The EU, a Lion with Poland and Hungary on Social Issues, Is a Lamb When it Comes Spain’s Violations of More Fundamental Rights

You’ve probably heard something about the growing impasse between Hungary and Poland, and the EU over the latter’s insistence that they sign on to woke values in matters relating to the shape of the family and sexual identities.

You’ve probably also heard something during the last few weeks about exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s arrest and subsequent quick release from detention in Sardinia.

What you probably have not heard or read about is the fact that that arrest was just the latest of several attempts by Spain to blatantly violate core principles and rulings of the EU’s judicial system in a way that is arguably much more significant than similar breaches of process in the formerly communist East.

Spain has tried repeatedly to get Puigdemont extradited to Madrid on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, first from Belgium, then Germany and now Italy. In each case, the foreign judges looked at the facts and said "there’s no there there."

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The Catalan Crisis Threatens To Reopen a Debate That the EUs Power Brokers Thought They Had Long Ago Quashed

Though it is largely forgotten today, there was during the late 80s and early 90s a vigorous debate in numerous sectors of European life about whether the EU would be best structured as a Union of Regions or as a Union of States.

Adherents of the first posture hoped and believed that the goal the then still-emerging Union should be to greatly lessen the importance of existing national boundaries and governments and to promote, or at least not stand in the way of, the emergence of new economic and social regions. For example, since the Galician region of Spain shares much in the way of language culture and geography with neighboring northern Portugal, it should, according to this outlook, be free to loosen existing bonds with faraway Madrid and direct more of its resources and infrastructural aims toward forging economic and social integration with nearby and traditionally dynamic Oporto.

This, of course, frightened the proponents of a Europe of States, who quite rightly saw such developments as a threat to dramatically diminish the prerogatives of existing governments.

For reasons that are too numerous to examine fully here, but that include bureaucratic inertia, and the desire of an always meddling US to have the ability to play states off against each other both within a dramatically-expanded NATO and the EU as a whole, the idea of the Europe of Regions was eventually bludgeoned into insignificance by the proponents of a Europe of the States.

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An Interview with Embattled Catalan President Quim Torra

The Catalan conflict is generating a constitutional crisis in Madrid with far-reaching implications for the future of the European Union. In a stunning and legally questionable move on January 3, Spain’s Central Electoral Commission voted to remove Catalan President Joaquim Torra from office immediately. In a speech the same evening, Torra rejected the legitimacy of the ruling, saying he responds only to the will of the Catalan people and the Catalan Parliament. The following day, the Catalan Parliament robustly backed him and his position on the matter. Meanwhile, during the investiture debate of Socialist Prime Minister candidate Pedro Sánchez taking place simultaneously in Madrid, the right wing parties Vox and PP called for Torra’s immediate imprisonment and the suspension of the Catalan statute of autonomy by way of Article 155 of the Constitution – as was done following Catalonia’s declaration of independence on October 27, 2017.

It his has been a turbulent ride for the 58-year-old Torra since he assumed the presidency in the spring of 2018. Until two years ago, Torra was a business executive and cultural activist who had never been involved in electoral politics. However, when the central government dissolved the Catalan Parliament after its vote to secede from Spain, and subsequently ordered new elections, Torra put his name forward as a parliamentary candidate from Together for Catalonia, the party led by exiled President Carles Puigdemont. To the surprise of many and the intense dismay of the Spanish government, the exiled president’s party won the most votes in the majority pro-independence bloc – and hence the right to form a new government.

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Let’s Give Three Cheers for Those ‘Western Ears’

Yesterday, I happened to catch a radio report by NPR’s Julie McCarthy on the latest round of protests in Hong Kong. While listening, I could not help but see the similarities between what is going on in that corner of Asia and what has been going on in the streets of Catalonia during the last month…. but with two important exceptions.

A) The Catalan protesters have been far less violent than the Hong Kong protesters have apparently become.

B) No one from major media that I know of has made a plea, as McCarthy clearly does at the end of her report, for the more powerful party (in her case the Beijing government, in Catalonia the Spanish central government) to sit down and negotiate with the protesters.

Clearly, what’s “good for the goose” in the realm of an official enemy like China is not “good for the gander” in a NATO ally like Spain.

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The Baseless Myth of the Poor, Propagandized Catalans

One of the staple talking points of Spanish unionists is that the poor people of Catalonia live trapped in a information bubble that does not allow them to hear or see anything that is not nationalist propaganda, a propaganda, they say, designed to promote a hatred of Spain.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? But are things really as centralists constantly suggest they are?

As anyone who has lived in Catalonia knows, Spanish (Castilian)-language media, including 5 state-run TV channels and another 5 state-run radio stations are widely available and widely watched there.

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Mario Vargas Llosa Is the Perfect Poster Boy for Spanish Unionism

Last Sunday in Barcelona, the forces opposed to allowing any change in Catalonia’s political status within Spain staged a rally in Barcelona. Given the clear minority position of such hard-core unionists (defined here as people who neither want a vote on, nor a negotiation about, the matter of greater Catalan self-determination) within in the Catalan Autonomous Community, it was necessary to bus people in from all over Spain to bring the rally’s numbers – 350,000 according to the Catalan police – up to anything remotely approaching those achieved in recent weeks and months by the pro-independence forces.

Among the many unionists to arrive in Barcelona from the other parts of the state on Sunday was the Nobel-Prize winning Peruvian-Spanish novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa, who stood before the crowd and issued yet another iteration of the critique of Basque and Catalan nationalism that he has been monotonously issuing over the past 25 years.

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