So how has the Swiss nation-state, once Utopian idea, become a reality? How was Switzerland able to keep its independence as a political nation and deal with its economic, social and cultural conflicts? And, finally, how was Switzerland able to turn itself into a modern, industrialised nation, and develop a form of democracy that in the nineteenth century went further than in all other European countries?
In saying that Switzerland represents a ‘paradigmatic case of political integration’, I echo the view of Karl Deutsch, a scholar looking at Switzerland from the outside. Indeed Switzerland has become a society with its own identity only through and because of its political institutions. The role of the political institutions was fundamental in uniting a people with four languages, two religions and different regional cultures and in turning these disadvantages into advantages.
Prof. Wolf Linder in his “Swiss Democracy – Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies”, p. 5 (Palgrave Macmillan 2010).
That’s exactly why BBD always stresses the importance of a new, appropriate political and institutional framework (i.e., statehood) to increase cohesion and deal with South Tyrol’s social and cultural conflicts.
Financial-Times-Analyst David Gardner berichtet heute in einem Kommentar von der zaghaften Öffnung des spanischen Premierministers Mariano Rajoy (PP) und des Oppositionsführers Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) gegenüber Katalonien — die jedoch möglicherweise um Jahre zu spät komme. »Besser spät als nie«, so Gardner, sei ein auf die Politik nicht ohne weiteres anwendbarer Grundsatz.
Konkret habe sich Rajoy neulich für eine neue Finanzregelung für Katalonien (nach baskischem Vorbild) ausgesprochen, während Sánchez Spanien weiter föderalisieren wolle. Die katalanische Regierung plant indes, am 1. Oktober ein Selbstbestimmungsreferendum abzuhalten.
The test of the new openness demonstrated by Messrs Rajoy and Sanchez will be if Madrid drops the alibi that Spain is trapped in a legal labyrinth, in which the constitution is a tablet of stone, and judges are shields against a political problem elected politicians have a duty to resolve. Mr Sanchez put it well in Barcelona: “If it were simply enough to obey the law, we would be governed by judges.”
The Catalans’ historic grievances with Spain have intensified in recent years. A deadlock has been created by the Spanish refusal to even consider repeated proposals coming from Catalonia, including an honest attempt to renegotiate the 1979 autonomy charter. Starting in 2005, a new text was drafted and approved by the Catalan Parliament, and subsequently endorsed by the Spanish Cortes, but not before several key provisions had been pared down or simply removed. In the end it was ratified, resignedly, by the Catalan people in a referendum. But then in 2010 a not unbiased Constitutional Court ruled that several articles were unconstitutional and gave a restrictive interpretation of many others. In practice, the resulting text, far from improving the earlier charter, served to set limits to the scope of Catalan self-government, and the entire process revealed how little the Spanish side was willing to advance in that direction. At that point it became clear that the current system of territorial administration, established in 1978 after a long period of centralized rule, was being used to perpetuate the Catalans’ status as a permanent minority in Spain. Today a growing number of Catalans feel that their collective affairs are being run by Madrid without regard for their needs and often against their vital interests, and many have lost all hope of a fairer bargain within the Spanish framework.
The Catalan government has pledged to hold a referendum on the relationship that Catalan society should have with Spain – whether to maintain in some form the present state of political subordination or start off as a new independent nation. That was the course of action chosen by Quebec in 1995 and by Scotland in 2014 and respected by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom. But the Spanish authorities, relying on a narrow – some say partisan – interpretation of the Constitution, have declared such a referendum illegal and have vowed to prevent it. They are also working to undermine its preparation. In their reaction to alleged acts of disobedience by Catalan elected representatives, the state institutions seem to be reverting to some of the ways of the dictatorial past, to the point of threatening the very pillars of democratic governance.
The stated resolve of the ruling coalition in Catalonia to hold a referendum regardless should not be seen as a show of defiance but as an act of democracy. In this the leadership is following the mandate given by the hundreds of thousands who have been peacefully demonstrating year after year since 2010; by the 2.3 million who cast their ballot in a symbolic vote in November 2014; by the nearly 2 million who handed a majority to pro-independence forces in the September 2015 elections to the Catalan Parliament; and, last but not least, by the three-quarters of the Catalan population that, according to every opinion poll, favor holding a referendum, irrespective of their eventual vote in it. It is for Catalans to decide on their society’s collective future, and asking them directly is the only reasonable way to find out where everyone stands on such a fundamental issue.
