Spotlight Populism

Script writer needed

Nationalisms in Spain – powerful, bloody till recently and one of the most complex issues for the central government.

People gather with „estelada“ or pro-independence flags Foto: ap

Southern European countries are struggling to cope with painfull consequences brought by recession and the euro crisis and, one of them, Spain, has got to deal also with another issue: domestic nationalisms. As deep rooted historic phenomena Basque and Catalonian nationalisms are there for good. It is worthwhile reading the essay “España invertebrada“ written by the thinker José Ortega y Gasset in 1920; he maintains that, historically, when the central power has endorsed challenging and ambitious plans for the whole country Basques and Catalunians have made their best of it.

Partly, as the expression of the social malaise caused by the crisis, there is a new party in Spain, a left leaning one, called Podemos, which has dramatically eroded the electoral performance of the Socialist Party ( PSOE ).

So much so that PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or Spanish Socialist Workers Party) has got the smallest number of deputies ever in the Spanish Parliament in two consecutive general elections. In the political wrangling that followed PSOE has seen its Secretary General being sacked and the majority of its deputies abstaining in parliament enabling the conservative Partido Popular, the party that won the elections, to form a minority government.

PODEMOS smothered its political stance around European issues as the two election campaigns developed. Although the economic criteria set by Brussels has been at the center of bitter debates, against all odds, Spain has not seen the rise of any far right, anti- European party.

In December 2016 the European Academy Berlin invited 20 journalists from Southern Europe to visit Berlin. taz was part of their official tour programme. The meeting quickly turned into a talk about our shared need for international cooperation, aiming to find a media counterbalance to current crises in Europe. To start with, we decided on a question that concerns us all: How will we survive populism in Europe?

But we do have an anti- European, anti-system party, it is called CUP or Candidatura de Unidad Popular (Candidature of Popular Unity) that has come to the forefront of Catalonian politics with the latest bid for Independence launched by its regional Government.

CUP would propose leaving both the EU and NATO in case Catalunya would secede from Spain. The Catalonian Autonomic Government needs CUP because it lacks the necessary parliamentary backing to pass laws, among them next years’ budgetary law.

The most deeply disturbing fact in the current maneuver of the Catalonian government in its bid for independence is the following: in the last Catalonian general elections held in September 2015, the percentage of votes that went to pro-independence parties was 47,7% while parties that are not for secession got 51,7%. Parliamentary arithmetics enabled the formation of a minority pro-independece government whose external life-line is the mentioned CUP.

The Catalonian Government is committed to make what it takes to form a new state, or so it says. Questions related to the finances of the Autonomic Communities are at stake in the Catalonian issue. The Catalonian Autonomic Government, or Generalitat, pleads for changes in the finance system that deems detrimental for them. Seemingly, any such change would require a reform of the 1978 Constitution. Neither sheer denial from Madrid nor unilateral secessionist moves from Barcelona are going to be useful. Dialogue would have to prevail.

Auf Einladung der Europäischen Akademie Berlin besuchten 20 JournalistInnen aus Südeuropa im Dezember 2016 Berlin und die taz. Schnell wurde deutlich, wie groß das gemeinsame Bedürfnis nach internationalen Kooperationen ist, einem Medien-Gegengewicht zu den aktuellen Krisen in Europa. Wir haben uns zum Auftakt für eine Frage entschieden, die uns alle gleichermaßen umtreibt: Wie überleben wir den Populismus in Europa?

The issue is thorny and requires lots of energy and political intelligence to solve it. The central government headed by the conservative Mariano Rajoy would have to turn necessity into virtue to tackle it.

Unlike what is happening in Catalunya with the mainstream nationalists, the Basque Nationalist Party, PNV, having won elections although not with the necessary lead to form a government of its own, has chosen the Basque Socialist Party as the coalition partner. The two parties, with different ideological mindsets, sharing power has been seen as an encouraging event; an opposite example to feud- politics.

As Ortega y Gasset would say for Spain, there can be said for the EU, it is necessary to, carefully, listen to partners, to be aware of their expectations and dreams, thus, to be able to make proposals, bold enough, to seduce them to play a role that nobody else could play instead. The play would be the United States of Europe. An outstanding script writer is needed.

Ana Aizpiri is journalist for the main channels of Basque Radio and Television. Specialist on Arab and Islamic affairs; studied in Egypt and at the School of Translators of Toledo.

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Journalists from Southern Europe reflect on populism

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