thebadPoll: Catalonia’s ‘Estatut’ in Madrid’s court

It’s a long time since I ran a poll on this blog. Hell,  it’s a long time since I did anything on this blog.

This week, the question is simpler than it sounds: do you think Spain’s constitutional court was right in cutting various passages from Catalonia’s new statute of autonomy, approved by referendum some years ago?


38 thoughts on “thebadPoll: Catalonia’s ‘Estatut’ in Madrid’s court

  1. I voted yes, because I understood “being right” as being with the law. However, I must admit that I am not enough into some aspects such as those pertaining to economics or legal competences.

    I strongly agree that the national aspirations of Catalonia have no footing in this constitution. Point is that the constitution can be changed. Maybe it should.

    Could the CC have voted differently on national issues? Theoretically, yes. But I guess it had to take into consideration the political circumstances, and those must have told it that the Estatut was meant as a step towards a federative system, if not outright independence of Catalonia.

    While it could in no way give support for the latter, it simply had to refer intentions for the creation of a fedeative system to where they belong: the legislative.

    In brief: this was the outcome I expected and actually hoped for. And, wow, it still gives Catalan language the upper hand over Spanish. I think if Catalans wanted their self-government enhanced and their culture respected, this was the sentence of choice.

    If they simply wanted to split and secede, well then they’re happy now too. The have a new scapegoat.

    If they wanted another state (federation), they should have sought it where the constitution tells them to find it.

  2. PS: As to the referendum you refer to in the question, I do not care a bit about it. Not in this context.

    The CC had to decide on a state law. Period.

  3. The absence of comments here is striking. Not even those who participated in the poll have wanted to reason their vote.

    But that’s the most interesting part!

  4. I suppose they don’t want to waste their time reading a 800-page long, unintelligible ruling. Maybe you, who obviously have read it, would want to make an executive summary of it for the rest of us, so we can reason our vote (or lack thereof).

  5. Those who are Catalan should read it, even though one person finds it unintelligible. One can also read how the press resumes it, but such an approach is only recommended if you know how to read the press, that means extra skills which are not taught, for example, at school.

    If you, primo, want me to make an “executive summary” (I understand you know what that is) you will have to pay me like any other.

    In any case, everyone who has voted in the poll here might have an interesting opinion to share. I think it is good to discuss the different opinions. I think that is what is needed now. It’s what a blog is for.

    And it’s fun!

  6. 1) CC: unelected judges appointed by PSOE and PP.

    2) Estatut (which is let’s not forget), it is really the Estatutet already watered down from the one originally agreed in Parliament.

    Approved by Catalan Parliament.
    Approved by Catalan people in Referendum.
    Approved by Spanish Parliament.

    In my book, the people are sovereign and the people, and their elected representatives, are above any self-serving court whose only objective is the construction of the Spanish nation state as a unified collective bereft of any of the richness of Spain’s nations. Or “Una Grande y Libre” as Paquito put it.

    This kind of thing does not happen in Scotland/UK relations because the English, unlike the Spanish, will respect the settled will of the Scottish people, whatever it is.
    The Spanish state, via its “High Priests” Court, has clearly said that Catalan people do not have a right to decide their own future.

    The ruling of the CC, and the re-interpretation of basic principles of the devolution framework in aspects that date back to 1979, is nothing more than a regressive, internal soft coup perpetrated by the Spanish state.

    In any other self-determination process, the process is, obviously, a-constitutional: it lies outside the boundaries of the prevalent legislative framework. But if there is majority support for change in the status quo, as there seems to be in Catalonia, then surely people are sovereign -it is called democracy.

    If not, what next? Send the tanks over again?

  7. Well, Primo, so you do not know what an executive summary is, after all.

    Rab, good to see you’ve come up with an original idea (“a-constitutional”).

    However, it just so seems to me that the Estatut is not part of any self-determination process.

  8. I hoped that many more would share their views here, because many more than those three above have taken part in the poll, and also because many more were happy to evaluate the comments.

    But I have to come out once again and refute Rab’s fallacies.

    Rab, you’re using well known fake comparisions with other places around the world. For one, Scotland is a country, Catalonia is not.

    This is important when we talk about the constitution, for it is the constitution that determines the makeup of a state.

    Likewise, there has been no a-constitutional situation. We’re talking Constitutional Court here, and its ruling on a state law (ley orgánica). So you cannot make this other fake comparision to “any other self-determination process”, because here we are not faced with such a thing.

