Catalans join Roma among Europe’s persecuted

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Geopolitical Notes From India

M D Nalapat

WORDS are cheaper than dirt, and meaningless in the absence of practical steps to ensure that they be put into practice. Forgetting the adage that “charity begins at home”, all – repeat all – the countries still willing to remain in the European Union treat those fellow citizens who are Roma atrociously. An outlay of as little as $ 6 billion in the form of scholarships and Roma-specific educational facilities would ensure that this historically ill-treated community be enabled to reach the levels of more fortunate sections of the citizenry, yet the European Union (which has spent over $ 600 billion on wars in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria) refuses to set aside this sum. In every country within continental Europe, the Roma are a particular focus of hostile attention by the police, much as African-Americans still are in some parts of United States.
Adults within the community find it much more difficult to get jobs than other sections, with the consequence that some are forced into a life of crime. As a consequence, the Roma are openly derided in may parts of Europe as “criminals”, despite the fact that such elements exist everywhere in society. There are, for example, criminals that have perpetrated the most heinous of acts among the Protestant or Catholic communities, yet these groups are not defamed with the “criminal” tag the way the Roma have been for centuries. And now, another segment of European society is on course towards joining the Roma in being persecuted and denied justice by a European Union that spends much of every day preaching morality and ethics to countries across the world. How this fits with the fact that the EU contains some of the biggest arms merchants in the world remains unexplained. The children being bombed to death in Yemen are losing their lives as a consequence of the weaponry supplied by Europe and its North American partners, yet there does not seem to be even a second of remorse for such deeds, much less an effort to halt such trade in death machines. Indeed, the more significant the contribution to global arms sales, the louder the protestations of morality. Listening to these, the overwhelming majority of the Catalan people in Spain had faith that the European Union would as a bureaucracy stand by its declared principles and support them in their desire to be freed from the yoke of Madrid and from a monarch who is closely related to the family of Francisco Franco, the military dictator whose ascent to power was assisted by Adolf Hitler, a 100% monster who also happened to be 100% Austrian ie European. All that they sought was principled self-determination, and expressed such a desire not through force of arms but via the ballot box
Were Catalonia to become an independent state that would get admitted into the European Union, every citizen of (the rest of) Spain would have the right to live and work there, just as Catalans would have the right to live and work in (the rest of) Spain. The European Union has meaning and resonance only if it truly believes in a European identity, and does not consider itself a mere federation of Metternichean nation states. This, the Walloons and the Flemish people can separate from each other juridicially, as can the Basques of France or the north of Italy from the south. It would not matter, except for Ministries of Finance that would need to re-adjust their tax collection figures. However, such obvious logic seems beyond the comprehension of the leaders of the countries which make up the European Union. The central government of Spain has reacted to the Catalan movement for independence with a vicious show of force, arresting several and denying them the right to elect their own government. Now, in a shameless show of contempt for the rights of individuals and peoples, the most popular Catalan politician, Carles Puidgemont, has been arrested in Germany for the crime of having been elected to the regional legislature in Catalonia by his own people. It is apparent that to Angela Merkel at least, what s much more important than a common European identity is the right of majoritarian parliamentary majorities to impose their views on the minority, if needed by force of arms and by police methods. Severral of Puidgmont’s colleagues have been arrested in Spain itself. An entire people are under the lash of state power, exercised without any regard for natural justice.
Angela Merkel had posed as a saint in politics, but it would appear that such saintliness does not extend to the Catalan people, who have been denied the right of self determination within the European Union. The reality is that a kix of smaller states would add to the cultural diversity of Europe and contribute to its versatility. It should be remembered that it was the biggest states in Europe that were the instigators of conflicts : Germany, France, the UK and Italy. Such territorial entities feed the egos of some politicians, but when they collide against the popular will, it is the wishes of the people that should hsve primacy. Unfortunately, the central government in Spain has been transparent in its determination to block and harass the Catalan people for the “crime” of wanting ther own state rather than remain dominated by (rest of) Spain
Where are the voices of protest in Germany? Where are the Greens or the Free Democrats? Angela Merkel’s East German roots have meant that she has spent the bulk of her life under a regimented system in which the state is supreme over the citizen. It is therefore no surprise that she would order the arrest and incarceration of Carles Puidgmont when the State of Spain represented by the non-Catalan majority asks her to do so. Given the statist (ie sub-European) bias within the European Union, it is likely that Puidgmont would have been arrested in states such as France and perhaps the UK as well, had he stepped foot there (as he is entitled to do as a citizen of the EU). Given the entirely peaceful nature of the Catalan movement thus far and the undoubted popular support for the right to self-determination, it will be with obvious hypocrisy that the European Union as a collective or any of its members delivers homilies to others about “respecting the rights of a people”. Carles Puidgmont believed in the sanctity of that EU promise, and lost his liberty as a consequence.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

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