Mentat

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  1. I heard this on the Catalan radio. It's absolutely disgusting and beyond-the-pale unprofessional. Hopefully it will be looked into. Agreed on all accounts. I read that article you linked and I found it very interesting. I think it's very true that Spanish courts are over-reaching and doing themselves, Spain, Catalonia and the rule of law they are supposed to uphold a disservice. A longer prosecution without preemptive prison based on lesser but more accurate charges (like disobedience or prevarication) and ending in a prison sentence that was less than 2 years (and as such would not be served for a first offender) and a prohibition from holding public office for a number of years would be much more proportionate and effective and far less politically damaging for Spain.
  2. It really isn't. We can look at the judgment against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (which I agree is an unfortunate judgment) or the recent judgments on the independence procedure (though I'd argue that the Catalan government was purposefully and knowingly violating the Constitution because it considered it had a mandate of the Catalan people to do so, so these judgments aren't at all surprising) and think so, but if we bother to look back at all, we can find plenty of occasions in which, as I said, the Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of the regions (including Catalonia) and against the government. One of the most important judgments of the Constitutional Court (from a legal point of view) is this one, which is a good example.
  3. I don't think Carme Forcadell (the president of the Catalan parliament) is being prosecuted right now (she's being investigated), but she could be very shortly (she will be giving a statement before the magistrate at some point today). She is, indeed, part of the legislative. There is no Catalan criminal legislation; all criminal legislation is Spanish. Also, much of the legislation you refer to had been declared unconstitutional by the Spanish Constitutional Court, and its validity had been suspended. I agree the crimes of rebellion and sedition seem archaic. What is more, as they're written in the Spanish criminal code, I really don't think any of the members of the Catalan parliament are guilty of either of them (as they require some element of violence). As European citizens, they can appeal to the ECHR (and almost certainly will, if the case doesn't go their way). The short answer is that the government doesn't nominate judges. The long answer is pretty long, but here goes: The Spanish Constitutional Court is a mostly political body. Of its 12 members, 2 are nominated directly by the government, 8 are nominated by the 2 houses of parliament (4 each) by a 3/5ths qualified majority (which no single arty can usually muster) and the remaining 2 are nominated by the General Judiciary Council (a governing body for judges and magistrates, which is also mostly political). Nominees must have a legal background (judges, lawyers, etc.), more than 15 years experience and renown in their field. That said, the Constitutional Court judges laws and regulations, never people. It isn't truly part of the judiciary (though it has the same guarantees of independence), and is often referred to as the 'negative legislator' or 'third house of parliament'. Though the political nature of the Constitutional Court is unquestionable, it bears saying it has often ruled against the government and in favor of the regions (and in important cases too). Judges and Magistrates are people who have a degree in law and that have passed an extremely demanding public exam (studying for it is almost like getting a second degree). Once you're a judge, you can become a magistrate through seniority or through passing yet another public exam. Judges and magistrates are independent of the government, and certainly not named by them. They have legal guarantees of their impartiality and independence. Of course, this doesn't mean they don't have biases, political sympathies, or that they don't occasionally make wrong or stupid decisions. They're just independent of the government. I think it would be desirable to end the excessive political nature of both the Constitutional Court and the General Judiciary Council, but despite this, the judiciary in Spain is reasonably impartial and independent (and considered as such by most all international bodies that look into this kind of thing, like the UN or the Venice Commission). I agree prosecuting the Catalan government is neither particularly smart nor particularly fair, but as I said, this is not up to Rajoy (in fact, if it was he'd probably at least delay the whole thing until after the regional elections, for very obvious political reasons).
  4. The legal ramifications of this are complicated. I don't think anyone is actually being prosecuted for their actions in a legislative body. Catalan politicians are being prosecuted for their actions as a part of the Catalan government (i.e. the administration, or the executive). As a member of the administration it's actually easy to be prosecuted, and there are quite a few crimes that you can only commit as a member of the administration (like taking bribes, corruption, etc.). Catalan politicians represent the will of the Catalan people, but that doesn't mean they can break the law. Prosecuting Puigdemont is a terrible idea, and will help no one, but the problem is that, despite what some might say, Spain does have a reasonably independent judiciary (as is evident by the many cases of corruption that prosecutors and judges have been hammering the ruling party with for the last decade) which is not under control of the government (otherwise the government would probably delay the whole thing, if only because the timing is awful if they mean to do well in the regional elections in December). Judges (even Catalan judges) don't really like Catalan nationalists (and they don't like judges either, as was made evident by the laws they passed trying to bring all the judiciary under the control of the government in the event of a republic). This is mostly because judges are lawful, either because they were to begin with and that's what drew them to the career or because they are taught to think like that in law school and Catalan nationalists are chaotic, valuing their principles above the law and freely going against Spanish law and court orders despite being warned countless times by courts and parliament attorneys. Someone in the UN might have said that (there are lots of people in the UN, with a great diversity of opinions) but the UN as such is probably not going to intervene, which is a pity, because I think it would really help if he UN or the EU put their foot down and insisted on some kind of mediation. If you have more specific questions about Spanish law I can try to help, though Criminal law is not my area of expertise.
