The readers’ forum

Let Catalans determine their future


Re Carme Chacón’s Feb. 27 article, Catalonia should reject secessionist movement: Catalonia is a nation that, until recently, was unknown to many people. While our capital, Barcelona, and our soccer team, Barça, are worldwide brands, even in parts of Europe not everyone knows where Catalonia is. But since September 2012, when more than a million people marched peacefully through Barcelona, it is important that the world knows why.

The Catalan people are indeed asking for change. The majority of our citizens have made it clear in elections and public demonstrations that they want to vote on their own future. Public surveys consistently show that 80 percent of the Catalan people support a referendum. Political leaders in Catalonia and in Spain must respond to the mandate for a referendum, and respect the wishes of the people to vote. This is what democracies do.

The deteriorating relationship between Catalonia and the government in Madrid cannot be wished away, as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy seems to think, by refusing all dialogue and setting artificial red lines. Meanwhile his government tries to scare the Catalan people into compliance with the current government’s growing efforts to reduce regional powers and re-centralize decision-making, while once again restricting the use of the Catalan language in our schools.

We will continue to call for dialogue and seek constructive engagement to discuss the serious problems that cannot be denied. There is no justification for hiding behind a wall of legal arguments when we seek solutions within the existing legal framework. There is no constitutional or legal reason not to authorize a self-determination referendum.

Uncertainty does not help anyone. For that reason we call once again for open dialogue, and to allow our people to vote on Nov. 9, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to demonstrate the same values as those demonstrated on that remarkable day in 1989.

All peoples have the right to self-determination, and every country has the right to design its own future. We cannot be held back by archaic views of statehood. Catalonia was conquered and forced to become part of Spain 300 years ago, after losing a long war that killed thousands, abolished our ancient parliament, and attempted to eliminate our language and culture. We hung on through the Spanish Civil War, the 40 years of fascist dictatorship, and we thought the transition to democracy in Spain would create enough room for us inside Spain. But many Catalans are no longer sure of this and want to vote within the existing legal framework to decide what our future will be.

Should this not be at the heart of every democratically elected government?

Roger Albinyana i Saigí, Secretary for Foreign and European Union Affairs, Government of Catalonia

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