Letter to the editor of The Economist

The letter was published in The Economist on 23rd of August of 2018.

Your special report on Spain (July 28th) claimed that sometimes the Catalan independence movement is identity-based and “borders on racism”. That is untrue. Last year, Europe’s biggest march in support of accepting refugees took place in Barcelona, with up to 500,000 marchers. The only far-right movements we have in Catalonia are unionist and almost always nostalgic for Franco. We see the Catalan language as a tool of integration in our multilingual society. We want to normalise the use of our language, which has been persecuted for centuries and still does not have an official status throughout Spain. It is not even permitted in the Spanish parliament. In Belgium, 80,000 German-speaking inhabitants have their language fully recognised, whereas 10m Catalan-speakers continue to be treated like second-class citizens.

It is unfair to portray our peaceful movement as having “an undertone of intimidation and intolerance”, particularly as more than 1,000 Catalan citizens are being prosecuted for organising the referendum on independence. Nine peaceful politicians and civil-society leaders have spent up to ten months (and counting) in prison without trial and seven have been forced into exile. By trying to crush the referendum, the Spanish state has ridden roughshod over fundamental constitutional liberties such as the freedoms of assembly, speech and the press. This explains the political prosecution being carried out by the Spanish justice system, which is motivated by revenge, with trumped-up charges and rulings based on fictitious violence.

Nor is the rise of political alternatives and the pro-independence movement in Catalonia a sign of “rancour”. Rather it demonstrates a profound disagreement over how Spain has been managed over the past few decades. We Catalans favour a modern, dynamic economy with a fairer distribution of wealth and we are willing to contribute to poorer regions in Europe, including the Spanish ones, but in a transparent and fair way. The Mediterranean Corridor scheme has been blocked for years by Madrid. We are not even allowed to make decisions regarding Barcelona’s commuter trains, airport or harbour. Germany’s city-state of Hamburg can decide on all of these issues, without incurring the wrath of Berlin.

Catalan National Assembly