A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal

Peter H. Salus

Jonathan Swift’s Juvenalian satire “Modest Proposal” was first published in London in 1729.  What follows is my notion on a possible solution to an Iberian, not a Hibernian problem.  This Iberian problem arose in the Franco period, but re-surfaced barely a decade ago.

My version of Catalonian political history begins in 1979, a few years after Franco’s un-lamented demise, when a new Statute of Autonomy was finally approved delegating greater autonomy in education and culture than had the pre-Franco 1932 Statute, but less in terms of the systems of justice and public order. But, in it, Catalonia is defined as a “nationality,” Catalan is recognized as Catalonia’s own language, and it became co-official with Spanish.

The new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, approved after a referendum, was contested by important sectors of the Spanish nationalism and the conservative Popular Party, sending the law to the partisan Constitutional Court of Spain which, in 2010, decided to declare some of the articles that established an autonomous Catalan system of Justice, better aspects of the financing, the status of the Catalan language or the references of Catalonia as a nation as “non valid.”

As a response, on 10 July 2010, a large demonstration was held, and a process of organization was begun in order to exert the right of self-determination. During the National Day of Catalonia, on 11 September 2012, there was a very large in the streets of Barcelona organized by the organization called Catalan National Assembly advocating independence and for a referendum.

On 23 January 2013, parliament approved a “Declaration” asserting that Catalonia was a sovereign entity and calling for a referendum on independence.  After various Spanish national institutions attempted to impede this,  the Government of Catalonia organized a referendum on 9 November 2014  in which 1.6 million out of potential 5.4 million voters or 80.8% of the 2.25 million cast votes supported the independence option.

On 9 November 2015, parliament approved a Declaration to start the independence process,to create an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic.  The independence motion was passed on 27 October 2017 in the 135-strong Catalan assembly with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two blank ballots, the assembly’s speaker said. Just hours after the Catalan declaration of independence, the Spanish Senate invoked Article 155 of the Spanish constitution and authorized Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to impose direct rule over Catalonia. Rajoy declared the dissolution of the Catalan parliament and dismissed Catalonia’s regional government. Rajoy called a snap election in the region for 21 December 2017.

Predictably, the election resulted in a new Catalan assembly of 70 in favor of independence, 57 in favor of Spanish unity, and eight “fence-sitters.”  Several (re-)elected Catalonians are in exile; one is in prison in Madrid; and eight have been bailed.

Rajoy refuses to “negotiate.”  The Catalans insist (like Patrick Henry in 1775) on liberty or … (well, perhaps not death).

What to do?  What to do?

Actually, in a sane universe, a “negotiated settlement” might be effected.  The main points of a deal might include:

A . On the part of Rajoy and the Spanish government:

  1. The jailed and bailed Catalonian politicians are amnestied.
  2. The Catalonian politicians in Brussels are permitted to return without threat.
  3. The Supreme Court “reconsiders” the “non valid” articles of the Constitution.

B . On the part of the Catalonian separatist parties/politicians:

  1. They accept that they are a “constituent” part of Spain.
  2. They undertake not to agitate for independence for five [? or ten?] years.

That’s it!  Many (perhaps most) of the 3000-plus businesses which have moved their registrations out of Catalonia will return.  The Guardia Civil will cease to be an army of occupation.  And there will be a few bruised, yet over-inflated egos on both sides.

I doubt whether this will happen.  Rajoy’s is a weak government; only strong leaders can be gracious.