Christmas is a unique time of the year. You understand it right when you spend these festive days in a European city. Each country has its own traditions and is a good time to travel to different parts of the old continent. The cities are decorated with every Christmas details the human mind has captured, while we are full of emotions.
December 25th is the most Christmas day and is surrounded by great religiousness. Both family and social or religious customs imposed by the time can lead you a step closer to God, to a festive meal, to a song, and a variety of other commonplace activities for some places. With the sound of the festive bells ringing in our ears, we will travel to the European countries with the most interesting Christmas customs.
The customs of Netherlands
The great Christmas enthusiasm of the Dutch revolves around Santa Claus and…
The ousted Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has called on the Spanish government to respect the result of the region’s snap election.
Speaking in Brussels, where he’s been living in self-imposed exile to avoid sedition charges, he urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to immediately start unconditional talks on implementing the “clear will of the Catalan people.” “I’m ready to meet Rajoy in Brussels or anywhere else in Europe, but not in Spain for obvious reasons,” he said. “We have to talk about the new political era that’s beginning in Catalonia, in Spain and across Europe. And that must be a step marked by political solutions.
“We’ve at least won the right to be heard,” he said, adding that he was open to returning to Spain if guarantees were given that he could take his position as head of a potential new Catalan government. Currently he faces the prospect of arrest for his role in organising the banned referendum.
Puigdemont went on to say the situation called for “rectification, reparation and restitution.”
This is deplorable and the power crazy Spanish Government need to be held accountable.
A legally and democratically elected Government of Catalonia, responded to the wishes of those who voted them into power and held a referendum on the question of Catalonia becoming independent of Spain. The Spanish Government decided that to hold a referendum was against the Spanish constitution and therefore called the referendum illegal. But the elected Catalonian Government went ahead with the referendum. The Spanish Government appeared to request the Justice of Spain to decide whether the referendum was illegal and the Court came down in favour of the Spanish Government. The Catalonian Government still went ahead and the Spanish Government with the backing of the Spanish legal system called in the Spanish police to use all their powers and apparently more to stop the referendum proceeding. While major disruption was caused a sizeable number of persons did come out to vote and there was a substantial support for Independence from Spain to go ahead.
Eventually the Catalonian Government did declare independence and the Spanish Government then created arrest warrants for the Members of the Catalonian Government and the majority of the Catalonian Government were arrested and are still held in captivity.
The Catalonian President went to Brussels to obtain the support of the EU, which he did not receive. The Spanish Government did create an European Arrest Warrant but they now seem to have withdrawn this.
Now they are plundering artifacts from a Catalonian Museum, are the Spanish Government endeavouring to humiliate the population of Catalonia for their apparent defiance against the Spanish Government.
Is this truly how a democratic country should proceed.
Surely, why could not the Spanish Government have allowed the Catalonian referendum to proceed and if they had all would now be fully aware how the majority in Catalonia had wished to go forward.
Unfortunately common sense is not prevailing just a jockeying for showing a semblance of power.
On Monday, Spain’s militarized police looted 44 art pieces from the Museum of Lleida, where the latest chapter of a long legal dispute over the works between Aragón and Catalonia has been playing out.
The operation, which was orchestrated by the Spanish government, began in the dead of the night and ended at 2 pm. Hundreds of Spanish and Catalan police officers cordoned off numerous streets to prevent large protests in the area. Officers and art specialists from Spain loaded the 44 pieces of art onto a moving van. The Director of the Museum said that the specialists could have damaged some of the pieces due to the speed of the packing. A crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters unsuccessfully attempted to halt the operation on numerous occasions. A few incidents were reported in nearby streets when the protesters tried to break the police barrage. The Catalan police responded by…
Germans, Danes and Belgians pay the most for their electricity in Europe, followed by households on the Iberian peninsula, according to data from Eurostat.
In Germany and Denmark 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity costs on average €30.5, compared with prices as low as €6.60 in Serbia. One kilowatt hour is about enough to watch TV for around 3 hours or to run a washing machine for one cycle.
When the figures are adjusted to take into account different spending power across the countries, Germany retains the top spot although Portugal climbs into second place.
On Saturday, over a million Catalans marched in Barcelona to call for the release of the Catalan political prisoners recently imprisoned by Spain. The demonstration was given the name of “National Day for Liberty,” aiming for the same level of attendance and international impact as the yearly celebrations for Catalonia’s September 11th National Day. The demonstration filled more than three kilometers (almost 2 miles) of one of the Catalan capital’s main thoroughfares. Almost a thousand buses loaded with independentists from across the country headed to the protest in Barcelona.
At the front of the demonstration, a banner held by family members of the Catalan political prisoners and the organizers read, “Freedom for political prisoners, we are the Republic.” Attendance exceeded the expectations of the organizers, which delayed the beginning of the protest by an hour. The march lasted for 3 hours before arriving at the intersection with Avenida Icària, where…
Catalonia’s problems demand political debate, not jail
Eight former ministers of the ousted Catalonian government are in prison,awaiting charges of sedition and rebellion. A European arrest warrant has been issued for the apprehension of former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, now holed up in Brussels.
