Catalan republicanism and European federalism

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

epaselect epa07062276 Thousands of people attend a protest on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Catalan illegal independence referendum held back 01 October 2017, in Barcelona, Spain, 01 October 2018. On 01 October 2017, Catalonia held an illegal pro-independence referendum that led to a political crisis and the detention of various pro-independence civil leaders and politicians that still remain in jail awaiting trial. Other politicians remain abroad after they fled a year ago to avoid prison. EPA-EFE/ALBERTO ESTEVEZ

Republicanism in Catalonia is inseparable from both Catalanism and European federalism, writes Oriol Junqueras, who argues that Europe faces a crucial crossroads: on the one hand, an increasingly extreme right, and on the other, a modern European federalist left.

Oriol Junqueras is a former MEP and President of the Republican Left of Catalonia. He is currently remanded in custody awaiting trial on charges of rebellion.

My passion for politics comes from my will to combat injustice, in Catalonia and elsewhere, and as I often say, among my priorities are schools, work and family. As a Republican, I want an education system that guarantees freedom of conscience, a critical sense, equal opportunity and the creativity of every member of society.

I want decent, productive jobs in an economy that combines effective freedom, efficiency and equity. And I want families to receive all the necessary public support to live with dignity in a plural, inclusive and cohesive society.

We have grown accustomed to thinking that in Europe these issues had been guaranteed for decades. Today, however, we face the reality that they are in jeopardy in much of the continent. The work that must be undertaken in this regard is enormous. Rights such as decent housing and pay are increasingly considered a privilege for a growing proportion of our society.

In these particular aspects, it seems we are closer to conditions in the first half of the twentieth century than to those of the second half. Having a job and a wage is not always a guarantee of welfare, especially among the younger generations. And where there is uncertainty, there will be anguish, exclusion, and as a result, political and religious extremism.

In order to have freer citizens, prosperous economies, stronger families, more equitable societies and a more critical spirit, we need more efficient, democratic social institutions which, among other things, can ensure that the great economic powers remain under the control of the whole of European citizenry.

European federalism is key in this regard. The economy is increasingly transnational and easily evades the control of the old nation-states. Some economic actors are so powerful that states are subjected to their interests, disregarding the rights and dignity of individuals, families and societies.

Nations are increasingly interdependent, it is true. And besides, the issues that determine the freedom and prosperity of their citizens are closely related. For example, the sustainability of pensions is strongly influenced by the dynamics of birth rates.

Thus, to make birth-rate policies effective, one must guarantee free education between 0 and 3 years of age, ensure fair and adequate maternity and paternity leave, and make decent homes affordable for everyone.

This all requires tax policies to be more effective, including, amongst other measures, the fight against evasion and fraud, as well as fairer and more efficient distribution of the income from labour and capital.

At the same time, the creation of wealth requires a better-educated society, clearly supporting research, vocational training and multilingualism—such as the inclusion of Chinese and Arabic as optional languages in high schools in Catalonia.

Most states are far-removed from their people because they often serve large transnational economic powers over which they have no control, and are managed by bureaucratic oligarchies that are increasingly isolated from democratic control and meritocratic mechanisms.

Just look at how many of the great public appointments are held, generation after generation, by the same families, and how they have converted entire universities into brokers of titles devoid of any real content.

The exchange of favours contributes to the privatisation and conversion of the administration and government into a birthright, thus blocking a vital part of the social ladder for the middle and working classes.

It is because of all this that Europe faces a crucial crossroads: on the one hand, an increasingly extreme right that craves to strengthen the states before the common institutions, marginalising increasingly broad segments of society and cutting back civil, political and social rights, in turn submitting them to the self-interest of the great economic powers, closing borders and isolating themselves from the world; and, on the other hand, a modern, republican, European federalist left, socially ambitious, internationalist, defending an efficient, sustainable and equitable economy.

Republicanism in Catalonia is inseparable from both Catalanism and European federalism. All three currents have been linked historically to the same desire for individual freedom, social justice and brotherhood among peoples.

Because I am Republican and Catalan, I am also a European federalist. And as a European federalist I want stronger, more democratic community institutions, and in particular, a European Parliament with the capacity for legislative initiative to exercise effective control over the European Commission, able to promote just, efficient and sustainable economic and social policies.

I expect that the coming years of my life will not be easy, but I am clear that I want them to serve a purpose. And this purpose will be to achieve a free Catalonia within a federal, democratic Europe, guided by the values of freedom, equality and fraternity.

A Europe where everyone may finally see secured the right to the pursuit of happiness, which is the only reason justifying the existence of government. The alpha and omega of republican politics.

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