    You are using extrinsic arguments to criticise the CC, arguments for independence that have no value in this context. You are happily mixing apples with pears. While this is done with annoying regularity nowadays, one cannot get used to it. It remains annoying.

    If you want to make a case against the CC, stay on the issue. If you want to make a case for independence, have a go and try to convince. But please, make a distinction between two different concepts.

    For now, I have not seen any solid argument why the CC should have not been right in its ruling.

  9. If by “right” you mean “legally right”, then of course the constitutional court will always be right by definition., since basically by law they have the power to tell what the constitution means. If they say Catalonia is not a country, they’ll be completely right. And if they say the exact opposite, they will be right too. So exactly are you trying to say? Are we talking about FACTS or are we talking about somebody’s opinion? I say Catalonia is a country. Now, if you will, try to disprove what I’ve just said, but please don’t tell me opinions, I want facts. Something based on material evidence.

    1. In my first two comments I have indeed argued based on the facts.

      Fact is Catalonia is an Autonomous Community. No more, no less. If you want it to be a country, go ahead and make it one.

      While it’s not, it’s part of Spain. And as long as we are living in Spain, I stick with the Spanish legal system. For just one reason: laws are made to protect me.

      1. You said Scotland is country and Catalonia is not. Now you insist that Catalonia is not a country because it’s not recognised as such by Spain. However, Scotland is not recognised as a country either, but as a “constituent part” of the UK:
        Is Scotland a country?
        The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the full name of the country. Scotland is a kingdom within the United Kingdom (UK), and forms part of Britain (the largest island) and Great Britain (which includes the Scottish islands).

        As the UK has no written constitution in the usual sense, constitutional terminology is fraught with difficulties of interpretation and it is common usage nowadays to describe the four constituent parts of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) as “countries”.

        If it’s not the legal status that makes Scotland a country, what is it then? Please, explain.

        1. There is no easy solution for your problem. First of all, you must read a lot.

          Again you’re asking things of me that I see as services which I would have to charge you for.

          1. I need not read anything. I already know the answer. I was requesting an answer from you, simply because you cannot give one without 1) contradicting yourself, or 2) making self-evident that you are racist and a supremacist.

            I thought it was pretty obvious, but you appear to have a lot of trouble with many obvious things, hence the explanation.

  10. “Fake comparisons… Scotland is a country, Catalonia is not”.

    Therein lies exposed for all to see Candide’s narrow-minded prejudice and political partisanship.

    What is, according to people like Candide, the attribute that makes Scotland a country and which does not apply to Catalonia?

    Is it the settled will of its people?
    No, it can’t be, because both peoples have expressed a settled will of exploring further self-rule as their preferred option.

    Is it a language, or a cultural identity distinct from that of the macro state?
    No, it can’t be that either because both Scotland and Catalonia have distinct cultural identities from that of the macro state. In Catalonia’s case, for example, we have our own language which unlike Gaelic is widely spoken and mainstream, and not in immediate danger of survival, and, unlike Scots, enjoys cultural and social prestige since it is used not only in the cultural sphere, but also in medicine, science, business, etc. (At least for now).

    Could it be that the UK recognises Scotland as a nation, whilst the Spanish state is reluctant to do so?

    According to the pro-Spanish lobby, of which Candide is their enthusiastic self-appointed English –language blog vigilante, Catalonia is not a nation because Spain says so. Period.

    The Spanish Inquisition also declared that the Earth was flat when it was in charge of things.

    The fundamental flaw in Candide’s position is that the status of one subject is defined and determined by its relationship to and with another. Thus one subject is deprived of rights, in our case the right to exist or even so self-define their own identity or common aspirations.

    What Candide and the pro-Spanish lobby want to avoid is the issue of the different attitudes between the English and the Spanish with respect to Scotland and Catalonia.
    The comparison shames the Spanish state, when compared to the UK, Canada, Belgium, etc.
    This is a great source of embarrassment for our Spanish friends, so by trying to reject the comparison, they think they can avoid what everybody in the world is thinking.

    Candide retorts: “it is the constitution that determines the make-up of the state”.
    I would prefer if the make-up of the state was determined by the people that make it up and their elected representatives. What is democracy if not the rule of the people by consensual majority?

