Catalonia wants out; Spain says no

Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 09:01 am
@Walter Hinteler,
The Berlin Wall wasn’t as logistically preposterous because it was around 100 miles long.

The proposed American fence is what 700-800 miles? The teeth of the Berlin Wall were the soldiers guarding it, prepared to shoot people who tried to pass it.

The folly of the American fence is that without similar posted law enforcement, it will be an expensive ornament to stupidity that will be gleefully tunneled under, flown over, catapulted over, and maybe blasted through. It is too big. Too big.

Hungary’s remaining length is longer and also less enforceable than Berlin's.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 09:59 am
Since you started this number play: the German border was fenced over nearly 1,300 kilometres (808 mi), several rows of fences with expanded metal barriers, directional anti-personnel mines and anti-vehicle ditches.

The length of the Berlin wall was 155 km (96 mi) as you noted correctly.
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 10:14 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Would you say that the entire length of that wall effectively worked as a barrier? We’re there soldiers/guards posted the entire length?
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 10:25 am

Lash wrote:
Would you say that the entire length of that wall effectively worked as a barrier? We’re there soldiers/guards posted the entire length?
You are not serious with this question, isn't it?

Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 10:27 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Along the Berlin wall, more than 200 persons died.
Along the border fences it were about 350 dead victims.
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 10:33 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Lash will keep asking until she gets the answer she wants, (not necessarily the correct one.)

Wikipedia is out there.

Migration from east to west of the Iron Curtain, except under limited circumstances, was effectively halted after 1950. Before 1950, over 15 million people (mainly ethnic Germans) emigrated from Soviet-occupied eastern European countries to the west in the five years immediately following World War II. However, restrictions implemented during the Cold War stopped most East-West migration, with only 13.3 million migrations westward between 1950 and 1990. More than 75% of those emigrating from Eastern Bloc countries between 1950 and 1990 did so under bilateral agreements for "ethnic migration."

About 10% were refugees permitted to emigrate under the Geneva Convention of 1951. Most Soviets allowed to leave during this time period were ethnic Jews permitted to emigrate to Israel after a series of embarrassing defections in 1970 caused the Soviets to open very limited ethnic emigrations. The fall of the Iron Curtain was accompanied by a massive rise in European East-West migration.

Shooting incidents were not uncommon, and a total of 28 East German border guards and several hundred civilians were killed between 1948 – 1981 (some may have been victims of "friendly fire" by their own side).


Not that any of this is pertinent to what's happening in Catalonia.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 10:47 am
izzythepush wrote:
Not that any of this is pertinent to what's happening in Catalonia.
That's correct. But since she mentioned this subject ...

Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 11:11 am
@Walter Hinteler,
I'm just remembering ... there is a bit connection to what happened in Catalonia: a referendum:
after the German reunification in 1990, the municipalities that had once made up Neuhaus (a small district on both sides of the Elbe river) until 1885 quickly held a referendum to secede from Mecklenburg and return to Lower Saxony as a joined municipality in 1992, which out of reasons of tradition took up the old name of Amt Neuhaus, or "municipal office of Neuhaus".
It is thus the only part of the former GDR that is today part of a state that during the Cold War belonged to the Federal Republic.
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Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 11:17 am
@Walter Hinteler,
I thought there might have been stretches of your wall that were less stringently guarded that you might have known about-not widely reported. Reminiscing on the Iron Curtain Days, who can be certain they got 100% accurate reporting? I like to defer to people who are local to information when it’s warranted.

I’ve scoffed at Trump’s wall for a few reasons; one— I don’t think it can be effectively policed. It’ll just be a big expensive symbol of America during the decline.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 11:23 am
Lash wrote:
I thought there might have been stretches of your wall that were less stringently guarded that you might have known about-not widely reported.
I have been to various stretches of the inner German wall as well as to Berlin wall. I can't imagine that there has been a single meter which wasn't stringently guarded.

Lash wrote:
Reminiscing on the Iron Curtain Days, who can be certain they got 100% accurate reporting?
Do you think that people had had hearing and vision problems during that period?

You can read a bit @ wikipedia

I did for four weeks "tactical close reconnaissance" along the sea border with the Federal Navy.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 11:44 am
Lash wrote:
Would you say that the entire length of that wall effectively worked as a barrier? We’re there soldiers/guards posted the entire length?
The official reason (as said by the GDR) was that the fences and the wall were "Antifascist Barriers".
The Border Troops of the German Democratic Republic had a personal of a bit less than 50,000 soldiers and some thousand seamen in the border navy, plus some ten thousands of border police and custom officers.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 11:47 am
I can understand that not everyone knows those details like Amt Neuhaus or the figures of the GDR border troops.
But I'm really surprised about some of your other questions, Lash.
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Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 12:26 pm
And now back to the topic.

