Those who live in Catalonia, along with those who are simply interested in the region’s struggle for self government, will be watching the next few weeks with interest.
Catalonia’s government, the Generalitat (or rather Parlament), has proposed a series of changes to the statute that enshrines the autonomy of Catalonia. The new Estatut basically sets out to reinforce the concept of the Catalan nation as a separate entity to that of Spain. Anyone who’s still reading this will probably be aware of the huge importance Catalans attach to their nationality and difference from Spaniards, and will probably be aware of my opinions on the subject.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I consider myself to be a sort of non-Catalan Catalan republican. I have read the history of the issue and certainly side with the Esquerra Republicana when it comes to their most basic aim: the independence (and republicanism) of Catalonia. Indeed, I support a Spanish republic… but I do feel that Spain could slip into civil unrest (if not war) if a republic were declared.
Anyway, the Generalitat has sent their new Estatut to the Spanish government in Madrid where it will meet skepticism from Spanish Socialists (the ruling party) and out right damnation from the Partido Popular – that bastion of fascists and the nemesis of Catalonia (I’m not misusing the word fascist here… just take a look at the origins of this young political party, and you see that it is absolutely the creation of the crumbling fascist dictatorship). There’s going to be a big fight over this Estatut which some commentators are saying could lead to a split in the ruling Socialist party.
What (mostly right wing) people are worried about is that the 1978 Spanish Constitution will somehow be cancelled out if Catalonia is referred to as a nation. They feel that if Catalonia is referred to in this way, it will mean that legally, the Spanish nation is not really a nation. For me, this is one of the reasons why the Estatut is a great idea. The 1978 Constitution was forced on a nation still rightly fearful of a re-establishment of the former dictatorship – the parliament had recently agreed an ‘Act of Forgetting’ which absolved all fascists from any crimes they had committed during the civil war they started, and the 40 year dictatorship they imposed afterwards. For this reason, the Spanish Constitution needs to be reformed anyway. L’Estatut is just the start of a range of changes needed to address the modern idea of what Spain is. That and the fact that Catalans want to control their own finances. And it’s going to be debated in Madrid starting this week, I believe.
What we can look forward to is a Socialist party divided along lines of nationality, but essentially not unhappy with L’Estatut. They will be forced to make changes to the document, but how far they are forced to move is still not clear. Which makes the next few weeks of great importance when it comes to the movement for rewriting the Spanish Constitution.
The English text of L’Estatut is available from the Generalitat’s webiste here. More information about these issues can be found in the Catalunya section.