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Spain’s King Felipe VI has made a televised address in which he offered heavy handed words of condemnation for the leaders of the Catalan independence movement.
Felipe VI began by stating that, “We find ourselves at a critical juncture as a democracy”, before explaining why Madrid thinks that the Catalan exercise in democracy deserved carpet condemnation.
Like Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the King of Spain proceeded to call the referendum an outlaw act and calling a would-be declaration of independence “illegal”.
As a result of this particular statement from the King, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader has publicly stated that Catalonia will declare its independence within a matter of days.
The remainder of the Spanish King’s short speech was largely a diatribe against Catalan leaders and the wider Catalan independence movement. In many respects, what the King did not say was more telling than what he did say. There was no call for dialogue, for deescalation or the offer of any proposal for reconciliation or mediation. As is the case with Premier Rajoy, the King stated Madrid’s official position that the referendum is illegitimate and that any subsequent declaration of independence is illegal, but no solutions were offered apart from a commitment to a status quo that has clearly failed.
In many ways, Madrid’s attitude towards Catalonia mirrors post-2014 Kiev’s attitude towards Donbass. It is an attitude that seeks to ‘re-claim’ territory that in the case of Donbass has separated and in the case of Catalonia appears to be on the verge of official separation, but without regard for the wishes of the people in that territory. It’s as though to say, “we still want your region and its abundant resources, but we don’t want nor care for you, the people”.
While the regime in Kiev proceeded to attempt and ‘win Donbass back’ through an ongoing war of ethnic cleansing, Madrid has not crossed that Rubicon yet. The EU is supposed to have mechanisms in place to avoid such a catastrophe, but frankly, the EU was supposed to have mechanisms in place to prevent violent police brutality against peaceful voters and this clearly failed.
While the leadership in Madrid are well known to harbour latent neo-Francoist tendencies, the prevailing hope is that they will stop short of unleashing the kind of violence that marred Spanish society during the Civil War of the 1930s.
Ultimately, no matter what one’s position on Catalan independence, rejecting dialogue is now, not only dangerous, but absurd. Madrid’s attitude has only entrenched Catalan opinion against Spain, whereas allowing the vote to proceed peacefully may well have allowed for some Catalan voices for unity to also have their say. As things stand, many more Catalans joined the independence movement than ever before in 21st century history, as a direct result of the disparaging attitude of Madrid and the heavy handed policing tactics on voting day.
As I wrote shortly after the final vote,
“In respect of Brussels, it may be a matter of far too little, far too late and inversely for Madrid, it may be a matter of crossing a red line for Catalonia by using such heavy handed policing and political techniques to try and suppress Catalans from conducting an exercise in regional democracy and peaceful free speech.
It is however, not too late to try and create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation between Madrid and Barcelona. What is clear however, is that Mariano Rajoy, the current Spanish Prime Minister cannot be the man to conduct such talks, nor do many of his front line government ministers seem up to the task. Rajoy’s arrogant remarks and his apparent praise of clear police brutality against unarmed people including young women and the elderly, means that he has no leg to stand on in would-be respectful discussions with the leaders in Catalonia.
This too exposes the hypocrisy of western mainstream media. In countries that the western mainstream media tends not to understand and have likely never even visited, pundits are quick to say that certain non-western leaders ‘must go’.
In Spain, a country in the heart of western Europe, about which western MSM journalists ostensibly have a great deal of knowledge about, little is being said about the figure of Mariano Rajoy and has terrible handling of the referendum in Catalonia.
If Rajoy resigns and is replaced by a more moderate figure, there is a chance that a special conference organised by the EU, an institution to which Spain belongs and which an independent Catalonia seeks to join, could be held in order to reach some sort of agreement. Even if independence is inevitable, surely it is in the interest of the EU, Madrid and Barcelona to foster an atmosphere where Spain and a Catalan Republic could be good neighbours rather than perpetual foes.
There is no other reasonable solution. The question therefore is: who has the moral and political courage to unapologetically call for such a solution and make sure that it becomes a new reality?”
Rather than offering consolation through unity, the Spanish King merely acted as a mouthpiece of the Rajoy regime. Madrid is doing everything it can to lose Catalonia, whether the speech writers and policy makers realise it or not.