In the end, a referendum is a good solution for all. Certainly for Catalans, because, whatever the result, it will necessarily open a dialogue on a fresh relationship with Spain, one that must be based on the recognition of their rights as a people, including the right to have the final word on the shape that such a relationship should take.
It may ultimately be good for Spain too, by forcing its government and the rest of political forces to reassess the foundations of the regime installed in 1978. This was the outcome of a transition to democratic rule designed and implemented by a political establishment whose members grew up under Franco’s dictatorship. A satisfactory resolution of the Catalan question will give Spanish society a chance to finally break free from the ghosts of its authoritarian past and to address the flaws of a political system that is gravely conditioned by its origins.
And it will also be good for Europe. First, for a practical reason, because it will help to solve an age-old problem that, if allowed to fester, will only escalate, adding another front of instability on a continental scale. And second, and most important, as a matter of principle. In these days of political uncertainty, when in many countries the European project is being questioned from different camps, the Catalans’ stance, determinedly pro-European, firmly grounded on democratic principles and relying on strictly peaceful methods, should be held up as an example for all as the only acceptable way of resolving controversies between nations and within states.
Sooner or later all European countries as well as their common institutions will be called to take a stand on this issue. It is a matter of democracy that the Catalans’ legitimate claims as a historic nation and their inherent collective rights as a people are recognized, and it is a matter of justice that their constant and peaceful struggle is rewarded.
This is a joint statement prepared by Col·lectiu Emma and endorsed by Col·lectiu Praga and Col·lectiu Wilson.
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[In] what other part of the world would it be possible to outlaw the language of the state?
This question of Alessandro Urzì, post-fascist member of South Tyrolean Landtag (parliament), quoted by the BBC, is an interesting one, since it can be answered at different levels:
- Urzì refers to South Tyrol, where nobody even thinks of outlawing the “language of the state” — neither fully nor partially.
- However, many propose to withdraw officiality from — some or all — place names invented and imposed by a totalitarian regime, and that’s what we (and the BBC) are talking about.
- We could also question the concept of a (unique) “language of the state”, since there are many states in the world which have more than one official language without any hierarchy.
- If we reword Urzì’s question in a more consistent way (i.e. “in what other part of the world would it be possible to withdraw officiality from [imposed] place names [in the language of the state]?”) we could list
Liz Castro, Aktivistin in Katalonien, hat ein Buch (Buchauszug) über die kreativen Initiativen zur Verwirklichung der Selbstbestimmung in Katalonien herausgebracht:
Many Grains of Sand is a collection of photographs and stories that give witness to the creativity and variety of initiatives being undertaken by the people of Catalonia in order to win their independence peacefully and democratically.
The objective of the book is on the one hand to serve as inspiration for other activist movements around the world, and on the other, to offer Catalans themselves a new perspective on the progress they have made in their struggle.
The book gathers 537 photographs from 170 photographers and covers the period from the beginning of the negotiations over the Catala[n] Statute of Autonomy in 2000 through to the renewed demands for an official, binding referendum at the end of the summer in 2016 from civic groups and politicians alike, passing through six massive, peaceful demonstrations.
Angesichts der Vielzahl an kreativen und friedlichen Initiativen der Katalanen wird klar, wie weit wir noch von einem derartigen Bürgerengagement in Südtirol entfernt sind.
Fünfzig europäische PolitikerInnen haben einen offenen Brief an das schottische Parlament unterzeichnet, mit dem sie erklären, dass sie ein unabhängiges Schottland als Vollmitglied der Europäischen Union willkommen heißen würden.
Die Initiative wurde von Ross Greer (Mitglied des schottischen Parlaments, Scottish Greens) und Terry Reintke (Mitglied des Europaparlaments, Europäische Grüne) ergriffen.
