As a German resident in Spain, how did you personally become concerned with the Catalan conflict going all the way to write a book and create your own webpage?
When my youngest grandchild was enrolled in “infantil”, we were confronted with the fact, that in a marked difference to his older brothers, sister and cousins he would now be taught 65% of the time in Valenciano instead of Castillian Spanish, (only 20%) and Spanish only to be used in music and physical education which further exacerbates the issue. My sons’ efforts to find a public school in Jávea (Alicante) where he would be taught in Spanish, were in vain. Being recently retired I decided to find out, how it was possible, that you can live in Spain and your children learn Spanish as a foreign language only.
I learned, that Valenciano is a Catalan dialect, I researched the educational laws and finally the constitutions of Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. I turned my attention then to migration in Spain and looked in detail at the figures. I went to a “Tabarnia” (anti nationalist Catalan association) demonstration in Barcelona to make contacts with Catalans and met new friends who helped me with literature on the topic; most important of which was the “strategy of recatalanization” and the indoctrination taking place in Catalan schools.
Talking about my findings with friends, and appreciating my passion for the subject they challenged me to write a book, prompting me to undertake more detailed researching. Having a degree in economics I was especially interested in “España nos Roba” (Spain robs us) and could not find a good argument from the separatists for their allegation.
Researching the internet I was amazed to find a German website with a German name. It is very professionally made. It is completely one-sided pro separatist, acting as a megaphone for the separatist government, spreading myths and fake news produced by the Catalan nationalists. At that time it did not reveal a proper German registration (Impressum), as is necessary under German law. Now there is a proper one, but that still begs a lot of guessing, on who is paying for it.
To my astonishment I saw in the main German news (Tagesschau) the president of the “German Catalanist Union” being interviewed in favour of separatism, acting as a scientist. My astonishment turned to anger, when I found out, that the Romance Languages Institute at the University of Frankfurt appeared to be a hotbed of separatists, paid for by German taxes.
The separatist concept of “Paisos Catalans” makes it very clear, that everything happening in Catalonia is important in Valencia, too. Language is a tool for politics and the separatists are using it with mastery. For example the Catalan “Omnium Cultural” is donating money to the Valencian Accio Cultural to spread the Catalan language and separatism. As a result I realized, that I had to publish a book on the subject for German-speaking readers (especially for those who live in Spain)
Do you see a relation between the Catalan pro independence movement and other European movements (eg. Liga Norte in Italy, Flemish separatism, Brexit…..etc.)?
Before I came to Spain I lived in Belgium (Wallonia) and was familiar with the conflict of languages caused by separatists. My sons at that time still in school were taught in French and could study German as a foreign language. By reading Belgian news I came to learn that after the decline of the coal and steel industry, the Flemish right-wing “Vlaamse Blok” saw their time coming. I didn’t like it. It reminded me of the Scottish National Party in the 70’s, when oil in the North Sea was discovered (“It’s Scotland´s oil” became the slogan). Money comes in, solidarity wanes and that leads to a particular form of amnesia.
The connection of separatist parties can clearly be seen in the European parliament, where they have their close contacts with other regional separatist Europeans. I wouldn’t be surprised, if someday we discovered, that Steve Bannon is supporting the separatists.
What would have happened in Germany if a given Land (say Bavaria) had decided to organize a pro independence referendum without the authorisation (or even, contradicting orders not to do so as was the case in Catalonia) from the German Federal Constitutional Court and the Federal Attorney?
I don’t know and at this point in time I cannot even imagine such a scenario. We already had a lot of conflicts between the federal government (Merkel) and the Bavarian government (Seehofer), when the refugees flooded Bavarian borders coming from Austria. In the end the Bavarian government gave up and the federal government prevailed. I assume, that in the end a huge majoritiy in Bavaria would not have supported any direct confrontation with the federal forces. Seehofer received a lot of criticism even inside his own party and was replaced by another president.
What would have happened in Germany if a given Land had decided to vote unilaterally for the “disconnection” from the German Constitution and Legal system as took place in Catalonia by the pro independence parties in the Catalan parliament?
It is hard to speculate. My Catalan friends give me the impression, that in Catalonia we have a situation where the central government lets the Catalan government do anything they want including defying the law, in favour of realizing mutual business deals. I remember the press-conference of a Barcelona mayor candidate who just demanded: Apply the law! It looked like another way of supporting my friends´ suspicions.
Germans are usually a very law-abiding race, no yellow vests movement to be seen. I cannot imagine Bavarian schoolbooks falsifying history as I know, is obviously happening in Catalonia and in the Balearic Islands. Mr. Torra is refusing to have the yellow ribbons removed from public buildings. Again, I just cannot imagine that happening anywhere in Germany. Under these circumstances I see no way in Germany that anybody would dare try an illegal referendum.
Is it true that German law forbids explicit electoral programs pursuing the independence of any Lander?
We have a decision of our highest constitutional court in December 16, 2016. Some weirdos applied before then for a referendum on Bavaria leaving the German federation. The decision reflected in a long juridical sentence could be basically summed up as: No Way!
Is it true that German public opinion is sensitive about risks like “Balcanization” and “Populism”?
No, I believe, the majority would probably ask, what you mean by Balcanization and would definitely not connect it with the situation in Spain. I learned about the fear of Balcanization from my Catalan friends but I cannot find any serious trace of it in European politics. It is different with populism. We have in Germany a terrible minority of new Nazis, we have the extreme right wing AfD party, but the majority does not want populist parties. Populism is not something they connect with separatism.
Do you see Spain as “less democratic” than the average EU democratic state?
I am aware of these accusations, and believe that they are ridiculous. I know that there are accusations against the Spanish political system and politicians being Fascist and yes, some (very few) obviously are. This is basically not different from Germany and especially former West Germany. Our Bundeskanzler Kiesinger (1966-1969) was once a member of the Nazi-party. In 1968 he received a slap across the face by a Jewish lady for his Nazi-past. We had a lot of former Nazi-members in high political positions working as judges, civil servants etc. Our first Bundeskanzler Adenauer once said: “Do not throw out the dirty water if you do not have clean water!” Despite having these burdens, after-war West Germany was at no point a Fascist state and becoming a democracy as we have it today was and is an everyday fight.
West Germany where I grew up freely has a fairly good constitution, but of course, I knew some old hard-core Nazis.
Spains democratic transition began later. I am not afraid of its development. I feel good about my life in Spain and as a European I would ask all my fellow resident Europeans to participate in the elections and not vote for parties supporting separatism, neither in Catalonia nor in Valencia.
For me Spain is above the average as a democracy in comparison to the rest of the EU and on the same level if you leave out Poland and Hungary. From what I know and have researched I have concerns about what’s going on there, but not for Spain.
I see Spain’s and Germany’s democracies at a similar level but that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything in any of the two countries. In my mind both, Spaniards and Germans could learn from Switzerland. As I said, democracy is an everyday struggle and we must not take it for granted.
Is Spain somehow still unfairly treated or seen under some anti-Iberian lens because of the Franco dictatorship?
Yes of course Spain is seen and treated unfairly by certain segments of public opinion because of its past, as is Germany today. We must remember that there is a reason belonging to the past for such a misrepresentation and we should therefore work hard to show the facts highlighting present reality in order to dismantle such prejudices. What we have to do is, learn from our past, show the facts about our societies, and struggle to improve in the meantime, remembering that neither Spain nor Germany are less democratic today than most other European states.