Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: barcelona

The wind is a gentle breeze

A landmark election takes place in Catalonia today. I have written an article on the topic for Unimondo a few days ago. But there is something else you might want to read. Guillem, who is also a Ph.D. researcher at the European University Institute, has recently shared some thoughts on the matter. I asked him if I could publish this on my blog and, well, here you go.

Over the past weeks a few curious people have asked me about the situation in Catalonia in view of tomorrow’s elections. For as long as my rational side has been in control, I have tried to give a balanced opinion on the matter, often playing the devil’s advocate when the argument required so. Allow me to share my thoughts before the big day tomorrow.

Ok. Forget about arguments concerning the costs, advantages or even legitimacy of independence. Surely that can be a fascinating debate that touches upon the pillars of democracy and modern nations-states, if discussed coherently. The consuming frustration over the situation that I’d like to discuss here —and that I share with at least a handful of people— comes from elsewhere.

For the past few years we have seen an economic, social and political quake that has exposed the unsustainable model that Spain —amongst many other countries— was pursuing. I am not exaggerating when I say that 16-year old construction workers earned double than secondary high school teachers back in 2005. The causes for the end of this delusionary model were many and overlapped: problems with institutional design of the EU, the role of domestic elites, the lack of financial regulation, the contagion effect from the financial crash in the U.S., and so on. The consequences are painfully well-known: massive unemployment, increased poverty, growing inequality, etc.

What most strikes me is that despite such an exceptional situation the political debate in Catalonia, especially during the campaign, has been almost exclusively (if not entirely) centered around identity issues on an emotional level. The recurrent analogy has been that of a love affair with difficulties: “We don’t love you anymore”. “It’s not you, its me.” “Oh, baby, let me go my way”. The imaginary of national identity has nullified any relevant policy debate.

Let me give you a delirious example. Only yesterday, during the annual festival of Barcelona (La Mercè), pro and anti independence parties staged an embarrassing spectacle in which there was literally a “flag war” from the balcony of the town hall. Some were hanging the Spanish flag. Others were hanging the Catalan independence flag. People screamed and cheered. I cannot think of a better way to describe what is happening. No discussion on welfare. No discussion on health care. No discussion on redistribution. No discussion on public transport. No discussion on environment. No discussion. Populism.

I wonder, how banal can politics be?

Addendum #1: the title of this post comes from here.
Addendum #2: an excellent overview on today’s elections has been provided by my Scottish-based friend Dani on the LSE blog. There is one particularly important excerpt: What is significantly different from the Scottish referendum debate is the extent to which the implications of independence are being discussed. There is a complete lack of any informed debate about the issue, and the campaign is more focused on mobilising the voters from each respective side than on contrasting views about the benefits and costs of independence. Read the rest of his article here.

What’s happening in Catalonia

On 19 September 2014, the Catalan parliament approved a call for a referendum on independence. On 27 September, the Catalan President Artur Mas signed a decree authorizing the vote; the same day, however, the Spanish government announced that that it would block the effort by appealing to the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Spanish Constitutional Court decided to provisionally suspend the vote. The Catalan Government subsequently announced they would push forward with the vote, in defiance of the Constitutional Court of Spain, as a public consultation instead. As things are very confusing and hard to follow, I wrote a mail to Dani Cetrà, my half Catalan half Scottish friend and colleague working at the University of Edinburgh. Here is our exchange of ideas (mostly his ideas, to be fair) turned into a short conversation.

Will there be a referendum in Catalonia?

There will be something on 9 November. It won’t be a referendum. It won’t be the “consultation” that has been discussed during the past few months. It will be “an alternative consultation” or “a form of citizenship participation” based on article 3 of the Catalan Law on Consultative Votes, which was passed by the Catalan Parliament on Friday 19 September. So Catalans who want to cast a vote on independence will have the chance to do so. On 9 November they will go to some buildings owned by the Catalan government, they will register there, and they will immediately cast their vote. The question that they will be posed is one agreed between four Catalan parties in December 2013: “Do you want Catalonia to become a State?” and “In case of an affirmative response, do you want this State to be independent?”.

What will be the outcome of the referendum?

It will be another big mobilisation of pro-independence Catalans rather than a proper consultation. Unionists and supporters of ‘third ways’ are not expected to participate, so the result won’t be very surprising… The key issue will be the turnout. The government expects a turnout of some 2 million, which is possible but ambitious. Only three months after the huge V in the streets of Barcelona, supporters of independence are asked to mobilise again in huge numbers.

Is the referendum going to be a game-changer for the pro-independence movement?

Probably not. It’s a watered-down voting, but it will permit Catalan President Artur Mas to say: “I’ve fulfilled my electoral compromise of calling for a vote on independence despite Rajoy’s undemocratic attitude”. The pro-independence movement hasn’t much to win (the best-case scenario this will be another spectacular social mobilisation), but it has much to lose (a low turnout will probably create doubts and insecurities).

The Spanish government is now considering impeding this watered-down voting too. This would be a political mistake, as it would give added strength to the pro-independence side. “They don’t even let us do this? Let’s get out of here as soon as possible!”‘. But Rajoy has his reasons. He faces pressures from the more radical pro-Spanish factions of the party, and strategically it is in his interest to shift public opinion’s attention from the corruption scandals of his party to the “Catalan threat” and the need “to respect the constitution and to keep Spain united”. After the “alternative consultation” on 9 November Mas will probably call for an early, “plebiscitary” election, which would not be without problems either.

What are the differences between the Scottish referendum on independence and the Catalan on-going process?

The main difference is that in Scotland the referendum was the result of an agreement between the two governments (Edinburgh Agreement, October 2012) and carried out though domestic constitutional law. The UK government considered that the SNP obtained a strong electoral mandate for a referendum on independence in the 2011 Scottish election and negotiated the terms and conditions for a “legal, fair and decisive” referendum with the Scottish government. A similar demand in Catalonia met the opposite reaction from the Spanish central government. This reflects different strategic considerations and different conceptions of the political union in London and Madrid. In face of the opposition of the central government, the Catalan process cannot aspire to an agreement with the central government and focuses instead on finding alternative ways of voting on independence.

Follow Dani on Twitter @DaniCetra and read his articles on The Future of the UK and Scotland website

An embarassing triumph

On today’s Repubblica I found one of those very good articles about football stories. Here the original version in Italian. Below my own translation to English.

And now only Jose Mourinho can save Pep Guardiola. A joke of football, and life: just the man from whom Guardiola had fled, and that forced him to take his first sabbatical in New York and then in the German championship, is now the only one that could allow Pep a triumphant arrival at Bayern, as to how things are going in Bavaria, Guardiola’s arrival could even be superfluous. Already. With the terrifying 4-0 to Barcelona, Bayern is almost already at the final at Wembley, unless the Catalans will manage an unprecedented comeback in the return match. Ergo, Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern, who was told to prepare to pack his bags because the best coach in the world (Pep Guardiola) was about to substitute him, well that Bayern may well win it all: Bundesliga won already, and with a record speed for German history; it is in the German Cup final and a step away from the Champions League. Not bad, as a reaction of agroup – and Heynckes – to the news that in July the team will have another guide. Only now the problem emerges seriously, and if Bayern wins all, what could add to an already perfect Guardiola? How would follow the champion of Europe, knowing that even with Heynckes has reached the maximum?

German newspapers celebrate the triumph of Bayern and have not started to analyze the immediate future,
but this is still an issue which will be debated. And with Bayern that since January has started to overwhelm any opponent, it is all too clear that the figure of Guardiola savior of this country, ‘sthe ferryman to Bayern magnificent destiny is a little vanished. So it is necessary for Pep that the march of Heynckes stops. And now the only man able to do it is Jose Mourinho, with his Real Madrid opponent engaged in the semifinals of the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund looking as the only team capable of standing up to Bayern, because this year in the Bundesliga Borussia none has not been able. So it’s up to Guardiola’s hope that the Real of his enemy Mourinho manages to ge to the final and beat Bayern, with Pep returning to the role of potential deus ex machina. Otherwise, what do they call it? Only then the arrival of Guardiola would acquire meaning, because if Bayern loses at Wembley it would be the third defeat in four years (against Inter in 2010 and against Chelsea in 2012) . And then Pep could get saying ” I now teach you how to do it to win. ” In contrast, it would all look like a very awkward situation.

Su identità e economia

Oggi su Unimondo il secondo articolo sulla spinta nazionalista catalana.

Per comprendere la rinascita del nazionalismo catalano è essenziale capire da dove vengano i problemi con cui ci stiamo confrontando oggi. Abbiamo già parlato delle spinte identitarie, ma forse l’evolversi della situazione verrà decisa da altri parametri. Da un punto di vista economico la Catalogna produce l’8% del PIL spagnolo; come e più di tante altre regioni autonome in Europa (Alto Adige, Scozia, Baviera), la Catalogna è una forza economica. Si tratta di una regione che fornisce un contributo fondamentale all’economia spagnola; l’equivalente della Lombardia per l’Italia, del Baden-Württemberg per la Germania, e del Rodano-Alpi per la Francia.

Leggi il resto su Unimondo.