  5. I think that theory of how Spaniards vote is not very likely. The PP absolute majority in the 2011-2015 government term (which it now lacks) was, in my opinion, mainly a result of the economic crisis (which Zapatero was considered to be mishandling). Rajoy did fall hard on the last election. The PP lost more than 60 seats, despite tensions in Catalonia and the nationalists' demands mounting like never before in Spanish history. Also, Spanish democracy is very young and has actually proven to be quite unpredictable, I don't really think you can accurately establish trends like that. If I happen to be wrong, I recommend the following strategy: All the catalan nationalists have to do is say "Nah, we don't actually want independence. In fact, all these devolved attributions should probably be handled by Madrid instead. We kind of suck at it. Also, this Catalan language is quaint and all, but we're probably all better off speaking Spanish, which everyone understands". Then, when Podemos wins the general elections by an absolute majority they say "BWAHAHAHA! Fools! You believed it! We want independence and we want it right now! Lets see if you're as good as your word President Iglesias". You can all thank me for this marvelous idea with a holiday home in Costa Daurada. You're welcome Also, the Spanish government can't really push for more centralization right now. They lack the votes. They'd have to agree with PSOE (and they never agree on anything) or PNV (who will agree to more centralization over their dead bodies).
  6. I think it's a mistake to conflate the Rajoy government with an absolute majority and in the middle of an economic crisis with the Rajoy government without enough votes to comfortable pass a budget and in a much more comfortable economic situation. The pro-independence parties have also flexed their muscles greatly in the last year. That said, your speculation is as good as mine. The Catalan nationalists may prefer Pedro Sánchez to Rajoy, but they blocked his attempt at becoming president in 2015, and again 'referendum or referendum' was the issue they refused to back down on and Pedro Sánchez (and Ciudadanos, who were supporting him back then) wouldn't agree with under any circumstance. I'm aware that some articles of the Constitution are easier to modify than others (I have a background in Spanish law). The articles relevant to this particular issue are the hard ones to modify. I do not think the Constitution should be immutable either and, personally, agree that the PSOEs Federal proposal (and this isn't only PSC, I heard it from Sanchez's mouth first, myself) seems like a good way to compromise (and Catalan nationalists have always had a working relationship with PSOE PMs). I agree it's very hard for independence to find purchase in the Spanish parliament, but if we're talking about a better financial deal or more devolution, then I disagree. Catalan nationalists just chose the worst possible moment (a PP government with an absolute majority in the middle of a terrible economic crisis) forced by their own economic troubles. A more confident, charismatic and left wing president and Catalan nationalists might yet be able to agree on some sort of non-binding public consultation involving choosing between an increased devolution and better financing or independence, but just like Cameron or the Canadian president, they have to like their chances, and political tension needs to deflate.
  7. To your first paragraph: The Constitutional Court declared illegal parts of a Statute of Autonomy that had been agreed between the Spanish central government and Catalan regional government, and that got an overwhelming support both by the Catalan parliament and the Catalan people in a referendum. I won't argue constitutional legality with the Court, but to me it was a pretty big deal in terms of democracy and how we interpret laws, and it's hard to argue it started this shit-storm. To your second paragraph: Are you sure? For a private citizen that hasn't received a specific court mandate? Can you provide a legal article or citation for that? To your third paragraph: I read the legal decision to deny them bail, and while it's sound on paper I do agree with some Catalan people that have argued that the crime of sedition could apply to many acts (like demonstrating in front of a house to prevent the police from executing a court order to evict a person who can't pay his rent or whose house has been seized by the bank) which have been relatively frequent in Spain in the last years and where no one has (to my knowledge) been prosecuted (and people like the current mayor of Barcelona could have been). To me it's hard to argue that there isn't a strong political element to this particular prosecution. To your fourth paragraph: Most men (and women) I admire don't 'take things like a man'. They strive to change the things they disagree with and find unjust, rather than accepting them. I agree the Basque country shouldn't have a privileged fiscal status, but depriving them of it now seems like such a political recipe for disaster (I suspect, unlike yourself, many Basques of either gender won't be happy to take it like a man) I think extending it to other regions that want it (together with more devolution) might be a viable solution.
