Catalonia secessionist leader takes Flemish ‘cover’; Spain risks more jingoist violence

First meeting of Spanish State Under-Secretaries, after central ministries took on powers of the Regional Government of Catalonia (28 October 2017, Spanish government work).

The Catalonia crisis and the aftermaths after its diffusion can offer valuable lessons for the nature of jingoist politics and the motives, goals and the character of its main actors, on both sides of the fence. The Catalan secessionists led by Carles Puigdemont proved experts in setting the fire, but were incapable of making anything good out of it. Finally, they run to Brussels to take cover behind the long simmering Belgian problems the Flemish secessionists always keep alive.

As for the Madrid government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, it was exposed as inept to confront a secession crisis under the light of the European values of functioning democracy, tolerance and civic rights. For decades, Spain has paid a dear price for her inability to politically handle the Basque issue. Intolerance of the difference and brutal oppression since the Franco era, led to terrorism and bloodshed. But let’s return to this week’s developments.

Regrettably, the extreme right wing Belgian Flemish nationalists found the opportunity to remind everybody that their jingoist and xenophobic N-VA party hasn’t forgotten the disruptive role it plays in the kingdom. Teo Franken of N-VA and migration minister in the coalition government of the francophone PM Charles Michel, offered sanctuary to Puigdemont. Walloon Michel was taken aback by his minister’s audacity. He had no intention of intervening in the Spanish crisis. The Catalan fugitive is sought by the Spanish High Court as the main culpable party of the crisis, which nearly led Spain to a civil confrontation. He is accused of rebellion and sedition.

Is Rajoy any better?

In their turn, the Madrid super ‘Spaniards’ of Rajoy government now vie  to step on the relics of an authentic and grassroot peoples’ movement. It’s as if the Madrilènes want to revenge the Catalans for their passion, their perception of difference, maybe their naivety and also for being misled by a bunch of unscrupulous nationalist arrivistes. The Spanish state administration and, why not, the country’s legal system is now pressed by the government, to turn this sorry affair in Catalonia into a long term animosity, by criminalizing a political issue. Seemingly, they don’t mind the deep division of the Catalan society or bother to heal that.

The intervention of the largest Flemish political party of Belgium in the Spanish crisis is designed to keep the secessionist ‘ideal’ burning in Europe for as long as possible. On top of that, the Flemish nationalists appear ready to exploit the Catalan crisis to its fullest, in order to remind their francophone compatriots how intransigent they are, when it comes to the ‘special’ status of Flanders. Their extremist ideology once left their own country for 589 days without government.

Flemish jingoism

It appears the N-VA party is ready to exploit the possibility of blackmailing the Belgian government to contribute to the perpetuation of the Catalan crisis. The Charles Michel government depends on the N-VA votes to maintain its parliamentary majority. Michel was shaken by the Franken intervention because he had no intention whatsoever to start a duel with Spain, the fourth largest EU country.

The unbelievable Flemish jingoists obviously aim at making Puigdemont a ‘hero’ living in exile. And why not? – he is power hungry enough to like the status of being a persecuted ‘heroic’ Catalan leader. He may also portray himself as waiting for the opportunity to gloriously return  in his ‘beloved’ Catalonia, the day she accomplishes her ‘dream’ of statehood as an independent country. While in Belgium though, Puigdemont will be under the control of the Flemish nationalists, as being dependent on their denial to extradite him to Spain. This whole affair will invigorate the secessionist movements all over Europe.

Madrid could do better

Madrid will one day regret  the relentless persecution of Puigdemont and the members of his secessionist government. They now have a very small influence on the Catalan affairs, after their dangerous game totally failed. The acceptance of all the Catalan parties to participate in the 21 December election ordered by Madrid, means the secessionist play is over and Puigdemont has lost all his influence. Even he himself, stated last Tuesday he now wants  to participate in the 21 December election. It’s as if he’s begging Rajoy to spare him!

However, if Madrid’s continues persecuting Puigdemont, the independence option will be kept alive. Rajoy showed no aptitude to think politics in the long term. He brutally repressed the Catalans own petty-referendum of 1 October. Spain was lucky on that day there was no fatal violent incidents. Unfortunately, Rajoy keeps committing the same blunders.

Towards Catalan terrorism?

There is more to it though. What about those circles of Catalan nationalist activists who may be induced by Madrid’s violent oppression, to undertake terrorist activities and form one or more underground groups? For decades, the Basque nationalist organization ETA terrorized Spain. The Spanish governance system seemed incapable of finding a political way to stop that. Now, Rajoy’s political myopia, if not stupidity, risks creating another jingoist front in the north east of the country, after the decades long Basque insurrection in the northwest.

Madrid’s political elites show an inherent inability to think calmly and in a long term perspective. They take an easy refuge in belligerence. This betrays that the 36 long years of the generalissimo Francisco Franco’s dictatorship have left inextinguishable marks on the country’s political behavior and mentality. It hasn’t helped heal the separatist traumas at all . They still cause a lot of pain.

 

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