Spain, Catalonia and the Shadow of Violence

As political parties in Catalonia gear up for regional elections on November 25th, there have been a number of verbal skirmishes over the prospect of military action by Spanish forces, should the new parliament call a referendum on the creation of an independent Catalan state.

The issue first raised its head in the wake of the massive demonstration for Catalan independence in Barcelona on September 11th. European Parliament vice-president Aleix Vidal Quadras, and two Spanish generals, responded to the street protests with statements invoking article 8 of the Spanish constitution. According to article 8, the mission of the Spanish armed forces is “to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional order.” These declarations were understood by many as a provocative threat to use force to defend the unity of Spain.

In early October, Catalan Interior Minister Felip Puig declared his confidence that the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police, pictured above) would remain loyal to the Catalan government in the event of a conflict with Madrid.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for CiU, the governing party of Catalonia, wrote to the Spanish government communicating his surprise at military manoeuvres being conducted by fighter-jets in Catalan airspace, describing them as an “unnecessary provocation in a time of peace.”

As the dispute escalated, a group of Catalan members of the European Parliament sent a letter to European Justice Commissioner Viviene Reading, expressing their concern about the implied threats. Today, one of the signatories of the letter, Maria Badia, has been forced to resign as deputy leader of the Spanish socialists in Europe, after members of the party accused her of “internationalizing” the issue.

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