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For outsiders looking in at the Catalan independence issue - via images of massive marches, the police violence of the 2017 referendum or the repression and jailing of leaders - there is, above all, one very short question that arises: why? And for all that has been written about the conflict, there are not a great many English-language works which seriously tackle that brief but huge question. It is perhaps surprising, given the Catalan independence movement's constant wish to appeal to the international community for support.

But now, the pro-independence Catalan MEP and academic, Clara Ponsatí, is presenting a new collective work on the subject: under the title The Case of the Catalans: Why So Many Catalans No Longer Want to Be Part of Spain, it reviews the evolution of the Catalan conflict from different points of view, from the historical background to the current political, economic and legal situation.

The book is to be launched this Tuesday via a videoconference connection between Edinburgh and Brussels, in which Ponsatí, editor of the work, and Scottish National Party politician and journalist George Kerevan will take part. The pair will talk about the Catalan political conflict and will take questions from those attending the event, which can be followed online.

Seven academics

Together with Ponsatí, six Catalan academics took part in this work: Carles Boix, of Princeton; Jordi Muñoz, of the University of Barcelona; Enriqueta Aragonès, of Barcelona's UAB; Albert Carreras and Xavier Quadras, from U. Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona; and Antoni Abat of the University of Copenhagen.

The title of the book is, like some elements of the issue, centuries old. The phrase "The Case of the Catalans" was used by the European powers in discussions on the political fate of Catalonia under the Peace of Utrecht (1712-1714) which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. As the book notes, England had allied with the Catalans on the side of the Habsburg's pretender to the Spanish throne, but eventually signed the Treaty of Utrecht under which it abandoned the war, in exchange for Gibraltar and Menorca and access to the Spanish slave market. "The abandoned Catalans continued to fight but were defeated by Bourbon troops after the dramatic siege of Barcelona in 1714," recalls a short frontispiece. It's an episode from Catalan History 101. However, it consumes barely a few pages of what is a wide-ranging and up-to-date work.

Captura de pantalla 2020 11 09 a les 17.26.35

Click on the image to access a sample of the first pages and introduction of the work.

The introduction to the work assures that the present 21st Century conflict in Catalonia is "not the classic nationalist emancipation process" and attributes it to "collective frustration and democratic determination".

"Over the years it has become evident that the Spanish constitutional system established in 1978 had not only ceased to evolve in the direction of assuring Catalan self-government, but had clearly regressed to work against Catalan interests", it states.

Spanish democracy

As Catalan demands for self-determination advanced, says the introduction, the response of the Spanish institutions grew "more and more authoritarian", and this acted as a vicious circle - causing those demands to be reinforced. "The inability of Spanish institutions and politicians to manage the crisis with respect to fundamental rights and freedom of expression has seriously undermined the quality of democracy in Spain," say the authors.

The book has six chapters, written in the form of independent essays, and although each chapter is listed as having one or two principal authors, the final process was collaborative, with the academic group "working together to produce the final text".

As explained in the tweet, the online presentation takes place on Tuesday at 1830 CET (1730 GMT) via Zoom and free passes can be booked here.    

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