Salon: Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont on reinventing nationalism in a new century

By Thomas S. Harrington

This conversation occurred in Belgium, where Puigdemont now lives. We spoke in Catalan; the translation is mine.

Why haven’t more European states backed your cause?

It’s quite normal that they shouldn’t. Spain is their partner in the EU. We knew from the beginning that the first instinct of any EU member state would be to back their fellow partner, or at the very least not challenge them. We also understand that many member states don’t have the traditions that, for example, Great Britain has for resolving such things. Many are fearful of national movements within their borders. France has a tremendous fear of this, as does Italy. Finally, don’t forget that Europe is a more a commercial project than a political one, and the economic sectors value stability above all. Thus, is not surprising that in Europe there is not a great deal of interest in upholding the fundamental right of self-determination.


Might it be time to revisit the debate of the 1990s, which some of us still remember, about whether Europe should be a union of states or a union of nations or peoples?

I believe there is a very interesting debate in the offing about what exactly is a nation. We have the classic definition of a group of people conjoined by a linguistic or cultural unity and historical continuity living in a contiguous geographical territory. Catalonia obviously meets these basic criteria. But things today have now gotten much more sophisticated because of the creation of new identities that do not hinge so heavily on the matter of language. We are now seeing the development of non-territorial nations — for example, through social networks. These tools are creating identities and communities that have found cohesion thanks to these bonds. So in the fourth industrial revolution, extra-territorial states may become a reality.

That said, the people-nation or the culture-nation continues to be a reality, but one in evolution. Catalonia is one of the historic nations of Europe, with its roots in the Middle Ages. But it has evolved, and this has been the key to its survival. As a small nation, threatened by two great nations, France and Spain, both of which have tried to eliminate its language, Catalonia has adapted and refused to close in upon itself and cling to fossilized realities from its foundational period.  

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Salon: Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont on the future of Spain and Europe

By Thomas S. Harrington

Carles Puigdemont led Catalonia's 2017 attempt to break away from Spain. He wants Americans to understand why

The Belgian city of Waterloo has long had outsized connotations. It is where one of the greatest European campaigns of social re-engineering came to a screeching halt on June 18, 1815. Napoleon’s defeat in the fields surrounding the city was so stunning that “Waterloo” remains a byword for any and all manner of unmitigated disasters.

I had come here to talk with a key protagonist of a more recent attempt to rearrange the political map of Europe: Carles Puigdemont, the exiled Catalan president. A journalist by trade and a political leader as a matter of destiny, the 56-year-old Puigdemont has lived in exile since fleeing the Spanish police two years ago. After an intense seven-year campaign of street mobilizations and a popularly organized referendum in October 2017, Madrid responded with a premeditated campaign of violence. The pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament, led by Puigdemont, nonetheless kept its promise: It declared independence from Spain later in the same month. Within minutes, the Spanish Senate voted to dissolve the Catalan parliament and schedule new elections to replace it.

Puigdemont slipped over the French border within days of these events, resurfacing in Brussels with six members of his cabinet. All others in his government remained in Catalonia and are now in the dock in Spain’s Supreme Court awaiting their fates. Despite gaping holes and inconsistencies in the state’s case against them for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, it is widely expected all of those currently on trial will be found guilty and will serve long prison terms.

I had long wanted to interview Puigdemont. Our meeting was arranged through intermediaries in the very potent civil society movement for independence. When I finally arrived at the House of the Republic in Waterloo, where Puigdemont now lives, it reminded me of a faux–French provincial mansion that would not look out of place in a subdivision in Maryland.

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The Guardian: Catalan independence march passes through Madrid peacefully

By Sam Jones. - Source

Supporters renew calls for secession and protest at the trial of 12 separatist leaders

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The National: International observers critical of Catalan independence court case

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By Greg Russell

SIX international observers at the trial of Catalan pro-independence leaders have criticised the court for allowing some of the defendants’ rights to be ignored.

