Sanchez: Venezuela-Catalonia ambiguity

Anna van Densky OPINION Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez  has announced that  people of Venezuelamust decide their future” in a striking contrast with his interior politics of systemic denial of Catalan people to decide upon theirs.

The stunning discrepancy between Spain‘s government position will create even deeper schism between Barcelona and Madrid, but even more so between Madrid and Catalans because of the justified sentiments of discrimination, contrasting with international pace of Sanchez, profiling himself as a promoter of democracy and freedom. Myopic, influenced by foreign powers, Socialist government is sliding into turmoil, actively engaging in the US geopolitical adventures, and completely neglecting the basic freedoms and rights of its own citizens. After the statement in support of Venezuelans there is no argument left to deny the Catalans their right to decide.

In the coming hours I will contact European and Latin American governments,” said Sánchez, adding that Guaidó must now “call free elections as soon as possible” because “it is the people of Venezuela who must decide their future, and the international community must respect and verify the outcome.

Spain officially recognizes Juan Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela” – Sanchez confirmed.

Meanwhile the pro-independence Catalan politicians are transferred to jails in Madrid, where the prosecution is seeking prison terms of up to 25 years for 12 Catalan politicians on charges of “rebellion” and “misuse of public funds“, after the failed attempt at breaking away from Spain in 2017.

Western Balkans Pandora box Summit

Anna van Densky OPINION.

Western Balkans Summit is a lively event in Bulgarian capital Sofia,  assembling leaders from the EU member states, and the countries (and disputed territories) of colorful and rich in diversity mountain region, sometimes even too diverse for achieving the integration and cohesion promoted by Brussels strategists. In essence the Western Balkans represent a permanent challenge for the EU, regarding the inclusion into the bloc as the final chapter, closing the entire book of Yugoslav wars, which shook the continent two decades ago. Happy end. However there are some elements, indicating that Brussels plans  to integrate Western Balkans in the bloc is nothing more than a fata morgana, a vision of an exhausted traveller of an oasis with green palm trees in the sands of a desert…

Approaching the painful ‘divorce’ with the UK, the second largest net contributor to the EU purse, Brussels started to look at #WestBalkans with a special warmth in the eyes and voice, diverting public attention from #Brexit as the major failure to another direction –the enlargement project ‘of a great potential’ for the ‘old and tired’ Western Europe. We are loosing in the north, but winning in the south, so nevertheless the EU is ‘up and running’ reads the message of the Eurocentrics, attempting to preserve the fading image of the European project by ignoring losses and focusing on the wins. But are there any?..

It has been some time already that the European citizens have an opportunity to enjoy the enchanting resorts of Croatia, regarding the country as a ‘success model’ of the EU Enlargement policy in the Western Balkans. And now : Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and disputed Kosovo – are the ones to integrate, the WB6. However, even if putting aside the problems of rise of Albanian mafia,  or the drug trafficking, indicating that the most heroin reaching the EU from Afghanistan flows through Kosovo.

Even if  putting aside the problems of illegal mass migration exploiting the  routes for Middle East strangers entering Bosnia from Serbia as the result of a visa-free regime introduced last year between Serbia and Iran. Even if excluding the West Balkans role in the human trafficking, being both destination and transit place. And also if we drop the issues of corruption. If one regards only  a political dimension, the Western Balkans represent a Pandora box for the EU. From a first glance it is clear that the Sofia Summit represents a high risk project to an extend the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy prefered to leave the scene even before the launch of the event to avoid the parallels between Kosovo and Catalonia claims of independence.

Just passing by to say ‘hello’, prime minister Rajoy prefers not to enter the Summit to avoid the confrontation with the sui generis case of unilateral independence of Kosovo. However will the diplomatic maneuver save Spain from Balkanization? Jure humāno…

Will Puigdemont follow fate of Companys?

After the rigorous action of German police, stopping Catalan independence leader upon the EU arrest warrant, issued by Madrid, the major question arises: will  German judges condemn Puigdemont to follow the fate of President Companys (1882-1940), who was detained by Gestapo in France and handed to Spain?

Rajoy Puigdemont
President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont next to Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy

The President of Catalonia from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War , Companys was detained in France, where he lived in exile,  and handed over by the Nazi secret police Gestapo in a formal procedure to Spanish state, where under the dictatorship of Gen.Franco the President Lluís Companys i Jover was tortured in prison, and executed by firing squad in 1940.

Carles Puigdemont at Lluis Companys i Jover tomb
Carles Puigdemont at Lluís Companys i Jover tomb

The lawyer of former President of self-proclaimed Catalan Republic said that highway police had stopped Puigdemont on Sunday (25.03.2018) after he crossed the border from Denmark to Germany. He also confirmed that Puigdemont had been on his way back to Belgium after his trip to Finnish Parliament. A spokesperson for Puigdemont made the following statement:

“1. President Carles Puigdemont was retained in Germany when he was crossing the border from Denmark, on his way to Belgium from Finland. 2. The treatment has been correct in every moment. At the moment he is in a police station and his legal defense is already activated. 3. The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of the Belgian justice.”

