(translation by Cláudia de Sousa Dias from Público 30th September 2017)
In those last days of that 1992 Spring in Sarajevo everything – the military conflict, the siege – started with gunshots, aiming a peaceful protest at a wedding party. But would it be that impossible if something similar could happen in Catalonia? I’m not so sure about that.
Some Catalans are voting this Sunday in a referendum on independence of this country. I write “some”, because many of them may not be willing to do so ( a fact that was later confirmed on that Saturday) and some others may not be permitted to. In any case, the responsibility for this failure of using this basic civil right must be pointed in equal measure to the huge amount of irresponsible procedure either of Spanish or Catalan governments. The latter, for the rushed and unclear way of approving the Transition Act, colliding with the Spanish Constitution of 1978, in the regional Parliament by a and narrow majority; and the former, to make this intransigent law, dictated by their own convenience and leaving no space for discussion, serving the interests of their safety-legal-informative apparatus built to impede the Catalan vote. A strategy that unveils an authoritative despair which seems to exhaustively demonstrate how decades of democracy fail to eliminate structures and ways of acting which are typical of an era that the Transition Period was supposed to have put an end to.
Quoting the notorious Manuel Cartells, in his “Observatorio Nacional” in La Vanguardia (September16th): “For the Nation is easy to use its repressive potential; it is quite harder to control the consequences of an unjustified intolerance”. It is also obviously pertinent to quote another Spanish intellectual, Fernando Savater this Saturday 30th September in El País: “If in a referendum a bunch of people elect themselves to share [between themselves] what belongs to everybody (excluding all the other non-Catalan Spaniards) that has to be seen as a lack of democratic education. And the non-educated people are not exactly that one-third of young people who didn’t finish their studies or got professional training (the Quevedo’s “mistaken and robust youth”) but those who have a career and Phd’s, which [in their case] is as if they were illiterate”.
MARIANO RAJOY IS NOT SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC. ALL TRUTH. BUT…
I think about the Balkans. That is something I keep doing frequently. I’ll be told, in that Spring of 1992, Slovenian independence had already taken place as well as its short-term war, atrocities were already happening in Croatia, whose independence had been hurried by the Germans and the Vatican. And that Kosovo’s and Vojvodina statute of autonomy had already been revoked; and that the bad functioning of the Yugoslavian political system was structural (I wonder if the Spanish one works properly…?) and, obviously, that Mariano Rajoy is not Slobodan Milosevic. All truth. But…
Milosevic was not seen and known worldwide before he had become after. At the beginning of the nineties, he was nothing but an ambitious politician who ruled the party in the most important of the Republics of a federative nation whose territorial integrity he was trying to preserve. In 1992, there was a referendum on the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina that wasn’t approved by a lot of people, including an international platform of jurists, the so-called Badinter Commission, especially because a significant part of the people – the Bosnian Serbs – was rejecting it. European countries and the USA supported and promoted the referendum (there is no information that anyone has done the same for the Catalan one). Then, they rushed in recognizing its independence (which triggered a civil war, nameless atrocities, massacres as no one could recall in European soil since Nazism, with consequences that last until our days, in the way Bosnia exists as a nation.
In those days marked by high temperature levels of animosity in that Spring of 1992 at Sarajevo, everything – the military conflict, the siege to the city – started with gunshots after a peaceful protest and gunshots over a wedding party – , would it be so impossible for it to happen once again in Catalonia, in a context where the nation power turns police against policeman and citizens? Very unlikely.
Catalan pro-independence faction got less then 48% in the election of 2015, which take them away the legitimacy to summon the referendum the way it did, and one can’t believe that Puidgemont could think that from the side of European institutions, there would have been any other answer other than the one obtained from the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani: “Catalans are Europeans because they are Spaniards”.