    To Candide and their lot, people, specifically Catalan people more than others, are subordinated and subjugated by laws they are not entitled to question, let alone change. If that logic had been applied throughout history, we would still be sending people to the gallows.

    Candide does not like when I sue the term “a-constitutional” since we are not in such a “self-determination process”. Well, it depends on what you mean by self-determination. In my view, self-determination is a continuous process, including our 4-year term elections and democratic referendums.
    The people of Catalonia have self-determined, via their elected representatives and via referendum, that they want the Estatut implemented as policy.

    The Spanish CC, in their regressive interpretation, says that’s not within the scope for the 1978 Spanish Constitution.

    It is either back to the drawing board (and thus humiliating retreat and subordination) or a paradigm shift. This is when the a-constitutional word comes into place.
    By the way, my reply does not contain the word “independence”, you came up with it.

    I agree with you that I am using extrinsic arguments to criticise the CC’s ruling. The concept of democracy seems to be exogenous to them and to vast parts of the Spanish state when dealing with the rights of Catalan people.

    You demand that the case for independence and the case against the CC are completely separate. That may the case, in particular to those (like PSC-PSOE or your Constitutional self) who are willing to accept the jurisdiction of the CC as final and ultimately, and crucially, above the settled will of the Catalan people.

    Fortunately, there is another option. Whether Catalan politicians will have the nous and balls to take their cue from their 1m people (and the political make-up of Parliament) that collapsed the city centre the other day is another matter. The power mechanisms of the Spanish state are so formidable that even elected politicians are prevented, by all sorts of regressive legal artifices, from carrying out what they have been elected to do by the public.

    You end up with the somewhat delusory “I have not seen any solid argument why the CC sould have not been right in its ruling”.
    The problem with your logic is that you place null value to what people want and have democratically demanded and validated.
    I gave you 3 reasons above:
    – Approved by the Catalan Parliament.
    – Aproved by Catalan people in referendum.
    – Even approved by Spanish Parliament!
    – The biggest political rally in Barcelona in living memory.

    It is quite alright that you don’t see these as valid reasons. Your argumentative logic is derived from the premise that Catalan people have no rights other than being loyal subjects to Spain at all times and without any ifs or buts.

    When you deprive Catalan people of any democratic right, you deprive your argument from common sense.

    It beggars belief that in the 21st century that a group of people who feel part of a common collective (call it region/country/nation, it does not matter) are denied the right to state what their commons aspirations are. Your position is based in the tyranny of the law, regardless of the views of the public.

    What I find most amusing about hard-line Constitutionalists such as yourself is that your beloved 1978 Spanish Constitutions recognises “historic nationalities”. But you all seem to forget about that little point…to be honest most people are past caring now.

  11. I think it’s easy to answer in brief:

    Either Catalans are a nation, or Catalonia is. You can’t have it both ways.

    If the people of Catalonia (or any other territory) decide freely for independence, then they must have it. If they decide on a Spanish law, they’re subjected to the Spanish legal system.

    And… oh, that ‘s about it.

    I’ll spare everybody a rebuttal of Rab’s many fallacious points about such things as oppression, democracy, self-determination process… The fallacies are too obvious. Yet they are the fallacies used commonly by Catalan nationalists, I think they are dangerous, so I’ve made a blog about them.

    The sense of entitlement of Catalan nationalists has always struck me as particularly grotesque. No, the world does not revolve around you, and no, you are not convincing. And yes, one can contradict you and not be a hardliner of any sorts.

    1. I’ll be honest, Candide: you’ve got me puzzled with this: “Either Catalans are a nation, or Catalonia is. You can’t have it both ways.”

      Maybe I’m being a bit thick but I can’t for the life of me figure out what you mean, or the logical basis for your statement.

      1. Good you asked. first, lets pull in some wikipedia:

        I have learned that Catalans are those who so define themselves, no matter if they have been born in Catalonia (Principat) or not. That’s the cultural definition, the one mostly defended by Catalanists.

        Then we obviously have the legal definition: inhabitants of Catalonia, including those of culturally non-Catalan origin.

        I think that these definitions are mutually exclusive.

        Furthermore, in Spanish “nación” is used mostly as synonym for “state”. Therefore the Spanish constitution speaks of one nation, the Spanish, and various nationalities. I do not like this difference myself, but we’re speaking constitution here, so the point is pertinent.

        Consider this too: if you define Catalonia as a nation you define all those individuals who are not Catalan against their will as such.

