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Catalonia’s long road to independence is the high road

The ball is now firmly in Madrid and Brussels’ court.

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Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont has offered his own supporters, those in Catalonia who are sceptical of independence, the Spanish people, the European Union and the Madrid regime, an elegant solution to a long burning issue. During a speech in which Puigdemont was widely expected to proclaim a full declaration of independence, he instead offered a declaration of intent, one which carries the penultimate goal of establishing independence through negotiations. While the time-frame of such negotiations is not yet clear, Puigdemont indicated that he is willing to allow for an extended period of discussions while he pursues what he called his “mandate” for independence.

While the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and even the Spanish King intervened to state that the Catalan exercise in democracy had no legitimacy on constitutional grounds, one must realise that all constitutions, like all currencies not pegged to a metallic standard, are only valid if a consensus of peoples are willing to bestow them with legitimacy. The United States for example, violates its constitution on a daily basis and this is now accepted as a status quo. Just ask the detainees in Guantanamo Bay about the sanctity of the US constitution.

In this sense, the Catalonia referendum on independence was equally a referendum on the legitimacy and more specifically, the lack of legitimacy of Spain’s perennially controversial 1978 constitution.

Many critics of the 1978 constitution hold that it enshrined into contemporary Spanish law, many of the Falangist elements of the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Indeed, during his speech, Puigdemont alluded to Catalonia’s historic struggle against Francoism as well as its subsequent contribution to Spanish society.

While the Catalan referendum from the 1st of October was proximately called due to the Spanish’s Constitutional Court’s quashing of many elements of the 2006 autonomy law which granted long demanded concessions to Barcelona, the overall reaction of Madrid to a peaceful vote, has forced a larger debate about the legacy of Falangism in modern Spain.

While the Catalans want a debate, Madrid answered with an anti-democratic campaign of police brutality in a country that is not anywhere near a war zone. There was no excuse for the violence and indeed, the violence was totally condemned by the Catalan President in his speech.

However, rather than use Madrid’s arrogance and police violence as an excuse to declare instant independence, Carles Puigdemont instead used his speech before the Catalan parliament to extend an olive branch to Madrid.

He stated that full independence can and will only be declared after a mutual agreement is reached between Barcelona and Madrid. Puigdemont also welcomed other European partners to help mediate in such negotiations. While not in the EU, Switzerland has already offered to serve as a neutral mediation in the dispute.

While the dispute between Madrid and Barcelona cannot be compared to the Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Carles Puigdemont’s attitude to Madrid was rhetorically reminiscent of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s statement to the United Nations in 1974.

During his first address to the UN General Assembly, Arafat said,

“I come to you bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.

This is in essence, what Carles Puigdemont is saying to Mariano Rajoy. Catalonia will approach Madrid with a peaceful list of demands and expects these demands to be negotiated peacefully and with due respect. If Madrid is unwilling or unable to negotiate, the implication here is that Catalonia will ultimately declare independence without an agreement, much as Britain continues to threaten leaving the EU without an agreement, should no amicable agreement be reached.

But whereas Britain is approaching Brussels from a perspective of intransigence, Catalonia appears to be approaching Madrid and other potential mediating partners, with an open mind and a clear conscience.

It was Madrid who inflicted violence on Catalan civilians, not the other way around and it is Madrid which refuses to engage with people who are technically still Spanish citizens, while Catalonia’s leaders seek dialogue without specific caveats, apart form the general acknowledgement of the referendum and the future consequences this implies.

The ball is now squarely in Madrid’s court. They can force Catalonia into an unwanted unilateral position or even worse, they could impose martial rule upon Catalonia, thus bringing a new conflict to the heart of the European Union. The EU has prided itself on being an instrument which helps avoid further war within its borders. If Spain becomes more militant in its position towards Catalonia, this will not only be a Spanish failure, but a colossal EU failure.

While Carles Puigdemont’s speech was filled with mentions of peace, dialogue, compromise and pan-European values, Madrid’s response to Catalonia thus far, has been legalistic, heavy handed and ultimately unrealistic.

If Spain buries its head in the sand even further than it already has, whatever happens can only be blamed on Madrid. If the EU continues to exercise the same attitude as Madrid, Brussels too will share a substantial portion of the blame.

Catalonia’s message is clear: work with us as partners who are equal but increasingly separate, or lose us forever in more ways than one.

The choice should be obvious for Madrid, but so long as Mariano Rajoy is in power, it may not be possible for Spain to choose consensus over conflict.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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