Dear Presiding Officer,
Dear Members of the Scottish Parliament,
As elected representatives from across the European Union we have been heartened by your support for a Europe which is united in pursuit of progress and not divided by fear and self-interest. Democracy and mutual respect are at the heart of the European project and so, whilst we are saddened by the vote of a small majority for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, we respect this as a democratic decision of UK citizens.
We recognise that this was not your choice however and that Scotland voted strongly to remain within the EU. The question of Scotland’s constitutional future, and your relationships with the UK and the EU are for the people of Scotland to decide. It is not our place to tell Scotland what path you should take.
We regret that the UK’s government has chosen to follow the path of a ‘hard Brexit’ and has so far refused to properly take into account the preferences of Scottish citizens in the withdrawal process. Therefore, if Scotland were to become an independent country and decided to seek to maintain European Union membership, we offer our full support to ensure the transition is as swift, smooth, and orderly as possible. Scotland would be most welcome as a full member of the European Union, with your five million European citizens continuing to benefit from the rights and protections we all currently enjoy.
- Meyrem Almaci (belgisches Parlament, Groen)
- Rasmus Andresen (Landtag von Schleswig-Holstein, Grüne)
- Margrete Auken (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Danielle Auroi (französisches Parlament, Europe Écologie Les Verts)
- Annalena Baerbock (deutscher Bundestag, Grüne)
- Reinhard Bütikofer (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Miriam Dalli (Europaparlament, Sozialisten & Demokraten)
- Jakop Dalunde (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Bruno De Lille (Parlament der Region Brüssel, Groen)
- Petra De Sutter (belgischer Senat, Groen)
- Giorgios Dimaras (griechisches Parlament, Grüne und Syriza)
- Pascal Durand (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Bas Eickhout (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Stefan Engstfeld (Landtag von NRW, Grüne)
- Tanja Fajon (Europaparlament, Sozialisten & Demokraten)
- Fredrick Federley (Europaparlament, ALDE)
- André Gattolin (französisches Parlament, Europe Écologie Les Verts)
- Silke Gebel (Berliner Landtag, Grüne)
- Stefan Gelbhaar (Berliner Landtag, Grüne)
- Ana Maria Gomes (Europaparlament, Sozialisten & Demokraten)
- Heidi Hautala (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Madeleine Henfling (Landtag von Thüringen, Grüne)
- Benedek Jávor (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Josu Juaristi Abaunz (Europaparlament, Vereinte Europäische Linke)
- Ska Keller (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Philippe Lamberts (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Stefan Liebich (deutscher Bundestag, Die Linke)
- Juan López de Uralde (spanisches Parlament, Equo/Podemos)
- Florent Marcellesi (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- María Rosa Martínez Rodríguez (spanisches Parlament, Equo)
- Sigrid Maurer (österreichischer Nationalrat, Grüne)
- Barbara Matera (Europaparlament, EVP)
- Péter Niedermüller (Europaparlament, Sozialisten & Demokraten)
- Grace O’Sullivan (irischer Senat, Green Party)
- Julia Reda (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne/EFA)
- Terry Reintke (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Bronis Ropė (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne/EFA)
- Eamon Ryan (irisches Parlament, Green Party)
- Manuel Sarrazin (deutscher Bundestag, Grüne)
- Ulle Schauws (deutscher Bundestag, Grüne)
- Anja Schillhaneck (Berliner Landtag, Grüne)
- Barbara Spinelli (Europaparlament, Vereinte Europäische Linke)
- Bart Staes (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn (deutscher Bundestag, Grüne)
- Indrek Tarand (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne/EFA)
- Yannis Tsironis (griechisches Parlament, Oikologoi Prasinoi)
- Claude Turmes (Europaparlament, Europäische Grüne)
- Sebastian Walter (Berliner Landtag, Grüne)
- Tomáš Zdechovský (Europaparlament, EVP)
- Joachim Zeller (Europaparlament, EVP)
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Malta cannot live on its own […] the island could pay for only one fifth of her food and essential imports; well over a quarter of the present labour force would be out of work and the economy of the country would collapse without British Treasury subventions. Talk of full independence for Malta is therefore hopelessly impractical.
The Times, 7 January 1959 (five years later, Malta gained independence)
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