In their report into the first week of the trial, which resumes today, they said members of the extreme-right Vox party were in charge of organising the crowds attempting to get into the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

On the second day following a number of complaints, the police took over that task, but the observers said that strengthened their earlier call for space to be set aside for them.

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Independent: Spain’s trial of Catalan separatists is worse than an outrage – it is a terrible mistake

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Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, should realise that this is not the best way to defeat demands for Catalan independence


The Spanish government’s handling of the Catalonian independence movement is worse than a human rights outrage; it is a mistake. 

The trial of a dozen separatist leaders on charges including “rebellion” and “sedition”, charges carrying sentences of up to 25 years in prison, ought to be unthinkable in country that is an established member of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

From the beginning, from the confrontational way in which the Spanish police handled peaceful demonstrations in Catalonia, the authorities in Madrid have got this wrong. They responded to the attempts by the devolved parliament in Barcelona to seek independence with a heavy-handed refusal to respect free expression and democratic, non-violent demands.

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The Times: Our silence about these show trials in Spain is shameful

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Today 12 Catalan leaders go on trial in Spain’s Supreme Court, facing the medieval-sounding charges of rebellion and sedition. Their supposed crime: organising a democratic referendum on Catalan independence in October 2017.

It is impossible for us not to see this referendum through the lens of the UK’s current political context. And there is plenty of parallels that can be drawn. Perhaps you find some solace in the idea that other states are also facing political crises as a result of referendums.


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The Guardian: Spain says 'disinformation’ surrounds Catalan separatists’ trial

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Spanish ambassador to London speaks out in effort to convince world trial is not political

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Spanish state vs Catalonia: putting a political trial on trial

By Green Left, Feb 7th 2019 --> Read original article

On February 12, the trial of 12 Catalan politicians and social movement leaders involved in the October 1, 2017 independence referendum is set to begin in the Spanish Supreme Court.

The leaders face sanctions as harsh as 25 year’s jail for their alleged offences — rebellion, sedition and embezzlement of public funds.

It is the first of three trials. Other defendants, including former police chief, José Lluís Trapero, will face the National High Court. Those members of the Catalan parliament who allowed discussion and voting on the referendum enabling law will face the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC in its Catalan initials).

Nine of the defendants have been in preventive detention for between 12 and 15 months, with all their appeals for release on bail rejected.


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The Times view on the trial of the Catalan 12: Spanish Inquisition

By The Times, Feb 1st 2019 --> Read original article

The landmark legal case involving separatist politicians is a test of Madrid’s justice.

The trial of Catalan politicians and activists on charges related to their role in the region’s 2017 bid to split from Spain is expected to start next week. This will turn the spotlight back on to a crisis that threatened to tear apart a major European country and inflict further instability on the continent. The accused face charges of rebellion, sedition, disobedience and misuse of public funds. In an interview with The Times, Jordi Sànchez, the former leader of the Catalan National Assembly civil action group, who is facing up to 17 years in jail if convicted, claims that this will be a “political trial”. The Spanish justice system needs to dispel such fears by ensuring the trial is fair. How the Spanish state conducts itself in the coming months will determine whether this trial draws a line under the crisis or reignites it.

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US Congress: It's time to prioritize human rights and democratic values

Andrew Davis, Executive Director of the Catalonia America Council, former Head of the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the United States, Canada and Mexico and Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), urge Congress, as it starts its new session, to do so on an international scale and recommit the USA to protecting human rights across the globe, specifically in Catalonia.

Why focus on Catalonia, you may ask? He is often presented with the difficult task of trying to contextualize and explain the complex and fast-changing story of Catalonia to our American friends and colleagues. The information making the trans-Atlantic jump to the U.S. is sporadic, which prevents many in the States from understanding the severity of an increasingly worrisome situation, complete with politically-driven arrests, detentions, exile, censorship and hunger strikes.

© Getty Images

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