Three years or so ago I was one of over seventeen million people who voted to leave the European Union.
I have for as long as I have been interested in politics been a eurosceptic, and at the risk of falling foul of the unashamedly pro-EU party I am proud to be a member of, I still am. But, in the event, I finally chose to vote to leave because I believed the rhetoric that we would agree a mutually-beneificial deal and depart with some semblance of economic security. What a fool I was.
Fundamentally, the EU is not a socialist paradise built for the enhancement of individuals, but an economic trading bloc designed around protecting member states and the movement of goods and services. For all the many advantages membership of the EU brings, the rights of free citizens and advancement of liberty cannot be counted among them, for the European elite would cast the individual aside without a second thought if the common goal of frictionless trade in a united Europe were at stake.
In October 2017, during the independence referendum in Catalonia, the EU remained silent while one of its member states ordered riot police to violently attack peaceful voters. Whatever the legality (or otherwise) of the referendum in question, such an attack on peaceful European citizens is unacceptable from a member of an organisation which wishes to present itself as the defender of individual rights, and the lack of public admonishment from the EU is shameful, to say the least.
Yesterday the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) released initial data on this year’s pro-independence rally, with the main headline being that registrations for the event have fallen 25%.
Every year since 2013, the pro-independence organisation has organised a large protest in support of independence on 11 September, Catalonia’s national day. So far 37,500 people have registered to take part in this year’s demonstration, a fall of one quarter compared to this time last year.
The drop in registrations was gleefully reported by the Madrid-based media, with El Mundo’s headline recalling that it is the lowest uptake in six years, while El País says that the reduction comes in the middle of division within the pro-independence movement. Catalan media sympathetic towards independence also recognised the fall, with El Nacional, El Punt Avui and VilaWeb all reporting the registration data.
The division between the two main secessionist political parties Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia) is well documented, particularly since local elections in May, following which both parties formed post-electoral pacts with unionists across Catalonia.
In the midst of the political division, the ANC decided that this year’s demonstration should be about highlighting that, wherever people come from, their objective is the same: the independence of Catalonia. To achieve this, they are focusing the protest on Barcelona’s plaça d’Espanya, where demonstrators will merge from the five main surrounding streets and form the shape of a star. The motto for this year’s demonstration is Objectiu independència, or Objective independence.
This is a translation of an article from Catalan newspaper VilaWeb entitled “L’ANC deixarà els polítics fora de la zona de convidats de la manifestació de la Diada“. VilaWeb publishes some of their own articles in English here.
Political party leaders will not have access to the guest zone for this year’s Diada protest organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). They have been excluded. This was decided by a broad consensus by the entity’s national secretariat, after having received the unease of many local ANC groups for the lack of strategic unity between the pro-independence parties, expressed, in addition, with pacts such as the one between Junts per Catalunya and PSC in the Provincial Deputation of Barcelona and ERC’s abstention in Pedro Sánchez’s investiture vote in the Spanish Congress. Sources in the ANC have confirmed this to VilaWeb.
This morning, one of the members of the secretariat, Joan Marc Jesús, published the decision on Twitter:
Eh @sergisabria @elsa_artadi @Aurora_Madaula @martavilaltat
You will have to take your selfies with the people on foot. That way you can also take the opportunity to listen to what we ask for. #ObjectiuIndependència
This implies that this time the ANC will not be sending invitations to institutional representatives and political parties to attend the Diada event from the guest zone. The only ones who will be there will be representatives from the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), due to the collaborative relationship between the two entities.
According to Wikipedia, Josep Borrell Fontelles is a Spanish or Catalan politician (depending on which language you are reading in), member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and, since June 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in the Spanish Government.
With a long and colourful career behind him, Borrell looks set to add another top job to his CV, as it was announced this week that he was the European Council’s choice for the role of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the 2019-2024 European Commission.
The high representative is the head of the European Union’s diplomatic corps, the 28 member states’ collective representative on the world stage. Initially created in 1999 under the Treaty of Amsterdam, with an enlarged portfolio under the Treaty of Lisbon, Borrell is set to become the fourth person to hold the post, the second from the Iberian Peninsula, following in the footsteps of Spain’s Javier Solana (1999-2009), the UK’s Catherine Ashton (2009-2014) and the incumbent Federica Mogherini of Italy (2014-).
As Charlemagne notes in The Economist, “Borrell will be the most heavyweight figure to serve as high representative”, by implication adding to the prestige of the position. And yet, paradoxically, if the European Union is serious about listening to the popular impetus for change expressed in May’s elections, if they want to be taken seriously in global diplomatic circles, and if they are serious about cleaning their image, it is imperative Josep Borrell is not appointed to the role of high representative.
It is imperative we #StopBorrell
On Thursday, Jordi Cuixart, the President of Omnium Cultural, wrote a letter to all members of the Catalan association which was published on their website under the headline “Carta des de la presó: ‘Que la impotència de la sentència es converteixi en esperança’“. This is a translation of the full letter into English.
Once again I am writing to you from Catalonia. Just a few hours have been enough to feel the solidarity of all of you. Infinite thanks.
The movement of the political prisoners closer to home is nothing more than a reflex of the democratic regression of the state. They want us to be discouraged and surrendered, and so the sentences will be hard and will hurt us. But believe me, there is only one way and it is to do it together.
Remember that no social conquest has ever been gifted. If we do not punish ourselves, if we do not give up sharing everything, if we know how to be united and act in a generous and empathetic manner, we will leave. But we must do it with coherence and determination, with culture as the principle element of social cohesion and limitless democracy.