    1. Are you really unaware, Primo, that the sentence you refer to so wrongly can actually be read in its original form just about 5cm up?

  12. Primo, I’m not only a supremacist and a racist, I am a rat, as you called me some days ago. And on it goes.

    You cannot be older than 16, so I’ll ignore you for the next 4 years (wait, we’re in Spain, make that 14). Keep reading good books, mate!

    1. Yes, you are.
      Whem you say Scotland is a country and Catalonia is not, based entirely on your prejudice against Catalans. That makes you a racist.
      And when you dismiss any steps taken by the nationalists towards Catalonia being recognised as a nation, on the false pretence that their are “dangerous” and “anti-democratic”. That makes you a supremacist.
      Racist and supremacist. That’s what you are.
      Keep raging.

  13. “Either Catalans are a nation or Catalonia is. You can’t have it both”.
    Er? What does this mean? Oh, I know, nothing like most of the nonsense you regurgitate.

    Yes, you obviously have made a blog about it but neither here nor it your pathetic blog you provide anything else than a rehash of the arguments Spanish nationalism have been making for decades.

    No matter how many times you use the word ‘fallacy’ to refer to my arguments, your position is ridiculous and in the end as devoid of democratic values as your blog is devoid of a realistic portrayal of Catalan politics and society.

    When you lot don’t like an argument, you call it a fallacy.
    When you don’t like a comparison, a perfectly valid one with Scotland, you call it fake.
    When you are refuted, you call the refute void.
    When don’t like the terms of the debate, you call time.

    Behind your rhetorical flamboyancy and linguistic trickery, lie nothing more and nothing less than antipathy and prejudice against anything Catalan. You like some other bitter immigrants have adopted a position of resentment against your host nation. It is not a new phenomenon, it has happened elsewhere in the world as well. You are not the first and won’t be the last. You will battle imagined ghosts, like Don Quijote battle the windmills, and your manipulative portrayal of Catalan politics will fool some every now and then, but after you and I get tired of this blogging thing, things will remain the same they have been for centuries: Catalonia will remain as a stateless nation, stubbornly trying to change or fit into an utopian and impossible multinational and multilingual Spain, and the Spanish state will keep trying to get rid of what little remains of a distinct Catalan cultural and political identity.

    Behind the façade of pseudo objectivity, there lies a deep-seated prejudice against the rights of Catalonia as a stateless nation (and open hostility against its political and cultural identity unless they are totally subordinated to Spain) and against the rights of the Catalan people to decide their own constitutional future freely.

    You are the laughable self-appointed blog vigilante of Catalan politics, keeping all us in check. However, the more you write, the more of your bigotry gets revealed. The more you expose your intolerance of Catalan nationalism, or even mainstream Catalan federalism within Spain, the more apparent your support for Spanish nationalism is. In the end, you like many others suffer form the same poison, that of an asymmetric view of the application of democracy: some just don’t have the right to it.

    You are a hardliner right enough: a hardliner of subtle Catalanophobia.

    Recommended reading:
    The resentful immigrant –

  14. “Rhetorical flamboyancy and linguistic trickery”; you’ve studied your cheap demagogy al right.

    I don’t have to refute each of your points. And I sure do not want to convince you of anything. I want your way of thinking to be known.

  15. So, are there any arguments for/against the CC’s ruling or shall we continue with insults and long rants that search to identify the other as the enemy?

    Spain does not have a great culture of debate like the UK, France or Germany, but one can at least try and stick to the issue.

    1. Well, the argument against the TC’s ruling is simple: they had an opportunity to allow for a nuanced reading of their precious Constitution, allowing for Catalonia and the other ‘national’ Autonomies to declare themselves as ‘nations’ under the Spanish state. They had the chance, in other words, to permit a slight increase in the intellectual autonomy of the Catalans, who had voted (though not overwhelmingly, democratically nevertheless) for exactly that.

      Instead, the TC went for a very rigid reading of both Estatut and Constitución which, lacking any nuance whatsoever, has effectively closed the door on a managed, gradual increase in Catalonia’s autonomy.

      To my mind, the TC has probably played into the Catalan independentists’ hands with this judgement. Possibly the PP & Spanish right-wing is following a very long-term strategy whereby they want to bring about some sort of national crisis over the Catalan question. I wouldn’t put it past them, but that’s a high stakes game.

  16. I have to apologise, Tom. I threw a reply at you that was a bit provocative, and then I did not have time to follow up.