Madrid assess the independence movement in Catalonia as a ‘plot’ against Spain’s legal and constitutional order. The charges carry up to 30  years in jail. Catalan politicians are accused of rebellion, contradicting the principle of self-determination of people enshrined in UN Charter.

 

Ab absurdo: Puigdemont as asylum-seeker

Anna van Densky, OPINION The circulating in mainstream media hypothesis of President of Catalan Republic Carles Puigdemont escapade to Brussels in search of political asylum can’t be regarded otherwise as absurd.

First, if politicians have to flee Spain because of dissent, it will mean that Kingdom of Spain is not a democracy. (Political dissident from Span? Hmmm… It reminds me of something…)

Second, it would mean that organising plebiscite is a criminal activity, which will provoke a confrontation with the United Nations, being in contradiction with the most sacred part of international law – the human rights.

Third, the attack on human rights will torpedo the work of entire EU External Actions Service, discrediting their efforts to improve human rights situation outside the bloc.

Forth, it will reinforce the public sympathy for Catalans, and raise criticism against the European institutions for not respecting their own engagements, and principles. So many citizens will ignore the next elections to the European Parliament, which will be a blow to the EU credibility. Imagine if only 20% of Europeans come to drop ballots for EU?..

So there are some reasons for which Carles Puigdemont will be never charged for organising a plebiscite, and never arrested.

Unfortunately, the crisis government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy created will continue, however the EU can not afford to let it rub off its own image and activities, subsequently the EU will not allow Puigdemont to become Europe’s Nelson Mandela. The Brussels has many faults, but giving in to Madrid in human rights abuse means to agree to look like a theatre of absurd – a suicidal move for an already shaken by Brexit project. Ab absurdo!

 

Catalonia taking flight

Anna van Densky, OPINION. While the entire world watched events at Iberian peninsula, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker  looked at stars, visiting Kourou space centre in French Guiana – spaceport of France, shared with European Space Agency (ESA) for launch of Ariane6  in 2020 project.  Contemplating stars and accepting fate at a moment of birth of a new state in Europe, most probably, is the best thing to do, when there is no power to reverse events: following Brexit, one of the richest EU regions of the Mediterranean – Catalonia, has floated away.

While Madrid is obsessed with the direct rule over breakaway region, Barcelona is celebrating freedom of  Catalan Republic, waiting for recognition to come.  Although president of European Parliament Antonio Tajani ensured “no EU member state will recognize the independence of Catalonia,” the reality indicates otherwise:  politicians, feeling huge sympathy of public towards Catalonia, started to express their support:

Next to Slovenia, Finnish parliament is going to debate on the issue the next week:

On the other side of the world, Argentina will debate whether or not Catalonia is recognized, while Venezuela has always been on the side of the Catalans. The first signs of recognition will inspire the following, allowing Catalan Republic to breath freely, brushing away the threats from Madrid.

Appointing his deputy as a governor of Catalonia, Prime minister Rajoy is clearly uninterested in Czech-style ‘velvet divorce’, but attempts keeping the rich region under control by means of repressions. Punishing Catalans might be also seductive for the EU political forces at power, presuming that Barcelona sets a bad example for the other multiethnic states in the EU, encouraging them to search for independence, scattering Europe in micro-states. From the other hand there might be those who like the idea, for example, the federalists, who don’t mind Europe of micro federal states, run from Brussels.

The fears of ‘cracks’ in Europe are not caused by Catalonia, the tectonic ‘seismic’ effect came from collapse of the USSR, changing map of Europe, and opening space for new independent states, each of unique pattern, dependent of geography, infrastructure, history and culture.

Some of the new European states are stuck by misfortune, trapped in absurd of political prejudice, like Macedonia, blocked from joining the EU by neighbouring Greece in a name dispute. There are also positive examples, like Czechs and Slovaks, who had improved relations and economic ties after splitting up. However Catalonia, with it highly developed infrastructure, and a long coastline, with Barcelona among top 20 EU ports, does not need to search for a pattern to follow among any of existing models of new European states, it has all necessary elements to develop it own unique way.

Regarding the negative attitude of #Rajoy government towards Catalan independence, it does not make much sense to try to re-enter EU, where Spain would do its best to prevent Catalans to join. Pulling down EU flags along with the Spanish ones confirmed Catalans have no illusions about their possible future in EU27 bloc.

Aware of the EU deadend, Catalans are looking another direction, as the leaked vice-President Oriol Junqueras report suggests, visualising joining  EFTA common market with Iceland, Switzerland Norway and Liechtenstein.

