EU incompetent fools

The European Union has blamed “human error” for a major intervention in the Catalan elections, but says it will investigate.

The European Union has said that “human error” resulted in an entire paragraph being added to the official response to a question on the Catalan elections.

Catalans will vote for their regional parliament, the Generalitat, this Sunday in elections the current president and civil society groups have tried to turn into a plebiscite on independence.

Pro-independence politicians and other well-known faces, including former FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, have joined together as candidates for the Junts pel Sí coalition, after the Spanish government in Madrid blocked all other attempts for a referendum on independence. Junts pel Sí have promised to issue a unilateral declaration of independence within 18 months if they win on Sunday.

Madrid have refused to recognise Sunday’s election as a plebiscite, although the Catalan branch of the ruling Partido Popular, and various members of the government including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have been campaigning on the benefits of a united Spain.

One of the Partido Popular members of the European Parliament, Santiago Fisas Ayxelà, even tabled a question to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, asking:

Would the Commission recognise this unilateral declaration of independence, or would it respect Spain’s territorial integrity and the Spanish State’s competence to manage its internal affairs and essential functions as a State?

It was, as with most political questions, very loaded. The EU is, supposedly, committed to not interfering with the internal affairs of member states, where they do not impact directly on the EU. During the Scottish referendum, the EU’s input only stretched to membership of the EU if it became independent.

The official answer given by President Juncker, in English, was a standard response:

It is not for the Commission to express a position on questions of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements of a particular Member State.

However, the Spanish translation of the answer includes an additional paragraph which represents a major intervention, roughly translated as:

The Commission recalls in this context that, in accordance with what is ordered in Article 4, Part 2, of the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty), the Union must respect the “national identity [of Member States], inherent in their fundamental political and constitutional structures, also with reference to local and regional autonomy. It will respect the essential functions of the state, especially those whose object is to guarantee their territorial integrity.” The determination of a Member State’s territory is uniquely established by the national constitutional law and not by a decision of an autonomous parliament contrary to the constitution of the said state.

This additional paragraph was immediately seized upon by the Partido Popular and others opposed to independence, but the EU insists it is not an official position, as the only official answer was that given in English. The EU has put the additional paragraph down to “human error”, a result of having 35,000 employees, but that excuse simply does not wash.

Whether official or not, President Juncker’s response has been manipulated and is now embedded in the minds of many Catalan voters just days before the crucial election.

What is at stake in this case is not just the future of Catalunya and Spain, but the integrity of the EU as a whole. An organisation that purports to represent more than 500,000,000 people cannot simply bat away such a large manipulation as mere “human error”, otherwise it cannot and will not be trusted on similar matters in future.

The EU must investigate exactly how this was allowed to happen, and either update the official response or publicly declare that this is not the view of the Commission. Trust in the EU project, for those who do still trust it, is on the line.

1.4 million in la Meridiana for independence

1.4 million catalans took to Barcelona’s Avinguda Meridiana today to demonstrate in support of independence for the region, according to police estimates.

11 September is the Diada Nacional de Catalunya, which commemorates the date in 1714 when Barcelona fell to the Bourbon King Felipe V and Catalunya lost its state of independence.

In recent years, the Diada has become an opportunity for supporters of independence, the number of whom has been growing as a result of both the financial crisis and the policies implemented by Spain’s ruling Partido Popular, to assert their right to decide their own future.

Today’s demonstration, called the Via Lliure, was designed to be symbolic of the way towards a free and fair Catalan Republic. 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles) of La Meridiana were filled with hundreds of thousands of catalans, split into ten sections to represent the ten foundation pillars of the Catalan Republic. At 17.14, a giant yellow pointer started moving in the direction of the Generalitat, the Catalan Parliament.

As the pointer moved through each of the ten sections, the crowds raised their own colour pointers representing their foundation pillar: from democracy to regional stability, solidarity to the world, diversity to sustainability, equality to social justice, and innovation to culture and education.

The Via Lliure is the culmination of a number of events across the region, and around the world, which point towards elections to the Catalan Parliament taking place on 27 September. Political parties representing left and right have put their political differences aside to stand, together with prominent voices from civil society (including singer and campaigner Lluís Llach and former FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola), under the banner of Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes).

If Junts pel Sí win a majority of votes and seats on 27 September, they plan to set in motion the process of creating an independent Catalan Republic which, they claim, could be formed in as little as 18 months. However, such a move would be against the Spanish Constitution, which states that Spain is indivisible, and whichever government has power in Madrid following the national election in December is unlikely to allow Catalunya independence without a fight.

For now, supporters of independence have made the strength of their beliefs clear in la Meridiana but, according to the slogan, on 27 September on tot comença – it all starts!

Catalan Street Party tomorrow in London

If you go into central London tomorrow, look out for the sea of white.

No, I’m not talking about a wedding, but the Catalan Street Party organised by the England branch of the Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC).

Starting in the shadows of St Paul’s Cathedral at midday, hundreds of Catalans will parade to Kennington Park, stopping at various points along the way to explain the ten foundation pillars of the proposed Catalan Republic: solidarity, innovation, the world, regional balance, culture and education, equality, democracy, social justice, diversity and sustainability.

The full route of the Catalan Street Party

The full route of the Catalan Street Party

Once at Kennington Park, there will be a short break for lunch, where those who are so inclined can purchase the traditional pa amb tomàquet & embotit, or bring along their own lunch from home.

After lunch, the organisers are offering a parents & kids obstacle course, The Great Catalan Bake Off, traditional sardana dancing with The Colla Sardanista de Londres and a human towers display by The Castellers of London.

The most important part of the day will commence at 16:45, with the formation of the human mosaic in the form of a giant arrow pointing towards Barcelona. This event is one of a number across the globe which constitute the ANC’s Gateway, pointing to the main Via Lliure in Barcelona on 11 September.

The white t-shirts available from ANC England

The white t-shirts available from ANC England

All those taking part in the human mosaic will be dressed in white, and will raise blue pointers at the symbolic time of 17:14. The white, which will also be worn in Barcelona, represents the blank canvas from which the proposed Catalan Republic would be drawn, with ten different colour pointers representing the ten foundation pillars referenced above. The arrows point to Barcelona, where a giant arrow will make its way along the Avinguda Meridiana on 11 September, reaching the Generalitat (the Catalan Parliament) and pointing the way towards the desired Catalan Republic.

I will be in London tomorrow, tweeting updates and photographs of the Catalan Street Party throughout the afternoon.