Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Independence of Catalonia, Otto Ozols - The Lithuania Tribune

Opinion: In Catalonia, Freedom is in the air

Otto Ozols | The Lithuania Tribune
Otto Ozols is a Latvian writer and publicist, the author of the 2011 Latvian best-seller ‘Latvieši ir visur’ and other book – “Theodorus. Dance with an Elephant-fish”. Has published over 200 articles and essays on politics, economics and culture. 



I recently visited Catalonia, and my emotions matched those evoked by the once well known song refrain, “Freedom is in the air. Everywhere I look around, freedom is in the air!”  Upon arriving at the capital city of Catalonia, you noticed not just the fabulous architecture of the city, but also the fact that countless Catalonian flags are fluttering from windows and balconies.  True patriotism is sparkling in the air, and Catalonians clearly express their hope to experience Catalonia as an independent country.

These emotions are very much the same as those that existed in Latvia in 1990, one year before the restoration of the country’s independence.  People have the same hopes and beliefs.  Back then, the international situation was very unclear, there was no clear international support, and the Soviet regime made threats and placed enormous pressure on any country that tried to support Baltic efforts to restore independence.  Even leaders in major democratic powers were sunk into short sighted calculations of Realpolitik, trying to bargain with the Kremlin, as opposed to recognising the true desire of the Baltic peoples for true independence.
Today, these leaders are shyly trying to forget their historical short sightedness.  True friendship is tested in difficulties, and they did not pass the exam.  Luckily, there were true sympathies and trust in the ideals of democracy in the parliaments and societies of those countries.  People harshly denounced the cowardice of their leaders, and at the end of the day, the Kremlin was shown its proper place.  The dreams of a free and independent country of the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were fulfilled.
Walking down the lovely streets of Barcelona, there is no doubt that this Barcelona is truly a capital city in terms of spirit and essence.  It is an impressive city with a European scope in the best sense of the word.  With every step, you feel a culture and history shaped for centuries.  When visiting this beautiful city, you automatically woner why 7.5 million Catalonians, a large, ancient and proud European nation, should prove something or ask for permission to vote in a referendum on their independence.  Why does such a large European nation need to prove, in the 21st century, that it can survive without the protection of its “big brother”?  Smaller nations including the Norwegians, Finns, Danes, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians see independence as self-evident, and no one dares to question them.
Spain, of course, is claiming that life will be better for everyone if Catalonia remains together with Spain.
In truth, hardly anyone doubts that, and it appears that Catalonia does want to stay towith Spain, but emerge as an independent and equally worthy member state of the European Union.  Can it really be said that the Catalonians do not deserve such an opportunity?  If the Catalonians vote for independence, then that will be an historical opportunity for Spain to help its brethren in successfully joining the EU.  The fact that Catalonia and Spain will be separate member states will in no way affect their partnership or their historical links.  That will be confirmed by any other EU member state.  Trans-frontier economic cooperation has developed to the point where people do not feel borders at all.  This is better for businesses and working people, because they can choose countries where there are better tax rates or labour conditions.  Countries are forced to become more competitive in this regard.  The only problem may be language barriers, but these are diminishing, and in the case of Spain and Catalonia, that obstacle will not exist at all.  For that reason, the idea of staying together seems to be nothing more than a formality.  If Catalonia becomes an independent member state of the EU, then it will still be together with Spain – hopefully as a good friend, respected neighbour and provider of support at decisive moments.  Of course, that will only happen if Spain overcomes its pride and shows true good will.
There has been a fairly harsh exchange of words between Madrid and Barcelona.  Officials in Madrid have even begun to compare the situation in Catalonia to that in Crimea and Ukraine.  That is an insane comparison.  Does Madrid really lack more sensible arguments?  Comparing Catalonia to Crimea is the same as comparing Norway to Somalia.  Does that sound like an exaggeration?  No, indeed!  Catalonia has a peaceful and absolutely civilised democracy, and in this sense it really does remind one of Norway.  The pseudo-referendum in Crimea, in turn, was held under the barrels of Kalashnikovs and the violent attack against and sinking of ships, just as is the case with Somalia.  Putin’s “little green men” are essentially behaving in the same way as Somalian pirates.
The truth is that an independence referendum in Catalonia would be an excellent way for Europe to demonstrate to the Putin regime how a truly democratic national vote can be organised in accordance with the best traditions of European democracy.  The world would see what true democracy and a recognition of the right of nations to self-determination really mean.  Brussels, Madrid and Barcelona have a unique opportunity to demonstrate true European values in practice.
While visiting Catalonia, I thought of another comparison to the situation of the Baltic States during the Soviet era.  The Soviet Union turned the Baltic States into a “grey zone” for the rest of the world.  Very few people in the world even knew about Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.  The prevailing view was that we were all Russians.  Latvians had to spend a long time in explaining that they were not Russians; they were Latvians with their own and very different language, culture and history.  There is nothing wrong with the Russian nation as such, but only by recovering our independent country could we fully confirm our identity to the rest of the world.  No one in the civilised world needs an explanation about what Barcelona is, but people still have very little knowledge about the Catalonian nation.  On an everyday basis, the Catalonians are still put in the same sack as the Spaniards.  Even during the 21st century, very few Europeans know about the 7.5 million Catalonians.  They have to explain and prove again and again that they are not Spaniards.  Any self-respecting nation must live in harmony with its identity.  There can be no “grey zones” of the Soviet type in modern-day Europe.
People in Latvia deeply believed in 1990 that they would achieve independence and freedom.  These hopes wove throughout the nation.  One year later, in 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania regained their independence.  That was not only an historical coincidence.  It was a long and convincing path in which the Baltic people believed from the bottom of their hearts.  Freedom is in the air in Catalonia, too.  The Catalonians do not need to beg for self-determination.  They deserve it.
Because in Catalonia, everywhere I look around, freedom is in the air.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013 11:17 am, Posted by 0 | Europe, Government, Politics

Lithuanian PM says his words on Catalonia were distorted

Algirdas Butkevičius | DELFI, Photo by P. Garkauskas
Algirdas Butkevičius | DELFI, Photo by P. Garkauskas

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says that his words about Catalonia that drew a protest from Spain were distorted, accusing the local media for the incident.

“What the journalist from Catalonia did was very disgraceful,” the Prime Minister told the Lithuanian national radio on Tuesday.
“Spain is a country of NATO and the European Union, and I said very clearly that any discussions inside Spain should be settled in line with the international law and the Spanish Constitution. And they asked a question about the Baltic Way. My words about the Baltic Way of the Baltic nations were adapted as an example that allegedly fit for the Catalonian case,” Butkevičius explained.
Lithuania’s ambassador in Madrid was summoned to the Spanish Foreign Ministry over the Prime minister’s statement on Catalonia.
Madrid’s steps followed Butkevičius’ interview to the local media where he said that the example of the Baltic Way – a mass campaign where the Baltic nations protested against the Soviet rule – inspired the people of Catalonia who last week formed a human chain to demand independence from Spain.
“I am very happy to see the Lithuanian example to inspire people elsewhere,” the Prime Minister said in an interview, which is available here.
Before the news, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry issued a press release on Sunday evening, saying that the Spanish media had provided a biased and misleading interpretation of the Lithuanian stance on Catalonia.
“We stress that it is not correct to compare the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States with the situation in Spain. Spain is a democratic country, a member state of the European Union and Lithuania’s close ally in the EU and NATO,” reads the communiqué.
On 11 September, about one million residents of Catalonia, a region in Spain, formed a huge human chain stretching 400 km by the Mediterranean Sea, demanding independence from Spain.



Un article que ve d’Europa i que cal llegir: “En el fons dels seus cors milions d’europeus entenen i donen suport a l’aspiració catalana”

catalanLithuania Tribune recupera un article del periodista letó, Otto Ozols, publicat l’octubre de l’any passat.
Una refrescant, gratificant i emotiva visió sobre Catalunya, un d’aquells articles que ens fa veure la situació d’una forma més propera al que pensen moltes europeus, i allunyada de les ambigüitats dels buròcrates de la UE quan parlen del “cas català”.
Amb el significatiu títol de: “La Via Catalana és el camí de desenes de milions d’europeus”, Zools explica que el passat  11 de setembre quan de 1,6 milions de catalans es van donar la mà per formar una llarga cadena humana  480 quilòmetres, el seu propòsit i el seu desig van ser profundament compresos per desenes de milions d’europeus.
I segons segueix això es així perquè el somni de tenir un estat propi i independent, ha estat el somni des de fa segles dels irlandesos, polonesos, finlandesos, noruecs, estonians, letons, i molts altres europeus, i que tots ells han hagut de fer un llarg i difícil camí per complir el somni d’un estat independent, i que el record de les seves lluites per la independència és sagrada per a aquestes persones , els pares i els avis dels quals han somiat i aspirat i molt sovint sacrificat el més preuat, la seva vida.
És per això que Ozols diu que en el fons dels seus cors milions d’europeus entenen i donen suport a la aspiració catalana de tenir el seu propi estat independent, i que per ells, els catalans no són una espècie de separatistes, sinó que són un poble heroic, un  poble que no para d’esforçar-se per complir amb el somni dels seus pares i del seus avis, tenir un estat independent
A continuació fa un repàs de tots els estats que han aconseguit la independència , però opina que els màxims paral·lelismes per a la situació entre Catalunya i Espanya podrien ser els països nòrdics, Dinamarca, Noruega, Islàndia, Suècia i Finlàndia, que fa relativament poc temps,  a principis del segle 20, eren nacions relativament pobres, i avui són nacions molt riques, i que es van separar d’una forma pacífica.
I afegeix que l’exemple dels països nòrdics ens mostra que una de les raons del seu èxit és que les seves relacions ja no estan dominats pel ressentiment, sinó més aviat per la cooperació i la competència amistosa. És per això que els pobles dels països bàltics veuen amb simpatia donar suport al somni de la independència de Catalunya.
I citant a Lennart Meri, el líder del moviment independentista estonià, mort el 2006,que va afirmar que la llibertat de les nacions, inclosa la llibertat de l’autodeterminació està a la base de l’ideal europeu, i ni la burocràcia ni les lleis complicades ni la por al canvi no ha de permetre negar a qualsevol nació el seu dret a determinar el seu propi futur.
I Ozols acaba dient que “com a letó dic que seré un català fins que Catalunya sigui lliure i independent”


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