Democracy and the catalan political process

Ponència de Joan Vallvé en motiu de l’acte que Sobirania i Justícia, juntament amb Drets, va organitzar el passat dimarts, 2 de juny, al Parlament europeu amb el títol “Spain, no rule of law?” 

First of all let me thank the Members of the European Parliament who made it possible to organize this event in Brussels. My name is Joan Vallvé and I was a member of this Parliament between 1994 and 2004. In July 1994 12 member States belonged to the EU and when I left the Parliament in 2004 there were 25.  I was on the Regional Policy Committee and the Culture Committee.

For me it is very satisfying to have the opportunity to be back here again as a representative of  the organisation “Sobirania i Justicia” (Sovereignty and Justice). Our organisation was founded by Mr. Agusti Bassols, former Minister of Justice of the Catalan Government. Since 2011 we have organized four Conferences with the title “Building a New State”. We have had the opportunity to listen to experts on constitutional issues, experts from  the UK, Germany, the  USA, Slovenia, Quebec, etc. The main goal of our organisation is to contribute to reinforcing the sovereignty of Catalonia in a framework of justice and welfare. And how can Catalonia become a country of welfare, of justice with economic progress and also with social distribution of wealth? This will be only possible if the citizens of Catalonia are able to decide how to produce and how to distribute the resources for education, health, and social policies. And also how to contribute to the development of poorer countries according to the recommendations of the United Nations. The capacity to decide, the right to decide, in the 21st century, means independence. For these reasons and also to keep our identity many citizens of Catalonia want  independence. Sovereignty and Justice wants the best for Catalonia, for its population and these goals can only be obtained through independence.

Perhaps some of you are thinking about the economy of Catalonia and the economy of Spain as a whole. Catalonia is today a rich region in Spain, an industrialised region.  Although it has no raw materials, industrialisation in the 19th century  began with the textile industry. I agree with you about the need for solidarity and Catalonia must pay a quantity of its revenues to contribute to poorer regions.  And we are paying. How much must we pay? Catalonia is now paying around 8.5% of our GDP. This is too much. In Germany, for instance, the richer länder contribute to the development of the poorer länder. A  German Constitutional Court Judgement, established the maximum contribution  of the rich länder as 4% of their GDP. In the case of Catalonia, 10% of GDP is too much. It makes it impossible to guarantee the quality of education, health and social services to the inhabitants of  Catalonia and also economic development  in Catalonia.

I do not know if you have information about the history of Catalonia during the 20th and 21st centuries. Let me give you a brief summary. In 1932, during the Spanish Republic, Catalonia got a Statue of Autonomy, four years later the military uprising and the Civil War took place. The military received the support of the totalitarian governments of Germany and Italy. The end of the Civil War and the victory of the military in  1939, signified the end of  Catalonia’s Autonomy and  the public use of the Catalan language was completely forbidden. Many Catalan people, even  President Companys, went into exile. President Companys was arrested in France by the police of the German Army. He was transported to Spain where, after a military trial, he was executed. He was the only democratically elected president shot in Europe during the period of the second World War. I do not want  to insist on  this fact but in 2015 many countries in Europe remembered 
the Armenian genocide, we Catalans can remember the execution of our President in 1940.

The end of the dictatorship was in 1975 after the death of the dictator. I do not want to explain the facts and the civil resistance  in Spain against the dictatorship. This resistance had in Catalonia the outstanding feature of defending the cultural identity of our country. The 1978 Spanish Constitution recognised the existence of different nationalities in Spain which made it possible to establish a Statue of Autonomy for Catalonia in 1979. After nearly 30 years the Parliament of Catalonia tried to negotiate a new Statute of Autonomy with greater authority and with better financial instruments. The Statute was proposed and voted by the population of Catalonia. The discussion in the Spanish Parliament modified the original text and significantly cut the powers of the Government of Catalonia. Last but not least, the Spanish Partido Popular (Peoples’s Party) decided to challenge the Statute of Autonomy at the Constitutional Court. The Judgement of the Court, a majority of whose  members were nominated by the governing Partido Popular in Spain, reduced even more the capacities of the Catalan Authorities. The Statute was approved in a Referendum in 2006 and the judgement of the Court was in 2010.

You can appreciate two special characteristics of Spanish democracy. The use of judicial power as an instrument to modify the laws established by the Parliament. Secondly to link judicial power with executive power according to the special system of nominating the members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. That means the death of Montesquieu.

A few days after the Constitutional Court judgement a big demonstration took place in Barcelona. Nearly a million people protested against the decision of the Court. The motto of the demonstration was “We have the right to decide”.  A big banner was placed at the head of the parade. The demonstrators did not say: “ We want the right to decide” they cried out, clearly, “Independence”. In 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014,  on the 11th  of September, the National Day in Catalonia,  big demonstrations asking for the right to decide and for  independence took place. I‘m sure many of you have seen them on TV. Specifically in 2013 a human chain about 400 Km long, from the northern border of Catalonia to the southern border, had more than 1.6 million participants. In many cities round the world, Catalans  living there, demonstrated their support for the Catalan Process.

The population of Catalonia wants to decide about its own political situation in relation to Spain. People want to decide the future at the ballot box, like other nations in Europe, Scotland for instance, or Quebec in Canada.  The Spanish Government has consistently denied  the Catalans’  right to decide their future. This is not a good example of democracy.

During my time in the European Parliament I saw the complicated enlargement process. I remember the EU started to negotiate with Czechoslovakia and sometime later the EU negotiated with the Czech Republic and also with the Slovak Republic. The external enlargement has been a fact but the internal enlargement must also be a possibility.

Before  concluding my speech let me explain  the future actions of the Government of Catalonia, together with the other political parties who agree with the Catalan Political process. The President of Catalonia does not have the authority to call a Referendum but he has the power to call elections to the Catalan Parliament. Probably  the elections will take place on September 27th. If the majority of the elected members of the Catalan Parliament support the right to independence, the process will begin.

Thank you for your attention.

Sobre l’autor:


Joan Vallvé, enginyer industrial  i membre de la Junta directiva de Sobirania i Justícia.

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