Catalonia Calling! #06

A New 9N is Coming! - 7/11/2015

Catalonia Calling #06 is all about what I've called the New 9N because next Monday is the first anniversary of the proxy referendum on Catalan independence held on November 9th last year. This year it won't be as festive but it will be almost as symbolic.

On Monday morning, the Parliament of Catalonia will debate the resolution on the Declaration of the Initiation of the Catalan Independence Process, which is expected to be passed, and in the afternoon it will vote on the investiture of Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat, which is expected to be rejected.

So Catalonia will have passed the beginning of the break with Spain but will have no government to put the revolutionary proposal into action. After the resolution is passed, it will be set before the Spanish Constitutional Court by the Spanish Government and immediately suspended. So it will be fascinating to see how events unfold next week.

In fact, I talked about most of these topics on Thursday on Matthew Tree's Finest Hour TV programme where I was guest with Jordi Vilanova and Neus Flores, but I've still got plenty more to say.


FC Barcelona, UEFA and Esteladas

But let's start with another long running saga. On Monday, the UEFA announced that it was considering what actions to take against FC Barcelona of the massive presence of pro-Catalan independence Estelada flags and shouts of 'Independència!' at minute 17.14 in both halves. The club had been fined 20,000 and 40,000 euros for this on two previous occasions.

The act of rebellion would have taken place anyway but before the game on Wednesday in the Champions League against Bate Borisov, the Catalan National Assembly distributed 30,000 Esteladas. Along with ones the fans brought them, it meant that pretty much the whole of the 78,000-strong crowd had a flag to wave.

Not surprisingly, the Camp Nou was awash with Esteladas and there's was a massive Respect banner - Respect is one of the Uefa's slogans - but this one had the Catalan 'e' added at the end so it read "RESPECTe". Fans whistled through the Champions League anthem and at minute 17.14 the shouts of "Independència!" was deafening.

Barça seem to have got away with this for now but I can't see it lasting long because Camp Nou is just a massive advert for the pro-independence movement and international TV audiences are going to get bigger as Barça pass through the rounds. I'm sure the Spanish Football Federation will be working behind the scenes to put a stop to it. I even heard someone suggest the referee's might be told to take decisions against Barça.

Meetings, Legal Proceedings and the New 9N

Action on the week's main event, the New 9N, began on Monday when Carme Forcadell called a Reunió de Portaveus, which is a meeting of the spokespersons of all the parliamentary groups in the Catalan Parliament. All parties attended except the Partido Popular, who haven't constituted their parliamentary group yet, specifically in order to block the progress of the Declaration of the Initiation of the Independence Process.

As soon as the meeting was over the anti-independence unionist parties, Ciudadanos, Partido Popular and the socialist PSC, who I've dubbed as #CuntspelNo, announced that they would be presenting an appeal before the Spanish Constitutional Court in an attempt to block the debate on the declaration that was tabled for Monday. They alleged the fact that the debate was taking place was an affront to their democratic rights. This is the first time I've that not allowing a debate was good for democracy.

On Wednesday, Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos, Xavier García Albiol of Partido Popular and Miquel Iceta of PSC went down to Madrid together to present their appeals in person. They made an odd trio outside the Constitutional Court building and there was a large element of electioneering. With Spanish General Elections announced for December 20th, nobody wanted to be left out of the "Who is the greatest defender of Spain?" photo.

It was pretty obvious that the Tribunal Constitucional wouldn't suspend the debate because as soon as the resolution is passed on Monday, it is expected that the Spanish Government will immediately call a Council of State, even though it's a holiday in Madrid. Either later that day or earlier the following day an appeal will be lodged with the Constitutional Court, who will immediately suspend the declaration. In the days following the suspension, Catalonia's push for unilateral independence will either begin to take shape or be nipped in the bud.

I think the debate itself is going to be fascinating. The pro-independence parties, Junts pel Sí and the CUP, and the unionist parties, C's, PP and PSC, are going to be at each others throats. Junts pel Sí and the CUP tabled some ammendments to the declaration that add social content and make it more left-wing in order to try and draw support from Catalunya, Sí que es Pot so there's going to be a three-way debate and the motion might get passed by more than 72 to 62 votes.

I think that the event is so interesting that I'll be livestreaming TV coverage from the Catalan Parliament plus my commentary in English on my YouTube channel from 10 am on Monday 9th November until the debate ends so check out my Twitter stream (@simonharris) or my Facebook page ( for updates and how to join and participate.

The debate can't go on till too late because the debate on the investiture of the president will take take place in the afternoon.

Investiture of Artur Mas

The other main event of the day is the investiture debate in which the house decides whether to make Artur Mas President of the Generalitat again or not. The President of Parliament, Carme Forcadell, had meetings with all the parties all week to find out their opinions and, although all parties except Junts pel Sí said they wouldn't be voting for him, she formally announced that she will be proposing him as president on Monday afternoon.

I've said this many times but I do wish that the CUP would come round to reason on this. Only two votes are needed so two could vote in favour and the rest could abstain so they could make one of their typical "Critical Yes" votes

I'm a great admirer of Artur Mas and in fact, I've vaguely been working on a book idea about him so if he's out of the front line of Catalan politics that'll be a big shame. I also think he's a real value to the process. He draws on a lot of support from a large moderate section of Catalan society, who are very important for the Catalan independence process.

He's recognised internationally as the "leader" of the independence movement, and with his excellent English and French he's an excellent interlocutor with foreign leaders. I also think he's honest, sincere and as free from corruption as anyone could be. If you look into his biography, he cleaned up the Conselleria d'Obra Pública (Ministry of Public Works) when he took over in 1995 and I think he's tried to do the same since he became General Secretary of Convergència but it's been much more complex. There have been the old guard to deal with and Pujol was President of the party until 2009-10ish so it's been difficult.

I'm a long long way to the left of him on economic and social policy but that doesn't mean I don't think he's a good bloke or a capable politician. We also have to be careful about moving too far to the left at a time when recognition by Europe is important. Just look at Greece and Portugal. We'll only get European and international support if the banks think they're going to get their money back and the multinationals can carry on doing business here.

What do we do first? Have the revolution or win the war? This is the same. Win independence or build a fairer juster society?

It annoys me that people on the left have got it in for him so badly. It's just prejudice. People not only don't want him as president but seem to want move him out of the limelight of Catalan politics.

I'd like to see him treated like Xavi was at Barça. I think he should be captain right up until the last moment. He's already promised that he'll be retiring at the end of this season. And when he goes he should be given a send off with full honours.

I know this process can move ahead without him but very much like it was with Xavi. I feel much more secure having him on the team and if he's on the team, he has to be treated with the respect he deserves.

A Final Thought

A final thought is that depending on how things go in the morning debate, the expected votes in the investiture debate might not go at all as expected.

The effect of the ammendments might convince some Catalunya, Sí que es Pot deputies to vote in favour of Mas or there might even be some rebel votes in favour from the CUP. Who knows?

Artur Mas will make an investiture speech before the debate and the vote and the content of that speech is also crucial. If he phrases it rightly and epresses himself as well as he can, he might yet pull the rabbit out of the hat as he's done so many times before.

I don't exactly when the investiture debate is taking place but I imagine at around 6 pm (CET) so if the morning session doesn't have too many technical hitches, I'll be livestreaming that as well and showing off some of my simultaneous translation skills.

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