Saturday, 24 July 2010
Two years ago, I wrote about the double standards of many governments when dealing with the self-determination movements across the world. Sometimes, they are supportive of the right to self-determination –except when they support the principle of territorial integrity.
The original post is available here.
Yesterday, the UN International Tribunal issued its ruling on the process of independence from Serbia of the territory of Kosovo. Full ruling available in this link [ENG].
The conclusions are devastating for those, like the Spanish state, who believe the right of territorial integrity of a sovereign state is above the right to self-determination of the people, or part of the people, that make up that state. That Spain stood alongside China and Russia, those beacons of democracy!, against the formal recognition of Kosovo’s independence should have been a clue as to what was coming and whose moral compass was, and still is, pointing the wrong way.
In the end, despite the repetitive caveats and disclaimers, this ruling provides legal cover for those stateless nations/countries/regions, call it what you will, who have a settled will, democratically expressed, to secede from the macro-state.
Let’s hope the Spanish state takes note and ceases to issue veiled threats of military aggression if the peoples of the Basque Country or Catalonia decide to exercise their democratic right to self-determination.
Original post (30/08/2008) - Whose right is it?
Amidst all the noise regarding the events in the Caucasus and the Balkans, the western media is doing a very good job in dumbing down the Georgia-Russia conflict as if it were a simple choice between the goodies (the West obviously) and the baddies (Russians of course).
Many others have written endlessly about the authoritarian nature of the Russian government, and its lack of democratic credentials. We could write about the Georgian president and his miscalculation. We could write about the Ossetian militias and how Georgians have been driven away from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a tidy exercise of ethnic cleansing. We could write how the Russian government caricaturises the Georgian President as some sort of crazy despot, despite Georgian elections being overseen by the OECD, unlike Russia. We could write how it is Georgia’s turn now, then it will be Ukraine and Crimea, then Poland’s energy dependency on Russia, and after that it will probably be the Baltic Republics’ (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) turn.
But not many people is paying attention to the key socio-political issue: the selfish manipulation by states of the debate on the right of self-determination versus the principle of territorial integrity.
In the last few months, we have seen how the Russian government comes out to defend the territorial integrity of Serbia, against the right of self-determination of Kosovar people. A few months later, they send troops well inside Georgian territory to defend the right of self-determination of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, without a care in the world for Georgia’s territorial integrity.
It is the exact opposite with the western states: support for the right of self-determination in Kosovo but deny exactly the same right in South Ossetia.
And the fact of the matter is that neither the West or Russia can claim the moral high ground. Both sides have switched from defending one right to supporting the other. Their positions are not based on a consistent ideological framework, but driven by geo-political and economic considerations.
The outcome however, has been the same in both cases: the right of self-determination has succeeded in both Kosovo and South Ossetia.
The lesson of the last few decades in Europe is that if there is "on the ground consensus", and some degree of external help, in the end it is the people’s right (self-determination) the one that prevails above the right of territorial integrity of states. It is also a confirmation of the politics of fait accompli: whatever happens on the ground becomes the new status quo and the new accepted reality.
But the right of self-determination does not always reign. If in doubt, ask the Kurds, who have no external support whatsoever for their cause and must be the largest and most fucked up stateless nation in the world jointly with Tibet.
The question is: will the Russian government do the same trick in Crimea? My answer: yes, without a doubt.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Watching from afar, via the Catalan news channel www.3cat24.cat, the massive civic demonstration in Barcelona against the ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court on the Catalan Estatut, I could not help but draw a parallel between the organisation of the rally and the current political situation.
This political rally was called under the banner of “We are a nation – we decide” (Som una nació; nosaltres decidim). The local police, never one for inflating numbers for pro-Catalan civic demonstrations, has estimated attendance at over 1.1m people. After watching TV, I would say that is an overly prudent lower bound by a police force mostly staffed by people who would never support anything other that Catalonia being a region of Spain.
The demonstration has been a massive, unprecedented, historic success. There were more people in attendance that it was ever anticipated or expected even by the most optimist. In fact, the rally did not advance for one hour because there were just too many people. Overwhelming popular support against an attack by the unelected high priests of Spanish nationalism against the settled wish of the Catalan people as expressed in a referendum and the Catalan Parliament. If there was any question about people being not interested, surely this settles the issue.
However, anyone has been to a few rallies and knows the city a little bit, could tell you that the design of this rally was a mistake. It was meant to start in Pg Gracia / Diagonal, walk down and turn left at Gran Via until Pl Tetuan.
This is an inefficient way for people to congregate and make their way.
This particular rally should have started at Pl Espanya and terminate at Pl Catalunya/Pg Gracia.
Not only because this is a better alternative from a logistical point of view, and would have accommodated the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, but also because this would be a poignant way to symbolise the political cul-de-sac Catalonia has now arrived at.
In a way, the overwhelming success of this political demonstration in favour of Catalonia’s nationhood, is representative of the current state of affairs. People, most people, regardless of their background and national preference are fed up with being treated as second class citizens. People are fed up with the constant insults from most of the Spanish press against Catalonia. However, the political divisions, the lack of leadership and vision amongst the Catalan political class, and more than anything the lack of cojones, are holding Catalonia back. Undoubtedly, there is popular will to change the status quo, but there seems to be no political agent willing to implement this message.
