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  • Estelades (Catalan separatist flag) flags fly during the last meeting of Catalan Pro-independence party

    Estelades (Catalan separatist flag) flags fly during the last meeting of Catalan Pro-independence party | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 October 2015
Catalonia and federalism, Spain and Europe, who wants what?

On Sept 27, the separatists in Catalonia won a majority of seats in its regional parliamentary elections. However, they won with a very close margin and only thanks to the 10 seats of the anti-capitalist party, the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), whose support hangs by a thread.

Now that the campaign is over, we can take a step back or two and analyze the political situation in Catalonia. What are the main differences between the main parties that make up Junts pel Sí? And – perhaps more importantly – what unites these parties beyond their common stand on the secession of Catalonia from Spain and relationship towards the European Union and the U.S.?

Together for Yes

The Catalan independence Coalition known as Junts pel Sí (Junts) was the main winner in the Catalonian elections. Meaning Together for Yes in Catalan, the coalition presented a common political program in the summer of 2015. Studying the program, it is difficult to locate it in the traditional Left/Right political spectrum, as one could expect from a coalition made up of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (neoliberal), the Republican Left of Catalonia (socialist), Democrats of Catalonia (center-right, Christian democrats) and the Leftist Movement (a coalition within the coalition, of much smaller leftist parties).

Indeed, despite the heftiness of its printed version (125 pages), what seemed to dominate in the Junts’ campaign and program was their call for independence, an issue that each political party had championed before joining the coalition. This common call is now leading the battle away from traditional ideological discrepancies on economic and political issues. It is therefore common to find all sorts of ideologically diverse proposals in the Junts program: from references to progressive policies, each of them with a socialist sounding rhetoric, such as “the empowerment of neighborhoods” (p. 72), to other more business-friendly proposals, such as the acceptance of the free-trade dogma (p. 24) or the omnipresence of the term “business” (exactly 125 times, once per page), to name a few examples.

Junts and the European Union: Independence or in dependence?

One point in the Junts program has arguably been made clearer than others, by both repetition and the clarity of its statements: “we will apply to stay within the EU, the Eurozone and Eurosystem of central banks” (p. 51).

Here lies the main logical contradiction. On the one hand, Junts’ argues for independence from Madrid and the interference of non-Catalans in Catalonia’s affairs and their right to sovereignty and self-determination, and on the other, they express an unequivocal desire to remain within the EU and have every norm of the EU with every treaty still effective and unquestioned.

Given how most, if not all, of the policies bitterly criticized by Junts as an illegitimate imposition from outsiders (in Madrid that is) are actual implementations of EU policies and recommendations (which often amount to orders given the institutional realities), why does Junts want to remain within the EU so vehemently? And if self-determination and democracy are so paramount for them, why not leave that question to a future referendum?

Towards European federalism

Considering the numerous ties between each of the candidates on the Junts list and European think tanks and organizations that advocate for a federalist European Union (meaning a model in which nation-states would disappear in order to promote what is commonly called euro-regions that would defend their interests directly in Brussels), it would be easy to illustrate the point that the movement of independence in Catalonia is in fact part of a much larger force, one that acts at the European level and has been building for several decades. This relationship between Junts and European federalism is most clearly seen in its leader Raul Romeva.

The number one candidate for Junts, Romeva is a member of the Green Party in Catalonia (he is considered “independent” within the Junts coalition) and has been a member of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2014. During his years in the European Parliament, Romeva has promoted the idea of not just an independent Catalonia, but also of a federalist European Union, by signing the Spinelli Group manifesto, one the first major federalist movements in Europe.

What federalists advocate for is a European Union in which nation-states such as France, Spain or Italy would surrender most of their sovereignty (beyond what is already happening with the EU Treaties) to regions – such as Catalonia or Brittany in France – and the EU institutions in Brussels. The federalists promote the idea that these regions – also called euro-regions – would extend beyond what is today known as French, Spanish or Italian national borders. The fact is that present-day EU is slowly moving towards this model through various policies and reforms such as the reform of regions in France or the promotion of regional languages (see Regional Charter for Regional or Minority Languages), or more importantly, through each new treaty that transfers more sovereignty from nation-states to Brussels and regional entities.

The CIA and the Federalist Movement

The European Federalist Movement (founded in 1943) is one of the earliest and most important promoters in Europe of an integrated Europe. Its founding text, the Ventotene Manifesto was written principally by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi in 1941. Spinelli later became a strong advocate of federalism within the European institution, becoming a Member of European Parliament and a prominent EU commissioner for six years. In 2010, the Spinelli Group created a manifesto inspired by Spinelli that outlined a vision of modern federalism.

Funding of the Federalist Movement came exclusively from the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), a CIA front that made little to no effort to appear like anything else – its board of directors was made up of prominent members of the U.S. secret services, including former heads of OSS/CIA: Gen. W.J. Donovan, Allen Dulles and W. B. Smith.


Evidently, more research is needed into this complicated matter. One could easily dismiss the ties between federalists and the U.S. as outdated and irrelevant however, it would be interesting to look at the more influential think tanks in Europe that are at the epicenter of Brussels politics and ask ourselves why in most cases their funding comes from U.S. corporations or foundations (Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan or George Soro’s Open Society Foundation just to name a few). Also, if we assume that the U.S. acted and act today in their own interest, why should they want anything other than a federalist Europe? Do wolves not chew their food carefully before swallowing?

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