She cried when she saw the news, he could hardly believe what he was watching.
Here in 21st Century Spain, police were beating people for trying to hold a vote.
Never mind that Ana didn't turn out herself for a ballot she believes was illegal in her beloved Spain.
Never mind that Xavier had already made up his mind to break away from the very same Spain.
Like many others, both are deeply upset about the violence at the polling stations.
At least, though, they have the comfort of being head over heels in love with each other.
On Laietana Street, there's no love lost for the police among the protesters.
"Spanish murderers!" they chant at the building marked with a furled Spanish flag that looks lonely against the Catalan flags on nearby walls.
The building is protected by a line of Catalan riot police and vans.
One man all but shoves an "anti-fascist" flag into the face of a policeman, like a red rag to a bull.
The bull doesn't react, though the two sides are so close, you can imagine they smell each other's breath, as well as the heady fumes of whatever it is people are smoking in the crowd.
It's 24 hours after the referendum and hundreds of hyper-young protesters are jubilantly occupying the street outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain's National Police.
They're on a roll wrapped in their lone-star Catalan rebel flags, yelling up at the windows, demanding Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy takes his 10,000-odd extra police officers out of Catalonia.
"When they're gone, we'll turn the building into a library!" one young man tells me with a grin.
Through the balaclavas, it's hard to tell how the Catalan riot police are taking all this, protecting their Spanish comrades from a hostile crowd, but their helmets hang unused from their belts along with the truncheons and pistols.
The only things being thrown this evening are paper planes which come down like volleys of toy darts on the police and their vans, to gales of triumphant laughter from the crowd.
On Sunday, in one Catalan town (Carles de la Rapita), there was a particularly bloody clash outside a polling station, and stones were hurled at Spanish police cars.
"If you'd asked me three or four years ago, I would probably have said independence was not the right way - it doesn't matter to me what's on the flag," says one of those at the Barcelona protest, 23-year-old Yes voter Jo, who doesn't want to give his full name.
"But every day now, basic rights are being violated. When we ask for more self-government, they only send police to beat old people and kids.
"In the past two weeks, Spain did more for Catalan independence than the Catalans in the past 10 years because if you point a gun at people they feel under attack, and if they feel under attack, it's logical that they won't want to stay with you.
"If we become independent tomorrow, I will congratulate Mariano Rajoy because he has done more than most to bring it about."
In a cafe across town, Xavier Querol, 25, wants to make something very clear.
"It's not a fight," he says. "We don't have a good side and a bad side - both sides are right. People are angry and disgusted but we are not fighting each other - that is all politics.
"Sunday was a disgrace and a shock. I know Spanish people who say they feel ashamed to be Spanish, but we still talk. It's the politicians who won't talk."
But his girlfriend Ana Jorques, 20, has noticed how the mood among some groups of Spanish and Catalan friends in Barcelona has soured.
"I am Spanish and there are Catalans who think that I am bad person after what happened on Sunday," she says.
There does tend to be more arguing, Xavier agrees. "When they see the pictures of police fighting old people and children, people get stressed and blame those who feel Spanish."
"I like and respect the police," says Ana. "They were doing their job. They have a boss and they have to do what the boss says, but they didn't behave correctly."
When Xavier saw the pictures on TV he says it felt like he was looking at a report from another country, not Spain.
"I would rather stay in Spain than see this happen again," he says.
He didn't vote because he couldn't download the referendum app (banned by a court order) and by the time he found his polling station, the huge queue meant he had missed his chance.
"I don't trust politicians but I am Spanish and want to stay in Spain," says Ana.
So what does she think of Catalans?
"Well, this is a good Catalan," she says with a smile, gesturing towards Xavier, who is tickled pink.
But it's not easy for her, she adds, to hear Catalans call Spain a "country full of corruption".
So Spaniards never say mean things about Catalans? They sure do. A common view is that they are moaners who don't know how well off they are, she says.
"And there's corruption in Catalonia too," Ana points out.
But independence would mean a fresh start, Xavier believes. "I'm not angry with the Spanish people, but I want to choose my own future."
In his view, Spain is ruled by the same small group of people who were in power under the Franco dictatorship.
It's true Mr Rajoy's Popular Party has its roots in the Franco establishment but, 40 years on, can a democratically elected Spanish government really behave like Franco?
"Totally!" says Josep, 86, a Catalan who grew up under the old regime before migrating to Germany for work.
Back living in Barcelona again, he has found his evening stroll with his daughter Maria (they also don't want to give their full names) interrupted by the demo at the police headquarters.
"Both sides are crazy," he says.
The father and daughter may be proud Catalans, but they see their future inside Spain - "only not with Rajoy", Josep adds. Perhaps Spain could adopt a federal structure like in Germany? he suggests.
Maria says she feels both Catalan and Spanish and "it's always better together", and she is worried about Catalan radicalism.
She tried to vote No on Sunday but her designated polling station had been shut down.
The police's use of force will have swayed more people towards independence, she thinks, leaving the future even more uncertain.
"Following orders is one thing, but using violence where there is no violence is excessive," Maria says. "People were only demonstrating that they wanted to vote."

