Nationalist poison? A letter to president Jean-Claude Juncker

Catalan MonitorArticles

Toni Strubell i Trueta


When you received your Honoris Causa degree by the University of Salamanca last 11N, some observers were impressed to hear you talking about “nationalist poison” in your speech. It’s a harmful thing, you said, that hinders European unity. You spoke of it in harsh terms. Quite agree.

In view of recent events, though, I have had to pinch myself into assuming that this comment, uttered in the presence of your steady partner Mariano Rajoy, was actually directed at us Catalans in correspondence -no doubt- for the Spanish honours that have recently been heaped upon you. We could pretend not to have noticed it and move on. But it is obvious that the reasons that lead you to mistreat Catalonia -publicly and periodically- have wider implications that we cannot overlook, not to mention the ominous  fact that your Honoris Causa was bestowed upon you in the very university hall where in 1936 general Millan Astray made his infamous call “Long live death!”, a lethal motto that spoke of the Franco regime’s darkest intentions. Yet the current Spanish Government, with whom you have such an excellent understanding, has never condemned it. Many Catalans could say, as did Unamuno in 1936, “you shall overcome, but you will fail to convince”. To this day. What was that you said about Nationalist poison, President?

To start with these implications, then, I do believe that your use of the term “nationalist poison” may arise enshrouded in a haze of relative bad conscience. We cannot forget that when you came to the presidency of the Commission, a special interest was shown to conceal parts of your own family history. Over and above the fact that your father had fought in Hitler’s army in the war –forcibly enrolled, undoubtedly– more shockingly, that your father-in-law was a prominent Nazi leader in Luxembourg. Whatever the case, there can be little doubt that you are fully acquainted with this “nationalist poison” that you now want to accuse us of.

What you have clearly not been well informed about, on the other hand, is that Catalan nationalism has always been characterized by its European, liberal, anti-authoritarian and clearly democratic nature. We are light years away from the poisoned nationalism that you mention. Would this not explain the fact that the Nazis were the first to congratulate Franco when he occupied Lleida in 1938, suppressing all Catalan institutions of self-government. Undeniable proof, I think, of our lasting rejection -now and always- from that more poisonous nationalism.

Leaving episodes in the 1940s to one side, I suggest you show more care, president, if you want to insinuate that Catalans are carriers of this “nationalist poison” today. If you do, do not be surprised that many Catalans could recall your own particular history as a politician in Luxembourg. Was not the Luxleaks case involving the fiscal favour that your administration dispensed on three hundred and forty multinational companies (with a remarkably anti-European spirit, by the way) a sign of this “poison”? Is there no poison in the 141-page report on the activities of the Luxembourg-based secret service that you ran, whereby files were illegally kept on 300.000 Luxembourgers? Was it not an episode that led to your resignation as prime minister. Is there no “poison” in all this, Mr. Juncker?

That you should want to give lessons of morality and “European spirit” to the citizens of one of the EU’s most pro-European nations is frankly laughable. Certainly, by supporting Rajoy in denying our most basic democratic rights –was this not all part of an agreement made in 2014 president?- what you are doing is to prop up a regime that has clearly nationalistic, demophobic and, indeed, “poisonous” behaviors, not too far removed from those of Turkey’s Erdogan with whom you have been so very much more critical.

Let’s face it. When chumming up with corrupt Mr Rajoy, are you not turning a blind eye on the methods of a government that carried out multiple aggressions to peaceful voters on October 1st? Are you not applauding a regime that has deprived Catalans of having their own government, that applies a gag law on society to its own sectarian advantage, that scoffs at the division of powers and that even goes as far as to paralyze the investigation of Franco’s mass graves? Are you not siding with a regime that has repeatedly failed to condemn the Franco dictatorship and generously funds the Francisco Franco Foundation? What would the citizens of Luxembourg say if their government financed a hypothetical Camille Dennemeyer Foundation today? Seen in this light, maybe you can understand the indignation that your position causes amongst so many Catalans. Indeed, are you quite sure that all this issue will not end up having repercussions in the courts of Strasbourg or The Hague?

No, president Juncker. The Catalans are not a “nationalist poison”. It is unworthy that you should have hinted so albeit it in compensation to Rajoy for having been so instrumental in your election as President of the Commission in 2014. Your accusation is in no way soothed by the knowledge that is not motivated by true European values but rather by the interests of the club of states, multinational corporations and elites that are the true commanders of the discredited Brussels institutions that you nominally preside over.

In conclusion, let us speak of the many Catalans that hope that one not too distant day, the Commission will be chaired by leaders capable of protecting democracy and ensuring the values of a People’s Europe that should inspire it. We need leaders who are not married to partisan, speculative and “poisonous” interests as has been the case under your presidency during which the Catalans have unjustifiably been barred from occupying the place they deserve within democratic Europe