they would be simply cut off from their life as they know it and from their memories. And the 51 percent (or a little more ) of the victors in this 'pseudo fight for independence' wouldn't even be aware of their crime.”

El País (ES) /

Prevent self-mutilation

The EU could prevent Catalonia's secession from Spain, writes El País:

“Catalonia has gained relevance thanks to the efforts of the Catalans. And because it is part of a free and respected Spain. If democracy were to be called into question in Spain, the EU would start monitoring it as it does Polandand Hungary. And it would veto a secession that would (for the first time!) change EU borders that have existed since 1945 (not taking into account the changes which resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia). Catalonia has never been as successful as it is now. And it would not become more successful if it opted to mutilate itself and secede as an important part of Europe.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Hopefully reason will prevail

Màrius Carol, editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia, regards the future with a sense of foreboding:

“The stakes were raised for the [Catalonian] national day march after a majority in the regional parliament approved the laws for the independence referendum. The aim of the march was to increase the number of votes in favour of independence on October 1 in a referendum whose legality the central government is contesting before the constitutional court, while the public prosecutor's office is taking all members of the regional government to court. So here we see a political problem turning into a judicial process. The people who took to the streets experienced the day as a peaceful celebration. But there are few smiles and too many threats on the horizon. Hopefully political reason will prevail in the end.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

EU must overcome nation state

It is no longer in keeping with the times that the nation states form the basis for EU decision-making, writes Wiener Zeitung:

“Now - as a consequence of Brexit - the idea of European citizenship is doing the rounds. This would considerably ease freedom of movement, a pillar of the EU. But it would entail social and tax policy regulations that applied everywhere and not just in a single nation state. It would also require a financial adjustment that robs the existing corporations of their power. Overcoming the boundaries of the nation states, which are in many cases much younger than most of the regions now clamouring for independence, would strengthen Europe both internally and externally.”