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Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 12:35 pm
Here, I know, let's actually talk about Catalunya and Spain. Spain is not going to let them go, and that's realpolitik. If the Catalans go, the Basques are going to want to go--and ETA, classified a terrortist organization in several European nations, was an armed separatist group until less than a decade ago, having killed or wounded thousands of people, a great many of them civilians. How long before Andalusia and Galicia want to separate? If you haven't thought about this factor which weighs heavily on the government in Madrid, then you're not paying attention. Or you were just ignorant at the start.

It's really easy to say the world is changing as though one were abreast of the latest things--if one is myopic and sees a fuzzy world of monolithic and simplistic symbols.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 01:22 pm
The EU has tied its own hands. It cannot intervene in Catalonia
The EU’s critics do raise valid points. If the bloc’s founding principles are all about values, how can it stay aloof from this crisis? At a time when the EU wants to reboot its democratic message and convince citizens it can address their grievances, surely this would be a good moment to demonstrate sympathy towards crowds targeted by security forces for wanting to express a political belief at the ballot box.

Then there is the question of double standards. This year EU institutions came out strongly against the governments of Poland and Hungary for their democratic backsliding. The EU commission has even raised the threat of sanctions. Why isn’t any of this being contemplated when it comes to Spain?

Catalonia has become a focal point across Europe, with many framing the confrontation as a case of fundamental rights being crushed by force. The Catalan leadership has wasted no time making that argument, and the images of police violence will only have buoyed its case. Radical left commentators across Europe have been up in arms against Madrid, as if this was a rerun of the Spanish civil war. Interestingly, their indignation has been much more strident than when Venezuela’s dictator cracked down on protesters earlier this year, with dozens killed.

The scenes of police brutality in Barcelona were undoubtedly both a watershed and a scandal. Amnesty International denounced the “disproportionate” use of force, and the UN high commissioner for human rights has called for an impartial investigation. But before Eurosceptics start using Catalonia as another opportunity to lash out at the EU for its passivity and cynicism, a few reminders may be useful.

The EU has long been ill at ease with separatist issues within its member states. It has no mechanism to sort out a dispute of this kind. Article 4.2 of the 2009 Lisbon treaty states that the EU “shall respect” the “essential state functions” of its members, “including territorial integrity” and “maintaining law and order”. The EU has no power over how a member state decides to organise itself or its constituent regions.

Supporters of Catalan independence may well argue this needs to be fixed, but no one in the EU wants to open a Pandora’s box. The EU will only deal with a case of newly declared independence if that independence results from a negotiated, legally based process. That is not the case in Catalonia, but would have been the case in 2014 if Scotland had voted to secede from the UK.

The Catalan vote was “not legal” and the issue was “an internal matter for Spain”, the EU commission insisted on Monday. Just as it had in the case of Scotland, it also made clear that if the region seceded from Spain, Catalonia would find itself outside the EU, with no automatic way back in. There are clear limits on the EU’s powers of mediation. It’s true that it played a role in addressing the Northern Ireland question (and still does today), but that was only made possible after a peace accord had been reached.
The EU has set itself the goal of countering rising illiberalism and nationalism, and it’s struggling. The Catalan crisis exposes its political limits and its difficulty in making citizens understand how it functions. For Europe, as for Spanish democracy, this is a major test.

Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 01:47 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
In a TV address to the nation, Spain's King Felipe VI has condemned organisers of Catalonia's independence referendum for having put themselves outside the law. He said that the situation in Spain was extremely serious and called for unity.
[I'm sure, English speaking media will have more soon.]
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Reply Tue 3 Oct, 2017 02:03 pm
I suspect that EU commissioners understand how rapidly Spain would fragment if Catalunya leaves. A map of Spain's regions looks like nothing so much as a map of Spain in 1492.