Against this, there are those luminaries who claim that the “nationalists” are only a few, that this issue does not interest the majority of people, and that this is a distraction from the real issues that matter to real people. Those who say these things are, have been and will always be nothing more than duplicitous, manipulative and resentful little people, unable or unwilling to understand, to accept that Catalonia is a nation, a stateless nation, that should be allowed to choose its own future without interference and threats from the Spanish state.
Let it never be said again that “people in the street” are not interested in the Estatut, that it is only political anoraks who worry about these things. It is because the Estatut is the vehicle that enables Catalonia to look after its interests, after its hospitals, schools and public services, and it is because of this, because people are worried about things that matter, that Barcelona has witnessed today the biggest civic demonstration in living memory if not ever.
Will this historical, massive civic demonstration of national strength achieve anything?
I am afraid it won’t.
Sorry I don’t have the time to translate the article below:
Mr Alexandre, one of the brightest minds in Catalonia, nails it again.
A political problem is resolved via political decision making and policy implementation.
Civic demonstrations and rallies are noise. A cry for attention given everything else seems to have failed.
After all, this Estatut that has been decimated by the Spanish CC is an already cut-down version of the Estatut approved by the Catalan Parliament in 2005 by all parties except the Spanish PP. In a matter of days, that Estatut was watered down by CiU and PSC-PSOE in closed-door negotiations.
Therein lies one of the conundrums of Catalan politics: support for independence, overt or subtle is ever higher, growing almost by the month. Today’s rally was a rally in favour of independence. However, none of the mainstream parties, not even ERC, let alone CiU, do try to implement the policies they carry in their manifestos.
PSC-PSOE, the party in government in Catalonia and in Madrid, claims to be a federalist party. However, after being in power in Spain for many years, in the 80s and now, Spain is far from a federal state. In fact, the judges appointed by the PSOE voted jointly with the PP-appointed judges in watering down the Catalan Estatut. This ruling by the Spanish CC has killed off the idea of a federal Spain. The federalist door has been slammed down in the face of the PSC by their own Spanish colleagues of the PSOE.
CiU claims to be a moderate nationalist party but in fact they are scared of challenging the status quo. For them, steady-as-you-go of the status quo is a happy state of affairs –as long as they are in power.
ERC, the party that is, on paper, pro-independence, is propping up a coalition government in the Catalan parliament jointly with the PSC-PSOE. Against the wishes of its electorate, ERC has renewed the coalition government a second time, achieving very little in terms of safeguarding Catalonia’s interests in terms of finances, cultural development, public services delivery or economic growth.
IC-V are the PSC-PSOE poodle and they will slavishly follow whatever direction is set by PSC.
On the sidelines, a number of pro-independence parties and movements appear to carry more support than ever but have yet to make an impact on the political scene.
The political cul-de-sac, this end-of-the-road moment in Catalan/Spanish relations can only be unblocked by elected politicians choosing two courses of action.
1) Management of the current devolution framework as set out in the Spanish Constitution.
2) Exercise of the right to self-determination via referendum bill approved in the Catalan Parliament.
The problem is that most political parties in Catalonia want a third, unviable option: a high level of self-government in a federal Spain. Despite the clear-cut ruling by the Spanish CC, PSC-PSOE and CiU will try to pursue this non-option.
Choosing option 1 would be an admission of failure, whilst option 2 requires a level of courage and dignity than anyone in CiU or ERC, let alone PSC or IC-V, can only dream of.
For over 100 years, Catalonia has tried to change Spain, make it a federal, multi-national state. The Spanish have decisively rejected such possibility.
Yet some Catalans still insist on trying to achieve a chimera.
The stage is set for either a massive climb down and humiliation or a paradigm shift in Catalan/Spanish relations the consequences of which are unpredictable.
Saturday, 10 July 2010
Regular readers will have noticed that there has been an hiatus in this blog.
Sometimes life takes over in unexpected ways. Amongst other stuff, being without internet at home for 6 weeks has been quite traumatic. Let’s hope I never have to go through this again.
Much has been happening since my last entry.
- a new UK coalition government
- FC Barcelona has won the League title
- AVUI has been bought by El Punt on the cheap with the support of PSOE-PSC with the aim of toning down its editorial policy and ultimately get rid of the title. Shame because AVUI and its Diàleg pages were an oasis of free-thinking and competing viewpoints, from PP and Ciudadanos to ERC and Reagrupament.
- I visited by family and friends in Catalonia and enjoyed a visit to the city of Zaragoza.
- The Labour Party is Glasgow has found itself mired in corruption allegations and scandals. To call this lot the Labour mafia as I and many other people do is really an understatement.
- The Spanish Constitutional Court has issued a ruling against the new Catalan Estatut (devolution framework) that was approved by the Spanish Parliament, the Catalan Parliament and the people of Catalonia in a referendum. This ruling destroys the consensus of 1979 and attacks the most fundamental tenets of social cohesion in Catalonia.
- The Spanish PM has said that the process of devolution (“desarrollo autonómico”) for Catalonia has been closed.
- Spain is going to play in the FIFA World Cup final for the first time ever. My 20/1 bet placed a few weeks ago now looks extremely good value.
- A few so-called “neutral” bloggers have come out of the closet with regards to the whole Spain vs Catalonia debate.
Normal services will resume soon. I am trying to recover usernames, passwords, etc, and get my thoughts together on a few issues.