  8. To your first paragraph: I think this is worth answering in detail. Why could Quebec or Scotland have a referendum of independence and Catalonia can't? It may seem unfair, but it's not without sense. I'm not going to justify it, but there are reasons: 1) Legal reasons: The Constitution certainly allows for referendums, provided they're state sanctioned, but it doesn't allow for independence. A referendum could have been held, but it would be pretty meaningless without first changing the Constitution to allow territories to secede. The Spanish Constitution can't really be changed without most Spaniards agreeing to it (and I personally think changing a Constitution without a very wide social and political consensus is a mistake). One could argue that, if that is the case, then the Constitution is unfair. I won't argue about fairness, but two things are worth bearing in mind: The first is that unlike both the UK and Canada (which have a common law system), Spain is (and always has been) a country with a civil law system (like most of continental Europe). The codified text of the law must be respected, obeyed and upheld by all public powers and private citizens... until the moment it is changed. All public officials in Spain swear to obey and uphold the Constitution (as Spain's supreme law) when they're sworn into office. The Spanish Constitution is very similar to that of other countries in continental Europe like France, Italy or Germany, which don't allow for secession either. The second is that, back in the day, Catalan nationalists were taken into account when the Constitution was written. With all its problems, a lot of effort was made by the politicians back in the day to obtain a consensus for the Constitution amongst all the relevant political actors. Catalan nationalists had a say into how the Constitution was written and ultimately took (and helped shape) the deal offered to them. While it seems legitimate that a revision of the deal might be wanted by the Catalans further down the line, imposing a change unilaterally on the rest of Spain is what most Spaniards don't accept. 2) Political reasons: The current Spanish government represents the Spanish right. Its voters don't want Catalonia to become independent, its current partners in government (Ciudadanos) and the main party of the opposition (PSOE), don't want Catalonia to become independent. The political cost for the Spanish government to even consider this would be astronomical. The government would fall and its electorate would abandon it in mass. It's also worth saying, that Canadian and British PMs are no fools. They did grant referendums, but I think both of them were pretty certain their chances of losing them were extremely slim (I'm pretty sure Cameron was, I'm not really sure about how it played out in Canada). If David Cameron had been advised that an independence referendum in Scotland was likely to come out in favour of independence, I think it very unlikely that he would have agreed to one (stalling and hoping the problem will fizzle out is a much more appealing solution from a politician's point of view). Brexit (another referendum which Cameron was also pretty certain he would win, and which effectively ended his political career when he lost it) weighs in recent memory as to the dangers of referendums in volatile political circumstances. 3) Practical reasons: Spain can ill afford to allow Catalonia to secede. It would be an economic disaster and a territorial nightmare, as other regions start stroking their chins and considering their options. International confidence in Spain's stability and the strength of its economy would plummet, investments would fall, the interest rates for borrowing money would grow, etc. Spain's economy is still very fragile after the recession, and the Catalan secession movement has already had an economic cost for Spain (economic growth for next year has been curtailed in most all estimates) and Catalonia (companies leaving, tourism dropping, investments going elsewhere for fear of instability). All that said, Spain probably could and very likely would offer the Catalans a good deal as a regional government if they abandoned the notion of independence. CIU/PDCat was excellently positioned after the latest general election in Spain. If it had agreed to shelve independence and support a PP government in exchange for more devolution, money or whathaveyou, I think Rajoy would have rushed at the deal (though there are also political reasons why this would be pretty complicated, to say the least). To your second paragraph: I really don't agree. Neither PP, PSOE nor Ciudadanos want an independent Catalonia (though if you want the three main parties in current Spanish politics you must scratch Ciudadanos and consider Podemos, which has 67 seats in parliament to Ciudadanos' 32), but that doesn't mean they are "against anything related to good strategies or empathy towards Catalonia" (nor do I think this is a language of good faith). PSOE has always been for a deal with Catalonia that keeps it reasonably happy, and under the last PSOE government, relations between Spanish central government and Catalan regional government were pretty good. They cooperated and were able to find agreed solutions to problems. The current PP government is surely a problem (for some people outside Catalonia too...) but it won't last forever, and Catalans could be instrumental in kicking it out. It's only the 'all or nothing' attitude of ERC, PDCat and CUP that are preventing this. Another thing worth saying is that it's a fallacy that Spain will never agree to this or that. As I said before, if you just play the long game, it seems very likely you might find yourself with a coalition PSOE/Podemos government that needs Catalan nationalist votes to pass a budget at some point in the future. Lets see what that government agrees to.