The regions of contemporary Spain:


Medieval Spain:

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Reply Wed 4 Oct, 2017 02:44 am
Catalonia will declare independence from Spain in a matter of days, the leader of the autonomous region has told the BBC.
In his first interview since Sunday's referendum, Carles Puigdemont said his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next".
Meanwhile, Spain's King Felipe VI said organisers of the vote put themselves "outside the law".
He said the situation in Spain was "extremely serious", calling for unity.
Hundreds of thousands of people across Catalonia have been protesting over Spanish police violence during the vote, during which nearly 900 people were hurt.
During the vote, 33 police officers were also injured, local medical officials said.
In the BBC interview, Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont said his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next".
When asked what he would do if the Spanish government were to intervene and take control of Catalonia's government, Mr Puigdemont said it would be "an error which changes everything".
Mr Puigdemont said there was currently no contact between the government in Madrid and his devolved administration.
He disagreed with the European Commission's statement on Monday that events in Catalonia were an internal issue for Spain.
He was speaking shortly before the king's speech.
In his televised address to the nation, the king said the Catalan leaders who organised the referendum showed their "disrespect to the powers of the state".
"They have broken the democratic principles of the rule of law.
"Today, the Catalan society is fractured," the king said, warning that the poll could put at risk the economy of the wealthy north-eastern region and the whole of Spain.
But he stressed that Spain "will overcome difficult times".
The central government has described the referendum as illegal.

What the king didn't say
Patrick Jackson, BBC News, Barcelona

When the speech ended, customers in this city centre bar thumped tables and whistled contemptuously, then quickly resumed normal conversation - King Felipe may as well have not spoken.
It was the things he omitted that rankled - no words about those shocking scenes of police beating voters on Sunday, no urgent appeal for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments, no acknowledgment of the real hunger here for independence or at least a proper, legal referendum, not even a word or two of Catalan.
Instead, he expressed the position of the government, echoing its firm opposition to the vote, saying Catalan leaders had positioned themselves outside the law. He guaranteed "democratic coexistence" on Spanish terms only.
It was a missed opportunity to push the two sides towards dialogue, one customer told me afterwards.
"It doesn't help the situation at all," said another. "I was not expecting him to intervene at all, actually, but he should at least have mentioned the violence here two days ago."
Huge protest rallies have been taking place across Catalonia.
In Barcelona, 700,000 people took to the streets, city police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
More than 50 roadblocks in the city caused big traffic jams. Barcelona's metro traffic was cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times.
Barcelona's port was at a standstill, trade union sources said, and top tourist attractions were closed.
Mercabarna - Barcelona's massive wholesale market - was left deserted as some 770 food businesses closed for the day.
However, the city's El Prat airport and its taxis are operating normally.
Many small businesses have shut for the day. Schools, universities and medical services were also closed or operating at a minimum level.
The strike was called in protest at "the grave violation of rights and freedoms" seen during the ballot.
Some police officers were seen firing rubber bullets, storming into polling stations and pulling women by their hair.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said the vote made a "mockery" of democracy.
Earlier on Tuesday, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said: "We see how day after day the government of Catalonia is pushing the population to the abyss and inciting rebellion in the streets."
He also warned that the central government would take "all measures necessary to stop acts of harassment".
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría condemned the "mafia" behaviour of those protesters who had earlier gathered around hotels housing Spanish police officers and demanded that they leave.
On Sunday, more than 2.2 million people reportedly voted in the referendum. The Catalan government says the vote in support of independence was nearly 90%, but official results have not yet been released.
Turnout was relatively low at a reported 42%, potentially weakening the position of Mr Puigdemont.
Meanwhile, political leaders are trying to find a way forward.
Mr Puigdemont earlier said he wanted a new understanding with the government in Madrid, but the Spanish government has warned it could suspend autonomy of the region.
Given the chaotic nature of the vote, the turnout and voting figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, says the BBC's Tom Burridge in Barcelona.
Mr Rajoy held talks with Pedro Sánchez, leader of Spain's main opposition Socialist party, as well as Albert Rivera, the head of the centrist Ciudadanos party, late on Monday.
While the Socialist leader urged Mr Rajoy to hold talks with the Catalan president immediately, Mr Rivera said Spain should invoke article 155 of the constitution, in effect suspending Catalonia's autonomous powers.

