This is a short report of very interesting interview of Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, who is both a Catalan and a convinced Spanish unionist.
He says that
§ he would rather have the Catalan political prisoners released on bail;
§ Catalonia is a nation, not a region (but does not have the right to self-determination in violation of the Spanish Constitution);
§ there is no automatic international right to national self-determination and
§ Scotland does not have the legal right to hold a referendum without the permission of the UK Parliament (for which he provides a very convincing argument).
Borrelll is no friend of Catalan independence (he would hardly have been chosen by the Spanish Government as its Foreign Minister if he were) and has made some very disparaging remarks about the movement (liking it to “an infection”) and some individuals. He is no democrat either. However it is interesting that he is prepared to express a difference from Spanish Government policy.
His remark about Scotland will not be liked by many Catalan independentists who are fond of quoting Scotland and the referendum there as a model. But I think he is correct, both in his explanation and the situation at the time. It seems to me that the British conceded a referendum, expecting it to fail. It did fail but the result was closer than they expected. But, like self-determination of the occupied Six Counties of Ireland, any vote in favour would have to be ratified by the UK Parliament.
The main difference between the UK and the Spanish State on this is that the UK allowed a referendum but expected it to lose. The Spanish State will not permit a referendum because they know it would succeed.
The Catalan activists, politicians and intellectuals need to stop looking elsewhere for easy examples for comparison. They would be much better served, in my opinion, by examining the general history of imperialist-colonialist states against the struggles of subjugated nations and of course the history of the state in which they find themselves.
No imperialist or colonialist state has ever given up what it considered its property without resorting to violence. When that desire for separation and independence comes from a part of what it considers its own base, the resistance is even stronger and violence highly predictable. And the history of the Spanish State itself? Violent acquisition of all of its neighbouring lands –until Portugal broke away and stopped at the French border (another major thief). Violent suppression of peasants and workers and the overthrow of two democratically-elected Republican governments, followed by violent repression. War conducted against the Basque independentists. The Spanish state will use much more violence than it did on October 1st last year, repressing the Referendum on Catalan independence. The only questions are § when and
§ will the Catalans be prepared for it.