Retrospectively, I keep asking myself, why weren’t the Europeans so firm telling Croats, Slovens, Bosnians, Serbians, Macedonians and Albanian-Khosovars, that they were Europeans because they were Yugoslavs. Other times, other wishes. That changed.
Joan Tapia wrote in El Periódico da Catalunha on September 16th: “the pro-independence faction has gone wrong. The nation should not do the same” Tapia is asking himself how could it be possible to manage two conflicting laws, both Spanish and Catalan, claiming something the nation itself has been missing, that is, intelligence on Law’s ruling empire.: “Implementing a law without intelligence would be a disaster. And these are troubling issues that can create a real mess. To prosecute 712 mayors who authorised the locals to vote when, at the precise moment they did so, it was legal (the Constitutional Court had not yet nullified the referendum law) and threatening them with the police would have been all but proportional.
VERY SERIOUS, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS THIS SUNDAY AND THE FOLLOWING DAYS, THAT IS THE INVOICE THIS SITUATION IS CHARGING THE CATALAN SOCIETY.
In the same edition of the Catalan morning paper, I can read Emílio Pérez de Rozas:
«Stop talking about the family issue, stop talking about all the work involving the process and there’s a long time since I established the rule that if one goes out in the evening for a meal, one can’t mention this issue. I never believe that a family whatsapp group, another of friends and another one of office mates, would turn on themselves into the mother of battles . And I could never imagine that the pro-independence “wonderful nephew”, a lad capable of carrying the weight of the world in his shoulders, a college graduated, solidary as few, a legged one, would end up in assaulting in the family’s whatsapp: until the time I remembered him I was the brother of his late father».
That means the Catalan process is already imposing walls, establishing red lines, between Catalans inside their families, cities and villages in Catalonia. With insults from both parts which can reduce the space for back of or for a calm debate looking for bridges between both sides. For Jon Subirats, a political scientist from the University of Barcelona:
«We are in the middle of a digital lynching vortex. And the erosion of respect between members of family, neighbours and citizens is much harder to restore than political erosion (El País, 07.09.2017)».
And just like Pere Vilanova, the head of Political Science from University of Barcelona sustains “when one enter in a spiral of great instability”, expectations from both sides are tending to accelerate to the realm of collective passion”. And how would the Galician and the Basques, Andalusian and Navarran feel after Madrid’s answer to the pro-independence challenge? Certainly with the need to restraint similar boldness but at the same time with one doubt haunting them: is this a country( or a plurinational state) that I wish to live in?
In this context, Rajoy has lost, dragging Spanish constitutionalists to their defeat. Contrary to his attitude,during the post-electoral negotiations, the President of the Govern has lost here a great chance to be silent. And quiet. And learning a lesson from the Iraqi Govern with the case of Kurdistan’s referendum. Or from his colleague Cameron with the Scottish case. But he wasn’t quiet. He stated even: “We will not accept what you are proposing, do not underestimate the strength of Spanish democracy, it is very strong, Spain is a great nation”. And with a threatening tone: “you will make us do what we don’t want to”.
Serbian nationalism is symbolised in a sentence proffered in Khosovo by Slobodan Milosevic in 1989: “you shall never hit a Serbian again” (after being presented to an old man, allegedly hit by the police, mostly Albanian, at the time).
Are these two rhetoric different? For all these reasons and more, there will be a bigger amount of Catalans willing to vote this Sunday.
If it’s true, as Juán-José Lopex Burriol in La Vanguardia states, “Each ruler – either by action or omission – let a hard but not irreparable issue to (grow) rotten”, I believe it makes even more sense Carles Casajuana’s statement in the same article from this morning paper’s edition:
«It is hard to see how could mutual good faith be restored without giving in anyway, the word to catalan people».
Between the pro-independence faction and the pro-constitution faction “there can only be established a consensus in a single issue: the situation is grave and no one knows how it will end”, Iñigo Dominguez wrote in El País. And, in the end, Bosnia-Herzegovina is so near us.
See original text here: