“Catalonia did not voluntarily join Spain, it was brutally conquered” (from Mr. Geoff Cowling to The Finantial Times)

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Letter published on 2014, 26th february:

“Sir,

The article by Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo, “Europe cannot afford to give into the separatists” (February 19), deserves comment.

It is wrong to describe the Scottish independence referendum as “a grave challenge from regional separatists”. Scotland is not a region. It is a nation in its own right within the United Kingdom. The Scottish and English parliaments were joined in an “Act of Union” in 1707. It is the democratic right of the people of the Scottish nation to vote for the repeal of that act if they so wish. Catalonia too is a “nation” as defined by the estatut , an act passed by the Spanish parliament in 2006. To describe both nations as “tribes” betrays a colonialist mind.

The UN is quite clear on the rights of nations. “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” For the European Union to “confront separatism”, to “unmask the hypocrisy of nationalism” and “play the legal card of the EU treaties” against Scotland and Catalonia, would be to tread on very controversial ground.

The article accuses the Catalan government of distorting historical facts in this 300th anniversary year of the fall of Catalonia at the end of the war of the Spanish succession. It is worth recalling that Catalonia was effectively an independent nation until 1714. During that war, Catalonia was allied with England under the treaty of Genoa of 1705 and fought for the Habsburg cause against the Bourbon Spain. When the British government withdrew its support for the Habsburgs and signed the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Catalonia fought on alone.

It took a one-year siege by a combined French and Spanish Bourbon army to break Barcelona’s defences which fell on September 11 1714. Thousands of defending Catalans were killed in the siege and in the retribution which followed. Catalonia’s ancient parliament, its identity, language and culture were crushed. Large parts of Barcelona were razed to the ground.

Catalonia did not voluntarily join Spain, it was brutally conquered.

Catalonia was treated little differently during the Spanish civil war when Barcelona was bombed by Franco’s rebel air force, killing 1,300. Catalonia’s elected President Lluís Companys was forced to flee into France. He was extradited by Franco and shot in 1940 at Montjuic Castle overlooking Barcelona. Lluís Companys remains the only incumbent president in Europe ever to have been executed. No apology or posthumous pardon has been given.

Catalonia remembers these historical facts – they are not “imaginary historical grievances”. On its National Day (La Diada) on September 11 2012, one and a half million Catalans filled Barcelona’s streets waving the Catalan Senyera flag and calling for independence. On La Diada last year they formed a 250-mile independence human chain from the French border to Valencia. The independence movement is deeply rooted in Catalan society, fuelled by every rebuff from Madrid.

Like Scotland’s, Catalonia’s parliament has a majority in favour of an independence referendum. The Westminster parliament has given Scotland the right to decide its future. In contrast, the Spanish parliament in Madrid refuses to debate Catalonia’s request. Democracy is not feared in the UK – it is embraced. Democracy should not be feared in Spain either.

Geoff Cowling, Bromley, Kent, UK, HM Consul General Barcelona 2002-05”


Mr. Cowling at the British Library

(Copia de la carta dirigida por Mr Geoff Cowling -ex Consul general del UK en Barcelona- al Director del Finantial Times, publicada el 26 de Febrero de 2014 bajo el título de “Agravios reales de Cataluña”, discrepando del artículo de Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo -miembro del PP y directora del área internacional de la FAES-, para aclarar las falsedades de ésta, desconocemos si escritas por ignorancia o con la finalidad de crear un clima de confusión y publicado un poco antes, el 19 de los mismos mes y año, bajo el título “Europa no puede permitirse el lujo de ceder ante la independencia”)

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2 comentarios el ““Catalonia did not voluntarily join Spain, it was brutally conquered” (from Mr. Geoff Cowling to The Finantial Times)

  1. Orlando dice:

    You seem to omit this early part of Catalonia history, basically you forwarded history to the 1700’s.

    In the late 8th century, the counties of the March of Gothia and the Hispanic March were established by the Frankish kingdom as feudatory vassals across and near the eastern Pyrenees as a defensive barrier against Muslim invasions. The eastern counties of these marches were united under the rule of the Frankish vassal the Count of Barcelona, and were later called Catalonia. In 1137, Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon were united by marriage under the Crown of Aragon, and the Principality of Catalonia became the base for the Crown of Aragon’s naval power and expansionism in the Mediterranean. Between 1469 and 1516, the King of Aragon and the Queen of Castile married and ruled their kingdoms together, which is how Catalonia became part of Spain, almost 500 years ago. They have had a lot of autonomy as a region within the Kingdom of Spain.

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    • Sorry, but I didn’t.

      Catalonia never became a part of Spain with Isabel and Fernando, because it didn’t exist at all. The Kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia was a Confederation under a Crown (Aragon, Athens and Neopatria, Catalonia, Corsica, Malta, Mallorca -Balearic Islands-, Naples, Sardinia, Sicily…), and this Confederation followed after their marriage. They had never been “King and Queen of Spain” because this Kingdom never existed in those times. Each Kingdom conserved its own parliament, constitutions, law and taxes. The Catalan government (“Generalitat”) has more than 500 years and its current president is the 130th one of its history. What is more, Catalonia has its own language. Catalan is spoken by 10 million people in four European States: Andorra, France, Italy and Spain.

      As for naval power, it was really Catalan. Aragon, like Switzerland, has no sea. In Catalonia was written in Catalan language the first book of Maritime Laws: “Llibre del Consulat de Mar”, the basis of the current maritime law. The Principality of Catalonia also organized consulates to trade throughout the Mediterranean Sea. In Barcelona you can visit the shipyards of the Middle Ages called “Reials Drassanes”. This Mediterranean Empire was better known as the Kingdom of Aragon than as the Principality of Catalonia.

      The monarchs of Borbon Dinasty were never named kings of Spain in 1.714 (neither before, as I said). The first one of them was Joseph Bonaparte (s. XIX), brother of Napleon, with the title of “King of Spains (plural) and Indies”. The manipulation of history to promote the interests of the states is a strategy to erase the true history of its peoples. Catalonia is one of its victims.

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