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Reply Wed 4 Oct, 2017 05:07 am
Opinion piece on viability of Catalonian independence.
Will they or won't they? The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has told the BBC the region will declare independence from Spain in a matter of days, following a controversial, illegal independence poll which Spanish police tried to stop. If they did, independence may well be blocked anyway. But supposing the region did secede, would Catalonia be able to stand on its own two feet?
Trappings of statehood
To the casual observer, Catalonia looks like it has already got many of the trappings of a state. Flags. A parliament. The leader, Carles Puigdemont.
The region has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. It has its own broadcast regulator, and even boasts a series of foreign "missions" - mini embassies that promote trade and investment in Catalonia around the world. Catalonia delivers some public services already - schools and healthcare, for example.
There'd be much more to set up in the event of independence, though. Border control. Customs. Proper international relations. Defence. A central bank. Inland revenue. Air traffic control.
All of these are currently run by Madrid.
But assuming it did create these new institutions - would it be able to pay for them?
Reasons to be cheerful
"Madrid nos roba" is a popular secessionist slogan - "Madrid is robbing us." The received wisdom is that comparatively wealthy Catalonia pays in more than it gets out of the Spanish state.
Catalonia is certainly rich compared with other parts of Spain. It is home to just 16% of the Spanish population, but 19% of its GDP and more than a quarter of Spain's foreign exports.
It punches above its weight in terms of tourism too - 18 million of Spain's 75 million tourists chose Catalonia as their primary destination last year, easily the most visited region.
Tarragona has one of Europe's largest chemical hubs.
Barcelona is one of the EU's top 20 ports by weight of goods handled.
About a third of the working population has some form of tertiary education.
It's also true that Catalans pay more in taxes than is spent on their region.
In 2014, the last year the Spanish government has figures for, Catalans paid nearly €10bn (£8.9bn) more in taxes than reached their region in public spending. Would an independent Catalonia get the difference back?
Some have argued that even if Catalonia gained a tax boost from independence, that might get swallowed up by having to create new public institutions and run them without the same economies of scale.
And some argue that it makes sense for the state to redistribute money from richer to poorer regions in this way.
A harder reckoning
Perhaps of greater concern is Catalonia's public debt.
The Catalan government owes €77bn (£68bn) at the last count, or 35.4% of Catalonia's GDP. Of that, €52bn is owed to the Spanish government.
In 2012, the Spanish government set up a special fund to provide cash to the regions, who were unable to borrow money on the international markets after the financial crisis. Catalonia has been by far the biggest beneficiary of this scheme, taking €67bn since it began.
Not only would Catalonia lose access to that scheme, but it would raise the question of how much debt Catalonia would be willing to repay after independence.
That question would surely cast a shadow over any negotiations. And on top of the sum owed by the regional government - would Madrid expect Barcelona to shoulder a share of the Spanish national debt?
Involuntary Catalexit?
Why would independence negotiations matter?
Never mind the mess of disentangling Catalonia's economy from Spain's. Catalonia's economic power could also depend on whether it continues to be part of the EU - or at least the single market.
Two-thirds of Catalonia's foreign exports go to the EU. It would need to reapply to become a member if it seceded from Spain - it wouldn't get in automatically or immediately.
And it would require all EU members to agree - including Spain.
Some in the pro-independence camp feel that Catalonia could settle for a Norwegian-style solution. Single market membership without joining the EU. Catalans may well be happy to pay for access, and continue to accept free movement of EU citizens across the region's borders.
But if Spain chose to, it could make life difficult for an independent Catalonia.

0 Replies
Reply Thu 5 Oct, 2017 01:20 am
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has attacked Spain's King Felipe VI for "deliberately ignoring millions of Catalans", after a disputed vote was held on independence.
He accused the king of adopting the Spanish government's position.
King Felipe made a TV address on Tuesday night, calling Sunday's vote illegal and undemocratic.
Mr Puigdemont has already indicated that independence could be declared next week.
"This moment calls for mediation," he said in a televised statement late on Wednesday. He claimed that the king had rejected a moderating role granted to him by the Spanish constitution.
In response, the Spanish government in Madrid said it would not accept "blackmail" from the Catalan leader.
Mr Puigdemont must return to the path of law before any negotiation could take place, it said in a statement (in Spanish).
His criticism of the king showed that he was "out of touch with reality," it added.
It was a rare public attack on the Spanish monarch but King Felipe himself, symbol of national unity, seldom addresses the country on TV, and President Puigdemont had to respond.
At a bar in the Catalan leader's home region, they clapped respectfully afterwards, happy with their leader and his call for mediation, and then they joked about the Game of Thrones TV series.
"We need a king like Jon Snow who tries to keep his lands together and is with the people," said one woman, laughing.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, by common agreement, was the Night King, wishing eternal winter on Catalonia.
"I want a Spain that cares for all its cultures," she added more seriously. "Why not love them all? We don't understand the speech of Felipe VI."

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