  9. None of what's happened in the last week is truly surprising (with the possible exception of the leaders of two pro-independence civil associations being denied bail, which the Catalans are understandably furious about). No one has budged an inch from their positions (Rajoy told Puigdemont he wouldn't intervene Catalan autonomy if Puigdemont summoned elections, but he declined). The intervention of Catalan autonomy will probably take about a month (it has to go through the Spanish Senate, and a number of days must be given to Puigdemont to argue his case in writing). Meanwhile, we can probably expect Catalan parliament formally declaring independence, though with little international support or recognition. The main Spanish right-wing and left-wing parties seem to have agreed on the suspension of Catalan autonomy provided it's minimal. It will probably only be used to force regional elections on the Catalan parliament (which will probably be seen as illegitimate by Catalans) and to take control of the regional police force. Spanish media has been using the expression 'a train crash' for quite a while. Seems apt.
  10. People with weapons are scary. I remember going for a walk with my girlfriend in the centre of Reus on a festive day. This was shortly after the terrorist attack in Nice in 2016. We saw several Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan regional police) with machine guns. The streets were chock full with people, and I couldn't imagine a single situation in which firing those machine guns would make things safer. We were unnerved, so we went elsewhere. The minister of defence said that she was almost certain that a military intervention would be unnecessary, which to me is reassuring. If part of the army is sent to Catalonia to reinforce the police, I'm sure they will have strict orders of engagement regarding gunfire. Catalans shot in the street would spell the end of any agreed solution, and it would make Spain's international support plummet. UN and EU condemnation and demands that Spain submit to international mediation regarding Catalonia would swiftly follow. Spain is well aware of this, I'm sure. That said, this climate of confrontation benefits no one. Some people have already gotten hurt, and if more reasonable minds don't prevail, it seems inevitable that more will. Puigdemont can't, in good faith, call for a de-escalation of tension and dialogue and at the same time unilaterally declare independence. On related news, Spanish newspapers are reporting that the intent of PP and socialists is to impose new regional elections on Catalonia. We'll see how that goes down.
  11. Well, it would probably be scarier if she'd said that the army would be necessary
  12. The Catalan government can try raising an army (not that it would be easy, they have a regional police force, but nothing resembling ground infantry hardware an airforce or a navy, and these things don't just spring out of nowhere), but I'm pretty confident they won't. On one hand they would be pretty glaringly guilty of treason if they did it, and on the other it would play right into Rajoy's hands. France would not be amused by an unsanctioned army being raised that close to its borders (or by the prospect of a civil war which might send waves of refugees its way), and Spain would feel legitimised to act more forcefully (and probably be able to persuade international opinion that it was warranted). Finally, I'm pretty certain nobody actually wants to. On the other side of the 'conflict', Rajoy may be an imbecile, but I don't think he's a monster. He wouldn't sanction the army doing anything other than peacekeeping and lawful arrests. He might give the Catalan's reason to demonstrate, but not to take up arms. Though I don't consider myself Catalan, I'm currently living in Reus (Catalonia) and I feel pretty safe. I'm aware all countries have a diaspora of nationals living and working outside the country, but I don't think that invalidates my argument. If Catalonia achieves independence, it will have its own nationality and citizenship as is normal. Some provisions will have to be made for Catalans and Spaniards living in each other's territory, but it makes no sense (to me) that every national of the new Catalan republic would be allowed to keep the rights of Spanish nationality (like voting in Spanish elections, for example).
