Unlike in the United States with the Pledge of Allegiance, in most European countries it's very rare for members of the public or children to offer an oath of loyalty to their nation's flag. Normally, only soldiers, the holders of some public offices and new citizens are required to do so. Despite this, Spain's foreign ministry has announced that just such a ceremony for members of the public to swear their allegiance to the flag of Spain will be held tomorrow, June 23rd, not in Spain, but in Kiel, Germany.
Now, Zaklin Nastic, a member of German left-wing party Die Linke in the Bundestag representing nearby Hamburg, has released an open letter (link in German) opposing the plan. Kiel is the capital of Schleswig-Holstein the Land whose courts decided against extraditing former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to Spain on charges of rebellion, considering only misuse of public funds.
Am 23.06. soll im Rahmen der #KielerWoche auf einem span. Marineschiff eine nat. Zeremonie abgehalten werden. Gemeinsam haben wir hierzu einen offenen Protest-Brief verfasst. Ja zu friedlicher #Völkerverständigung und Nein zum #Nationalismus. #Spanienhttps://t.co/w5x9uOpXDJ— Zaklin Nastic (@ZaklinNastic) 21 de juny de 2019
The ceremony is to be held at 12pm on Sunday onboard Juan Sebastian Elcano, a Spanish navy training vessel, welcomed by the German city as part of its celebrations of Kieler Woche (Kiel Week), the world's largest sailing regatta.
The letter is addressed to the mayor of Kiel, the members of the Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein and Philipp Dornberger, the head of the Kieler Woche organising committee. It says they "hope and expect that you will inform the commander of the named ship [...] that the planned oath to their flag may not take place in our [city]".
The German and Spanish signatories of the letter accuse Spain of "abusing [Germany's] hospitality to conduct a nationalistic ceremony in our port and in our city in which civilians (!) swear an oath to the Spanish flag". That said, they do first express their support for preserving the principle of inviting foreign warships to the festival.
The current Spanish flag is a source of some controversy in Spain, being different only in the coat of arms from the version used during Franco's dictatorship. Indeed, the letter notes that "[no] Spanish government to this day has distanced itself from fascism" and that "not a single crime of Franco's dictatorship has been reviewed to this day in any proper legal proceedings". They add that Franco was "an ally of Hitler and the Nazis" and that he still remains buried in the Valle de los Caídos.
The letter notes that they "cannot tell another country how to handle with its own fascist past", but they "can and must ensure that such ceremonies and right-wing nationalist oath-taking events do not take place in Kiel or within the framework of our Kieler Woche".
The signatories include German politicians and professors, as well as German and Spanish journalists and other members of the public, as well as "direct relatives of victims of fascism".