Friday, November 13, 2015

Whose War Is It Anyway?: Catalonia

There was a graphic the other day which showed the sphere of military influence that a "hypothetical" independent Catalonia would require. It featured a couple of fighter planes over the sea between the mainland and the Balearics. They were within this theoretical Catalonian military force field, as also were - pointedly - the military installation on the summit of the Puig Major and indeed the whole of the Balearics.

Hypotheses are edging closer to be realities, yet these realities are unreal. These are truly odd times. Catalonia's parliament, having determined that Spain's Constitutional Court no longer has any legitimacy over Catalonia's affairs, is racing, within the next 30 days, towards the drafting of laws for a separate social security system, a separate treasury and, most significantly, a separate constitution. The appearance is given of independence having already been declared. What next? A separate law for the military and a Catalan invasion of the Balearics reminiscent of 1229? Maybe they'll name the lead fighter plane Jaume I.

The bizarre nature of what is going on can be summed up both by the parliament's pre-independence rejection of Spain's constitution and by Spain's chief prosecutor at the Audiencia Nacional (High Court) having ordered the state's security forces to report on possible offences of sedition and rebellion against the state. The two offences carry, respectively, sentences of up to 15 and 30 years. The High Court doesn't, so it would seem, have powers to prosecute the likes of presidents of regional governments, but it can order investigations, which it has done.

One of the forces which has been given the order is the Catalonian police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. The fact that it, along with the National Police, the Guardia Civil and the secretary-of-state for security have all been sent a similar instruction by the court should be enough to give Catalonia's leaders the heebie-jeebies. But it is an order which raises rather more concern. Where do the Mossos stand in all this? It's a Catalonian police force, and it was approved as such under Spain's constitution. A Catalonian "constitution" would presumably reiterate and reinforce this, but would this be accepted, while if Catalonia rejects the Spanish constitution, does this not invalidate the provisions of the constitution and the Catalonian statute of autonomy which enabled the Mossos to be transferred to Catalonian jurisdiction in the first place? Moreover, once police forces become embroiled, the whole saga of independence takes on a rather different complexion, as it also does when there is reference - as with the graphic - to military matters.

With reasonable certainty, one can say that the Balearics are not about to become involved and to throw the door open to a Catalonian air force (if it had one, which it doesn't) and allow it to use Palma's Son Sant Joan. Though there are elements within the regional government and the Council of Mallorca who are sympathetic to the notion of the Catalan Lands, their numbers are small, while the populace is not sympathetic. Nor are most politicians, such as from PSOE and even Podemos. Cast as left-wing, on the independence issue Podemos has little truck with it, and that's because it rejects notions of nationalism full stop, be they Spanish, Catalonian or anyone else's.

Balearic politicians have spoken in favour of Catalonia being able to determine its own future, but they, as with many observers from overseas, I suspect, miss the point about how Catalonia arrived at the mad situation in which it finds itself. This is is not just about self-government, self-determination and independence. It has as much if not more to do with Artur Mas.

By the time this article appears, Mas may have been sworn in once more as president of Catalonia. His investiture was on hold because the left-wing CUP voted against it, despite being in favour of independence. The reason it had voted against Mas was that it is concerned that the whole issue, and indeed the whole of Catalonia politics, is focused on one person, i.e. Mas. The CUP wants someone else. It may be right to wish this, but how could Mas walk away or be pushed away from a process which is largely of his own making? 

Mas, at one time cast as a somewhat dull technocratic politician, has dug a hole from which he cannot exit. He has successively become more fanatical about independence when this wasn't once the case. He was pushed towards this by Rajoy's flat refusal to renegotiate Catalonia's financing, but he has also used independence to divert attention from corruption allegations and to seek to bolster his own power. Both he and Rajoy are at fault, but observers from overseas should be under no illusion that the Catalonia affair is all a romantic drive towards independence. It isn't, as it became - for different reasons - Mas's crusade and Mas's war.

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