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SPAIN: Catalonia

Hank Levin's report on Catalonia has provoked contradictory reactions. Here is what Max Manuel Rodriguez Navarro of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, says: "It is always amazing how different two views about the same thing can be. In Spain it is widely recognised that a part of Catalan society is favourable to Independence. But when you see the elections (1999), the electoral vote for independence is under 9 per cent (8.88%). The parties in favour of more autonomy include all except the center-right Partido Popular (PP), and represent 80 per cent of the members of parliament.

It is interesting to see that Spanish national parties, the Socialist PSOE and the PP, held 47.4% of the Catalan seats in the Madrid parliament, and purely Catalan parties the rest. The Catalan Nationalist Party, CIU, which has been in power in Catalonia for twenty years, got 6000 votes less than the Socialists, although the final result in seats in parliament, due to electoral rules. was 56-52. (12 PP, 12 Esquerra (Independentist), 3 Greens).

The forecast for the next elections is a victory for the Socialists, who are currently 5 points ahead in surveys-, which could set the national parties 5 points ahead of strictly Catalan parties. Many commentaries suggest that CIU will ally itself with the Partido Popular to retain power. The other options are a complete victory for the Socialists or alliance between CIU and Esquerra. Although the latter could mean a stronger push in favour of nationalism, the idea of forcing independence is discarded once again by the current President, Jordi Pujol, and his "heir", Arthur Mas.

My personal view is that CIU will finally ally itself with PP because both of them are centre-right, while Esquerra is left-left. This alliance, suggested many times by Spanish Primer Minister Jose Maria Aznar (PP), would eventually drive to split the government between Madrid and Barcelona, moving some ministries to Barcelona and giving the latter more power on national issues. The CIU is reticent to talk about this possibility, which could make them lose an important weapon in electoral terms, but as politicians, they are very fond of power. For the PP, it would be a powerful tool to reduce nationalist tensions and to create a new political backbone for the country. CIU electors, mainly small business-men and middle class, would not easily accept an alliance with leftist parties. It is my personal view, and we will see if I am right in one year.

As for the flags: In Spain it is not considered appropriate to display the Spanish flag except on official buildings. Many people consider it as a political sign of being pro-Franco and it is not very popular for obvious reasons. You will find no more Spanish flags in Castile or Extremadura than you can find in Catalonia. Although surveys confirm that only 15% of Catalans feel themselves as only Catalan, while the rest feel themselves Catalan-Spanish or just Spanish, the Independentists frequently use the flag as an symbol. If they were a majority of the population, they would not need so many flags. It is a nice flag, although I prefer the Valencian one, which is very similar but far more symbolic - in the Valencian flag, there is a a royal crown in blue recalling the old Kingdom. Catalonia was "only" a principality belonging to the Kingdom of Aragon.

Just another detail: Catalonian population is 6 millions (6.291.999), and not 10 million as stated by Hank Levin, unless you can include the Kingdom of Valencia (4.120.729) and the Balearic Islands (845.630) (, ( . The fact is that in Valencia there are no Catalan or pro-Catalan parties (the PP governs the Kingdom with a majority). In the Balearic Islands the nationalists represent less than 4% - and it is a pro Balearic party, not pro-Catalan . This is something the Catalan Independentists choose to ignore. In fact, the Balearic PP vote is around 43% of the total. The PP has governed with a parliamentary majority for the last ten years. The PP is expected to win the next elections as it has always done since Franco's death, and again with majority.

You can add 9 million more "Catalans" in the south of France, as the Independentists frequently do. Some months ago, Arthur Mar, the heir of Jordi Pujol, gave a speech in Perpignan, and talked about Catalonia as a repressed nation caught between Spain and France. Paris replied angrily and the CIU apologised immediately, explaining Mar's words in cultural terms. Apparently, the motto of these people is "Do not let the truth ruins a good story", and "Do not be afraid of being ridiculous"

My note: This posting represents of course a Spanish viewpoint. I expect to receive some angry comments. Opposing Catalan viewpoints will be posted later. WAIS has a language problem. It is bad enough to have to edit to edit submissions by English-speaking WAISers. Those from non-English speaking people require an enormous amount of time to edit. Non-English speaking writers think in their own language, and sometimes the results are incomprehensible. The solution is to have submissions read by an English-speaking colleague before sending them in. There are differences between American and English spelling. We prefer the former but accept the latter, the reason being that our search engine uses American English. Be especially careful with proper names. The search engine cannot read your minds.

Ronald Hilton - 7/25/02