    I do agree on most your points. I don’t agree that the PP has any long-term strategy to create a national crisis, I think it’s short sighted and goes not further than the next elections. But that’s a minor point.

    Let me recommend two articles. Victor Ferreres Comella from July 14 and De Carreras from today, both La Vanguardia.

    It is really funny to see how after several years of debate about one issue, the Estatut, it is still needed that someone (De Carreras) states the obvious. I do not agree with De Carreras at one point (caveat: I’m not a jurist): I think the CC could have not insisted so much and many times on the fact that the expression “nation” in the preamble of the Estatut had no legal effect. It was obvious it could not, so the CC could have tried more to accomodate national sentiments. It could have been more polite, or say respectful.

    I do understand, however, that Aragón insisted on that point and others followed him. The campaign against the Court was too much, the CC’s reply was to make extra sure that the kind of nationalism that was showing in Catalonia (the political one, the one that is actually more partisan than cultural) is contrary to the Spanish constitution. In brief: you can only expect to receive respect if you are giving it.

    And it is here, I think only here, where you and me might disagree.

    1. You got the last sentence right 🙂

      Let’s look at this: “You can only expect to receive respect if you are giving it.”

      Firstly, having stated various times that the TC/CC was right in law, you are now leaning towards the idea that the court, rather than acting in a purely legal sense, is now burdened with the duty of punishing the Catalans for the naughty behaviour of their politicians.

      Secondly, if this is the thinking behind the judgement (and hell, a jurist would probably have a much better idea than I would), then it’s a damned foolish way to behave. Because that is exactly the argument that will be given when a referendum on independence is proposed: “Spain, if you had respected us a little more, we wouldn’t be having to do this.”

      If this comes down to mutual respect, or the lack of it, independence may be closer than I ever imagined.

  17. Yes, this is the dynamics the Court has taken part in. I do not know if willingly. But there is an asymmetric touch to the whole thing which I will come to a bit later.

    Let me put positively what you put in negative: I do think that the Court is within its mandate if it tries to interpret the problem it is faced with within the actual political context. If this context makes the Court think that the concept of “nation” has been used to further ulterior aims, it must (!) examine whether those aims are in agreement with the law. If the Court, on the other hand, can conclude that there are no ulterior motivations and “nation” is purely a cultural/sentimental statement, then it can let it pass happily.

    Matter of fact, I think that the Court has tried to do both things. One of the results is that is has not touched (or not essentially) the immersion policy. In its reasoning on this point there is a reference to the need of Catalans to reverse past historical imbalances, which means that the Court understands that the Catalan language has to be given special attention, and why.

    We all know about the importance of language for Catalans, so this is why I draw on this point to argue that the CC’s aim was not at all based on anti-Catalan sentiment.

    What you call “punishing” is actually limited to the preamble. That is why I maintain that the CC was replying to a campaign, and that while it had to send a sign of warning it wanted to send it without touching the essence.

    I think this sign was needed. I do not see it as foolish, I think that the more you give to a nationalist, the more they demand.

    Something different to a nationalist is a national, and here again, I see that the CC does respect both the cultural feeling of “nationality” (as such, cultural) and the distinguishing factor of this “nationality”, i.e. the language within its historical context.

    And here goes one why I expect more respect from one side than from another. I expect politicians to respect the law, because, as I have said in another reply, the law is there to protect me. Whether or not a court shows cultural sensitivity (respect) is a political question and therefor on a different, subordinate value. This is the asymmetric touch: the respects we are talking about dwell on different levels.

    To make this point very clear: if I do not respect Catalan national feelings, I may be very impolite and politically not correct. But if I fail to respect the law, and its organs, which is one same thing, I not only question the reason to be of the whole state, I risk the security and wellbeing of all citizens, including my own. That’s a hell of an asymmetry.

    [I admit, the argument only works in a democracy. Ah, and that is precisely why, knowingly or -because they’re dumb- rather not, some political activists like to try and convince the world that Spain is not a democracy (yes, that one was for you, Toni Strubell.)]

    I am amazad at how easily people here mix both levels, and how little they care for the state of law. Political people, I mean. For they should damn well know: we pay them for it, and be it only the 1.20 for La Vanguardia. (Political people does not only mean career politicians.)

    Sorry, Tom, I’ve gone from a single point into an all encompassing criticism. I thought I had to.

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