Spanish democracy in question

Washington, DC. – Nowadays, being a democratic state does not guarantee that decisions are made democratically or transparently, even within the European Union. Spain, a country in the middle of a huge crisis, has serious concerns regarding the quality of its democracy and transparency of its institutions.

There is general discredit of the key Spanish institutions, from the top to lower levels of the administration. Last June, King Juan Carlos abdicated the throne to his son, Felipe, due to several scandals within the Royal Household. The People’s Party –currently in power in Madrid with absolute majority in Parliament– is under investigation for having a slush fund that took donations from construction magnates and redistributed them in cash-payments to party leaders, including the President of the country, Mariano Rajoy. Moreover, the current chief of the Constitutional Court (Spanish Supreme Court) took the oath while being member of the conservative People’s Party putting in question the independence of the Tribunal.

Sigue leyendo

My letter to The New York Times

Last week, the New York Times editorialized about the electoral results in the Canadian province of Quebec: Separatist Victory, but Not Separation (Sept. 9th 2012). For the author of that text, Quebequois are «distinct people with a distinct history, and have every right to assert their language and identity in federal forums. But it’s best for all Canadians that the contentious and bitter battles over separation are not on the agenda this time around, and may be off it for good.». Sigue leyendo

«It is easy to see that it may be frustration in Catalonia»

[ES: Publicado el 6 de agosto de 2012 en Diari de Tarragona]
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INTERVIEW – Nicholas S. Siegel, Senior Program Officer at the Transatlantic Academy
There are thousands of think-tanks in Washington focusing on many topics. From a European perspective, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS), in alliance with the Transatlantic Academy (TA), is one among them to be considered. In mid-July, one of its Senior Program Officers, Nicholas Siegel (St. Louis, Missouri, 1981), wrote an article about the current situation in Spain between Catalonia and the central Government in Madrid. Sigue leyendo

The U.S. Human Rights Report 2011 and the Catalan Question

[Publicado el 30 de mayo de 2012 en Diari de Tarragona]
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Washington, D.C. – Finally, the State Department of the United States seems to have understood the situation in Catalonia about the coexisting of the two legally official languages, Catalan and Spanish. In the just released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 (Spanish chapter), the Department of State shows a more independent point of view than in previous reports, less politicized, and more accurate when it referring to the Catalan language. Sigue leyendo

Airlines Practices – Enough Is Enough!

Washington, DC. – With more than ten years of flying experience (I’m pretty new if you compare me with other people), I‘m ready to say “enough is enough!”

The flying experience has changed dramatically in the last decade from better to worse in terms of customer service. In the late 90’s in my beloved Barcelona, I remember myself booking a flight ticket through a local travel agency located near to my first job. I remember also that as a potential passenger, I was required to call the agency for an appointment one week in advance. Sigue leyendo

The Pursuit of a Catalan State

[Spanish: artículo publicado en el ‘Diari de Tarragona’ el 15 de marzo de 2011]
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Washinton, DC. – It is not the first time in its recent history that Catalonia has voted and approved resolutions about its self-determination right — in 1989, 1996, and in 2010 the Parliament did so. In these three cases, a majority of the Catalan MP voted and approved documents with references to the right of the “Catalan nation” to decide about its future. Since the last one in 2010, the world has seen the birth of new states which have been recognized almost right away by other country-states and even by the U.N., such as Kosovo or South Sudan. In Kosovo’s case, this new European nation got its freedom unilaterally and months later it was legally endorsed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a historical sentence that ruled assuring that the “declaration of independence (…) did not violate general international law, Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) or the Constitutional Framework. Consequently the adoption of that declaration did not violate any applicable rule of international law.” Sigue leyendo

Halloween; the costume is not the most important

Washington, DC. – Halloween is here. On October 31st the U.S. will celebrate once again one of the most popular festivities in the country’s traditions. Halloween, or Hallowe’en, has its origins in a Celtic festival known as Samhain, usually held on October 31st and November 1st. The name derived from Old Irish and means roughly the end of the summer. Since those old times, and through the medieval times, the celebration has evolved enriching itself from other traditions and beliefs. Nowadays, with the Christian influence, Halloween has become a modern celebration of the All Saints’ Day, and includes costumes, candies, pumkings, and the famous “Trick or treat?”

With or without candy, Halloween is known around the world as a day when everyone is dressed up in costumes. Witches, ghosts, skeletons, or devils have been the most popular Sigue leyendo

The questionable independence of the Spanish justice

>Washington, DC. – The Spanish Constitutional Court (CC) recently ruled on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. This by-law was ratified by the people of Catalonia by referendum in 2006 after a long legal path from the Catalan Parliament to the Spanish Court, the signature of the King of Spain, and finally the Catalan referendum which approved the text following the democratic process to the letter. However, this document has since been watered down by a High Court of questionable legitimacy, influenced by political biases; and believe it or not, this has happened in a supposedly democratic European country: Spain.

There are many reasons to justify why the Constitutional Court in Spain is in an anomalous situation, which raises questions about its legitimacy to rule on the Catalan Statute. Here are a couple of them: a political battle between the two main parties in Spain has blocked the normal process to renew at least three of its twelve members in the last two years (moreover, one who recently died has not been replaced) because of fear of and political interest in the recent ruling. Furthermore, one of the two parties responsible for blocking this renewal — the People’s Party (PP), now in opposition — was also the party which appealed the Statute’s unconstitutionality.

Spain has a very weak judicial system which is influenced by members of government, citizens, and firms. The World Economic Forum periodically releases data reports. Among these documents, there is the Executive Opinion Survey, a major component of The Global Competitiveness Report, which poles around 13,000 business executives worldwide. This survey shows a wide variety of national indicators one of which relates to judicial independence. In the most recent of these surveys, Spain is listed in the 60th place, below other countries like Nigeria (59th), Gambia (41st), Saudi Arabia (34th) or Oman (29th), and just above the Czech Republic and China (!).

The independence of the judiciary is a basic principle of democracy. The judiciary should not be subject to improper influence from other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests, and when this happens, its legitimacy is called into question. The answers of the survey of the World Economic Forum shouldn’t be forgotten by the Spanish legislators. It’s an embarrassment for the country and a reason for Catalan people to disregard the decision on its Statute of Autonomy.