Within this perspective, next to Brexit, Catalan departure from the EU is second blow to the image, and even more so for the budget of the bloc.

When stars are fading away from the EU flag, thinking about travelling through space to stars with Ariane6 is truly comforting idea:  per aspera ad astra!

 

 

 

 

 

Catalonia in limbo

Anna van Densky, OPINION  The indecisiveness of the Catalan leadership, and seemingly endless diplomatic maneuvering of Carles Puigdemont opened a broad way to Mariano Rajoy government to launch an offensive. Rajoy has an advantage over Catalans – he is clear, but his opponent are not. If in the aftermath of the referendum the sympathies of the international community to freedom-aspiring Catalans were high, the following confusion about status declaration, and  a step back  in suspension took away large portion of this sentiment, drowning in doubt over region’s clarity of vision for its future. What do Catalans want?..

One can not spend month marching in the streets, waving flags, expressing will to become free, without considerable damages to economy, scaring business away with instability,  and in this regard Rajoy’s intention to go back to blacks restoring calm is understandable in essence, although unacceptable in form from a democratic perspective – restoring order by military means is at odds with so often proclaimed “EU values.”

However today Rajoy’s government is winning grounds, while Catalans losing, because of a protracted ‘limbo’  situation Catalan leaders have chosen for. Economic interests of majority of Europeans prevail over Catalan ideals of freedom, hovering high, but unable to materialize.

Carles Puigdemont received power from Catalans, but lost it in vain attempting to settle the argument with Madrid in ‘European” style of “velvet” revolutions – poor judgement of application of examples of other cultures within the Spanish context of post-Franco era. Too much time wasted on an illusion awaiting a ‘dialogue’, allowing Madrid diplomacy to advance…

Great Spanish protagonist Don Quixote tries to bring justice to the world, revive chivalry high ideals, but is doomed, when confronted with the realities of life. Classics are great due to their universal dimension – apparently there are also Don Quixotes in Catalonia nowadays. We sympathize with them, we feel compassionate towards them, but we don’t understand them: the moment we think we do, Catalan Don Quixotes surprise us, contradicting our premise.

 

 

Catalonia: rise or fall?..

Anna van Densky, OPINION On contrary to what many in Madrid and Brussel hope, the aspiration of independence of Catalans, and problem it poses to Kingdom of Spain, and a number of European countries concerned with separatists movements, this dream of independence will not fade away. There were around 70 states after the WWII, and now at the UN there are more than 200, and their number is continuing to grow, so independence is clearly a world trend to stay.

The trend which insures that Mariano Rajoy and all successive governments will be facing a constant pressure from the Catalans, both citizens and political class, aspiring freedom. The only viable solution is in following Czechoslovakia model of separation, known as ‘velvet divorce’ diminishing related damages of all kinds, and removing combustible of a potential conflict in future.

In case of unconditional recognition of Catalan independence by Spain, the breakaway region can stay in the EU, NATO and continue to cultivate close economic ties with Madrid. It would be a mutually beneficial relationship between two countries, and also for the larger EU community.

However it is highly unlikely that Rajoy government will accept this ‘velvet’ way of dealing with the issue, as the entire world have seen his choice of repression as a method of resolving the political crisis. Usually gurus avoid to speculate on the future, pointing at the absence of a crystal ball, but in some cases the forecast is easier to model, because the situation is typical, occurring many times before.

In Catalan case there are three possible scenarios, and among them one is highly hypothetic, mentioned above ‘velvet divorce’.

The two other are rather standard: or Carles Puigdemont without delay declares independence based on the results of the plebiscite, and moves on with the state construction agenda outside the EU, with support of some of the European countries, and some of EU member-states, recognising free Catalan Republic, or he loses momentum.

In case Catalans lose the momentum,  Rajoy would go into offensive with multiple Court cases, accusing Catalan politicians of coup-d’état – the blame already articulated by Spanish diplomats in mass-media. In this case, Puigdemont will face 14 Stations of the Cross literally, not allegorically, because Spanish courts will charge him with treason.

The most active members of political elite would face the similar fate, and the independence movement would be ‘beheaded’, which is a rather standard scenario repeated many times through history.

The other practical step would be taken into direction of undermining the economic base for independence, with the removal of key financial and industrial players from Catalonia. (The process has already started with the relocation of offices of Spanish banks). Is is already clear that Madrid would prefer to sacrifice economy and living standards of the population, punishing Catalonia,  for the sake of the unity of the Kingdom.

Logically, facing the betrayal of the EU, rejecting to protect human rights of Catalans, denying them the right of self-determination, and referring to the situation as to an home affair of Spain, Puigdemont has no much space for maneuvering  horizontally, but only between raise and fall vertically. The clock is ticking, so are the risks of postponing the independence declaration for tomorrow, that might never come…