  13. I really don't think there will be a civil war. Catalonia doesn't have a standing army or the means to raise one, and Catalans are peace-loving people. If Spain intervenes military in Catalonia, the most likely scenario is the military acting in support of the police. Spain will say they're there to keep the peace and ensure safety while Catalans will say they're an invading force that legitimises their right to self determination. Demonstrations will be held and the military will be booed, but if they keep their cool (and I'm sure they'll have orders of engagement saying not to open fire unless fired upon), I don't think things will go too far. Using military intervention as a means to elicit international sympathy and support will almost certainly be the name of the Catalan game. As I said, all Catalans will remain Spanish citizens as long as Spain doesn't recognize a Catalan independence. If it eventually does, then constitutional amendments and negotiations with the Catalan republic will be necessary. Some kind of agreement will eventually be reached which will clarify the numerous nationality issues existing between both states that have been part of the same country for so long (maybe in a way similar to Yugoslavia or maybe in a different way), but it's far too soon to say what this agreement could be. I don't think it's inconceivable that some people be required to choose if they want to be Catalan or Spanish. If they choose to be Catalan, Spain would simply notify border control agencies that said their Spanish passports are no longer valid and not issue any new ones. The Catalan republic would then provide these people with new passports to reflect their new nationality. Anyone living legally for a number of years in Spain can indeed apply for Spanish nationality, and again, the statute of Catalan people living in Spain (and Spanish people living in Catalonia) would be addressed in said agreements. What seems slightly disingenuous to me is saying that if Catalonia effectively secedes from Spain, everyone in Catalonia would still be Spanish. Spanish nationality comes with a series of rights, which Spain couldn't possibly afford to extend to so many foreign nationals paying taxes elsewhere.
  14. On your first two paragraphs: Realistically, it would take at least the better part of a decade, from the date in which Spain actually recognizes Catalan independence (otherwise the EU would be unlikely to enter any negotiations, since any possible deal would just be vetoed by Spain). Again, this period of agreeing things with Spain requires Spain to acknowledge Catalan independence. France seems to have Spain's back in this right now too. I guess French support could be eroded if Spain continues to make political mistakes or if the French political landscape changes. If Spain doesn't recognize independence, it will see said declaration as nothing short of a crime (sedition, rebellion or what have you), and act accordingly. We're likely to see this play out in the very near future. On your third paragraph: I frequently sign 'proof of life' documents for retired Spaniards who worked during some years in France (mainly as agricultural labour) and are thus entitled to get some of their pension from France. France regularly makes sure these people are still alive in order to prevent fraud. As long as Spain doesn't recognize Catalan independence, it will consider (and hopefully treat) all Catalans as its own nationals. If it ever does recognize said independence, it will need to reform its Constitution and enter negotiations with the newborn Catalan republic. These negotiations will be complex (and maybe even more so if the secession is an ugly business as it's looking to be right now). They will surely address all matters of nationality. Catalonia and Spain may reach a dual nationality deal (though this is unlikely to extend to everybody) or they may just agree that, from then on, Catalan citizens be just Catalan and Spanish citizens be just Spanish. Just because Spain doesn't reach a dual nationality deal with Catalonia doesn't mean it can't reach it with other countries (it currently has many such deals standing, mainly with Latin American countries). On your fourth paragraph: Trade agreements will also require recognition of their independence. Catalonia's main trading partners are all EU countries, so they will probably need a trading agreement with the EU first (EFTA has been talked about on Catalan radio stations). Leaving the euro and no longer being under the wing of the ECB will likely have a grievous economic cost for Catalonia during the first few years of its independence. We're not looking at a British pound scenario, but at a Grexit scenario. Catalonia would have to start printing it's own currency in a situation of deep economic uncertainty (it's banking situation is also less than stellar right now; it doesn't currently have a central bank and the two main banks operating in Catalonia have just left because political uncertainty was damaging their stock values).
  15. I think part of the problem is that, in order to enter a dialogue with Spain that allowed Catalonia more self-government in terms of language or finances, or even Spain becoming a Federal State, Catalonia would have to do two things: 1) Wait for a better Spanish government. I'm personally embarrassed by Rajoy, and I almost feel the need to apologize for him... but he's on his last legs. If the Catalans can pressure PNV (and I think this is possible), it should be relatively easy to topple his government. A new, better, left wing government could arise. The current leader of the Socialists favours a Federal State (I agree that would be a hard sell to some elements in his party, but that's on him). If he needs the votes of Catalan nationalists and of Podemos to form a government, then you can be assured that's going to be an easy government to negotiate with. 2) Tone down its demands. More devolved government or a Federal State may be viable options to achieve through dialogue and negotiation... but independence really isn't. No Spanish government I can imagine will agree to that. A "We might be willing to stay as part of Spain if..." declaration by Puigdemont would do wonders for dialogue. Currently, Catalonia doesn't want to do either of these things. Puigdemont's calls for dialogue and negotiations yesterday seem to me as if they had two goals: 1) Appearing reasonable and moderate to international players. 2) Win time. I don't think he, or anyone in his team, have any expectations that there will actually be a negotiation or dialogue, nor are they willing to do what would need to be done for there to be one. Out of interest, why is it important to you that, if there were a Spanish Federal State, Catalonia was asymmetrical compared to other regions (like Valencia)?