As Madrid has said that any regional plebiscite on independence in the country is illegal, thousands of people in Spain’s autonomous Basque Country linked up to form a human chain calling for the right to hold an independence vote. Sputnik has discussed the issue with Dr. Arkaitz Fullaondo, a sociologist at the University of the Basque Country.
Sputnik: How significant is this latest action by the people of Basque Country?
Arkaitz Fullaondo: It’s very significant because we have to keep in mind that the Basque Country has over three million people. So in a country of three million people, if 175,000 thousand people make this kind of a more real demonstration for self-determination, it’s really a high number of people and also from the point of view of the symbolism. This huge human chain of 200 km has been a really good demonstration that the people in Basque Country want self-determination, to decide the future relationship with Spain.
Sputnik: Of course the Spanish government has said that they will not allow for referendum but they have lifted financial controls on Catalonia as a gesture of normalization. Do you think that this gesture was in any way recognized by the people as a sort of a compromise or was it just seen as not sufficient?
Arkaitz Fullaondo: I think that the Spanish government claims that it’s true that the independence referendum is illegal, but it’s not about if it’s legal or not. It’s about democracy. We see that the Spanish Constitution says that there’s not a self-determination possibility in Spain, but if you have a part of the country with a huge social and political majority that wants to make this referendum, it’s about democracy and this is the real point of the political crisis in Spain. Spain is a state but there are more than one nation inside this state, it’s not only Spain we have the nation of Catalonia, we have the nation of the Basque Country, for example. And in those nations there’s a social majority and a political majority that want to make these referendums. So what could be the legal way to solve this problem is to change the constitution and to recognize self-determination. The problem is that for Spain this is not a possibility. But it’s not about the legality, it’s about the democracy.
Sputnik: The opinion polls still show that the Catalans are split on the issue of independence and it’s interesting to note that the ousted President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont appears to sort of be open to a softer position. Do you think that there is room for a compromise and perhaps just addressing some of the financial issues that, I believe stand behind many of the people’s desire to separate themselves, do you think that’s right?
Arkaitz Fullaondo: In the beginning probably the financial issue was a bigger issue, but nowadays at that point after some years we see what’s going on in Catalonia and in Spain. I think that Catalonia in another point or in another state. So it could be the financial issue, it could be a way to try to solve the problem, but now there’s a big difference between reality in comparison to 5 or 7 years ago. So now I think the political problem is bigger than at that time, at that point. We need to keep in mind that there’re a lot of political prisoners at the moment in Catalonia and in Spain. One part of the government of Catalonia is in prison and another part of the former Catalonia government is spread around in Europe in Belgium, Germany or in Scotland. So I think the financial issue is no longer a possibility to solve the problem. I think that the problem is bigger, it’s huge and one of the ways to solve it is a legal referendum, but I’m really pessimistic that the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez who’s Prime Minister now, can solve this problem in another way.
Sputnik: What are the other problems other than financial? You mentioned of course political prisoners that Catalonia feels that those involved in the independence movement are political prisoners. Other than that what issues separate or cause the Catalonians to want to separate from Spain?
Arkaitz Fullaondo: I think at this point, at this moment a link has been broken between Spain and Catalonia for many millions of people in Catalonia. There are at least two million people in Catalonia that don’t feel Spanish and don’t want to be Spanish and they only want to vote. They want to vote their independence and the result, the response of Spain can been seen in the images from the 1st of October (in 2017) we know, we saw what was the response of the Spanish government; it was a huge repression.
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