Sulla Catalogna

E’ uscito oggi su Unimondo il primo di due miei articoli sull’indipendenza della Catalogna.

Come in una partita a scacchi per l’indipendenza, la Catalogna da due settimane a questa parte tiene sotto scacco il governo di Madrid. È il risultato di una mossa spettacolare per tempistica e portata, i quasi due milioni di persone che hanno sfilato per le strade di Barcellona invocando con una forza senza precedenti la secessione dalla Spagna. Il rinato indipendentismo catalano stravolge una sfida che i debiti del governo locale sembravano aver indirizzato verso un lungo periodo di predominio di Madrid.

Continua a leggere su Unimondo

Time weekly

This week’s Time Magazine contains at least three interesting articles worth reading.

It begins with a piece on Catalonia’s secessionist movement, my old-time passion. Two professors I am familiar with are quoted in the article. It appears that those who thought that Catalonia’s rows with Spain had been overcome were wrong.

It continues with an article on smokers around the world, from which I learn that “Indonesian men smoke more than anyone else in the world. Nearly 70% of of all Indonesian males over age 15 light up cigarettes”. Well, well.

Finally, there is a reflection on the true story of Saturday April 15, 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans died in Sheffield, Yorkshire, while watching the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The article sheds a light on the irresponsible behaviour of the Sun, that, incidentally, is one of the worst newspapers I have ever read.

Tifare (alcune squadre)

Questo fine settimana si gioca il el clasico della Liga spagnola, con Barcellona e Real Madrid appaiati a 3 punti di distanza. Di solito non mi importa molto di calcio, ma in questa specifica circostanza tifo con convinzione. Ecco perché e perchì:

1. il Real Madrid é stata la squadra franchista: a tutt’oggi rappresenta il conservatorismo autoritario spagnolo;

2. il Real Madrid é allenato da una persona prepotente e volgare, esattamente quel che non mi piace dello sport calcio;

3. il Barcellona, al contrario, é allenato da una persona sempre modesta e bilanciata, uno dei pochissimi personaggi positivi del mondo del calcio, già amico dell’idolo Roberto Baggio e splendido giocatore del Brescia, dove peraltro torna spesso, dimostrando grande lealtà ed umiltà;

4. il presidente del Real Madrid é un capitalista da quattro soldi che ha fatto esplodere i bilanci della squadra mandando via i pochi personaggi positivi (tra cui futuri campioni, come l’attuale allenatore della Spagna) nella sua gestione tra il 2000 e il 2006 e poi, una volta ritornato nel 2009, ha di nuovo speso miliardi per comprare campionissimi senza carattere. Questa gestione del calcio basata su cifre folle (il Real ha speso cento volte più di tutti gli altri club mondiali in questi ultimi dieci anni) e sul compro-il-campionissimo e mando via tutti gli altri e’ disgustosa e perdente: in questi anni il Real Madrid non ha mai vinto una Coppa dei Campioni e ha portato a casa un terzo dei titoli di Liga del Barcellona. Come se non bastasse, tutti i presunti campionissimi comprati sono personaggi immaturi e volgari (Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro, Karim Benzema…), pessimi idoli dei ragazzini;

5. il Barcellona, al contrario, rappresenta una gestione del calcio basato sullo sviluppo dei proprio giovani. I campioni del Barca sono sempre cresciuti nelle giovanili della squadra catalana;

6. i tifosi del Barcellona sono particolarmente creativi (nel video, un famoso episodio successivo al trasferimento di Figo dal Barcellona al Real Madrid, vissuto come un tradimento dai tifosi del Barca: durante la partita Barcellona-Real Madrid stagione 2002-2003, corner per il Real Madrid sotto la curva del Barcellona. Figo va a batterlo, ma i tifosi del Barca fanno un inferno. Dagli spalti  viene lanciato di tutto. Tra le altre cose, anche una testa di un maiale, simbolo del tradimento, che finì non molto distante dal giocatore. Figo è uno dei calciatori più odiati in Catalogna).;

7. il Barcellona ha come sponsor l’Unicef. Il Madrid ha bwin;

8. il Barcellona gioca, senza dubbio, molto meglio. E’ la squadra più spettacolare che io abbia mai visto all’opera;

9. ho la maglietta del Barcellona (annata 1996 Ivan De la Peña), che peraltro indossai dopo l’eliminazione dei catalani dall’Inter di Mourniho in Coppa Campioni (con un goal regolare di Pique’ al 90′ annullato dall’arbitro). Ora avrebbe molto senso indossarla nuovamente non appena il Barca eliminerà una delle italiane in questa edizione della coppa;

10. i miei migliori amici spagnolo sono tutti tifosi del Barcellona. Ci sarà pure una ragione.