BY SARA HØYRUP
Europe is ill prepared for populist campaigns running contrary to any healthy concept of democracy. While the European institutions have timidly withstood the Catalanist lobby’s winging and whining, member state media and parliamentarians have warmed to the secessionist claims of group rights. Little does the claque care that these supposed rights are made up of self-serving ”misunderstandings” of international legislation. Everybody loves a good cause; and simple narratives make the media’s job as watchdog so much easier.
Oblivious to everything history teaches us on leaders that claim to speak on behalf of ”the people”, the far left and the far right alike –and many a mainstreet media outlet– have swallowed the claims hook, line and sinker. Many have been more than willing to believe an orientalist version turned on its side to present Spain as a backwards place in acute need of civilized instruction. White knights have brandished the starspangsled secessionst flag and come to the rescue. Extremists from other shores have promoted a belated interventionism, four score years after Europe left the Iberian peninsula to its bitter faith while the rest of Europe was liberated from fascism.
Meanwhile, the judiciaries in several European countries have impeded the Spanish legal system from taking its course. A veritable palace coup shook Catalonia in the autumn of 2017, and the responsible must be tried at court. If nothing else, the region’s nationalist leaders are likely to go down for their illegal spending of vast sums of public money on their partisan project.
The open borders in Europe depend on trust between memberstates. If the extradition system does not function, then neither does the Schengen area. Spanish support for the European Union has been damaged by the rejection of the European arrest warrants issued by Spain. Unionist Catalans feel betrayed both by the Spanish state’s impotence, and by what they see as foreign judiciaries’ aiding and abetting the escapee conspirators. Any waning of support for the European project makes this less representative and thereby less legitimate.
The prison sentences that the secessionist leaders risk are formidable. However, no country takes lightly on perceived treason. And any European country is free to decide to be tough on crime, like Southern Europe, or light as a feather, like Scandinavia. Democratic health in Europe is not assured by every man and his dog being opinionated about how other countries in the union should be run. The democracies are, still, national and representative.
The Catalan crisis is far from over, and faux ”progressive” attitudes in Europe are not helping. Law-abiding, democratically minded, europeanist Catalans are at the mercy of a systemized reactionary nationalism gone mad.
The available secessionist leaders have been placed in custody, while other key politicians have escaped to strategic points in Europe where they hold court. Their escape is a strong legal argument in favour of detaining expresident Carles Puigdemont’s fellow plotters. Preventive detention pending trial is a remedy entirely normal even in a dux country like Denmark. In any healthy state of law, it is used when there is a perceived risk of flight, influencing witnesses or repeating the suspected crime.
The wilfully ignorant also ”forget” about the division of powers and pretend to believe that the Spanish government act as judge and jury. It does not. The instigators of the attempted coup d’état are not political prisoners. They are imprisoned politicians tried not for their beliefs, but for irresponsible and possibly unlawful actions carried out with wide-open eyes.
European media have also failed to work to the best of democratic health. Many have consistently failed to inform the European public of a key fact: the Catalan nationalists do not speak on behalf of the Catalans. Possibly, many correspondents have not even realized this. Through the abuse of devolved powers and a voting system that weighs provincial votes over urban ones, the peripheral nationalists run the region as they please and dominate the social discourse. And yet, they never had a social majority behind them.
Indeed, we must marvel at how over half the population in Catalonia has resisted the incessant propaganda during forty years of … democracy!
It is not from the Spanish state that the risk of totalitarianism emanates, but rather from populist movements like the supremacist Catalan nationalism that prey on social discontent over wholly different concerns. Long-time Catalan president Jordi Pujol famously coined the slogan ”Spain steals from us”, whilst carrying out his trick theft through a massively corrupt client system. The judiciary is the one important power that has not been devolved to the region: had it been, we would never have seen this icon of Catalan nationalism and victim-posing indicted with organized crime alongside his entire family.
Democratic health requires checks and balances; and the constitution the secessionists had in mind for us all had none. It did, however, enjoy large swathes of blind support. The paternal monarch Pujol planned how the Catalan nationalists could win overe the populace by using the schools as patriot factories; controlling the media; and infiltrating and corrupting civic society, including the Church and F.C. Barcelona.
And so they did.//