For supporters of the government, such strong-arm tactics in response to Catalonia’s declaration of independence is a necessary defence of the rule of law. For supporters of Catalan independence, it is a mortal attack on democracy. In reality, both sides have reduced democracy and law to hollow shells.
The actions of the Catalan government were contrary to the provisions of the Spanish constitution but the issue cannot be reduced to legal formalism. What is being played out in Catalonia is a confrontation over political legitimacy. Whatever the legal issues, it can only be resolved at a political level.
The problem with the actions of the Catalan government is that they were undemocratic. Polls have consistently shown that only a minority of Catalans support independence; over the past three years, support has remained at 40-45%. A slightly higher percentage, but still a minority, oppose independence. Catalonia is split down the middle.
The action of the Catalan government in declaring independence was, at best, foolish. Its reason – that 90% of voters backed independence in last month’s referendum – ignores that fact that only 43% had been able to, or willing to, take part. The parliamentary vote on independence was pushed through in a late-night session that most of the opposition boycotted. Independence was less about respecting democracy than about political machinations.
Puigdemont, having declared independence, promptly fled to Brussels. Rather than face up to the consequences of his actions or engage in a political debate inside Spain, he simply vacated the arena. He seemed more interested in making high-stakes gestures than in furthering democracy.
But if the actions of the Catalan government are hardly those of politicians respecting democracy, those of the Madrid government are equally unpalatable. From police brutality in response to the referendum, to the imprisoning of democratically elected politicians, Madrid has sought to address the political issues raised by the question of Catalan independence through force and coercion.
While only a minority of Catalans support independence, there is mounting disaffection with rule from Madrid. The numbers backing secession have nearly doubled since 2010. Under a third want to maintain the status quo. It is not just in Catalonia that there exists such disaffection with central government. Harsh austerity policies, soaring unemployment and a sense of mainstream institutions deaf to people’s needs have stoked popular grievances throughout Spain. The irony is that Catalonia is its richest region and anger often takes the form of resentment at “bailing out” the rest of Spain.
Whatever the roots of the anger, it needs to be addressed, which Madrid has failed to do. In imprisoning politicians, Madrid is effectively criminalising political dissent. The “rule of law” has become a cloak for a refusal to engage in a political debate in socially fragmented Spain. Democracy and the rule of law depend upon political legitimacy. That is what neither side possesses.
An update, Catalan President Puigdemont and four members of his government have now handed themselves into the Belgium Police. A judge by tomorrow will decide if the European Arrest Warrants issued by the Spanish courts earlier this week , will be abided by.
On Thursday, a judge from Spain’s National Court, Carmen Lamela, sent 8 members of the Catalan government to jail for rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds without any evidence. As expected, the attorney general had requested their immediate imprisonment without bail and the judge approved.
Carmen Lamela is the same judge who had already sent to prison the civil rights leaders, Cuixart and Sànchez, two weeks ago, for sedition.
In her order, Judge Lamela said that the imprisonment, pending trial of the 8 Catalan leaders was “appropriate, reasonable and proportional.” She based her decision on their flight risk, taking into account the “spending power of the accused which would allow them to abandon the territory”. She also mentioned that other ministers and Catalonia’s President Puigdemont had already abandoned the country to prevent a trial in Spain.
In fact, she describes the government of Catalonia as…
The country’s MP for Lapland Mikko Karna has said that he intends to submit a motion to the Finnish parliament recognising the new fledgling country.
Mr Karna, who is part of the ruling Centre Party, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, also sent his congratulations to Catalonia after the regional parliament voted earlier today on breaking away from the rest of Spain.
Should Finland officially recognise the new state of Catalonia this will be yet another body blow to the the EU which has firmly backed the continuation of a unified Spain under the control of Madrid.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned today that “cracks” were appearing in the bloc due to the seismic events in Catalonia that were causing ruptures through the bloc.
He said that the EU would continue to only speak with Spain.
Mr Juncker spoke in favour of unity. He said: “I do not want a situation where, tomorrow, the European Union is made up of 95 different states. We need to avoid splits, because we already have enough splits and fractures and we do not need any more.”
If Finland recognised Catalonia then this would make a mockery of the EU’s refusal to acknowledge the region’s new status.
A statement from the European Union on October 2 read: “Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal.
“For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.
“We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.
“Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.
“We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue.
“Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”
Argentina could also formally recognise the Republic of Catalonia and reject the intervention of the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who has moved to implement Article 155 which will permit Madrid to take over control of the semi-autonomous region.
Socialist Left Argentine MP Juan Carlos Giordano, who represents Buenos Aires Province said that he would present a bill in parliament for the South American country to recognise Catalonia.
The Scottish Government has also sent a message of support, saying that Catalonia “must have” the ability to determine their own future.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “We understand and respect the position of the Catalan government.
“While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future.
“Today’s Declaration of Independence came about only after repeated calls for dialogue were refused.
“Now, more than ever, the priority of all those who consider themselves friends and allies of Spain should be to encourage a process of dialogue to find a way forward that respects democracy and the rule of law.
“The imposition of direct rule cannot be the solution and should be of concern to democrats everywhere.
“The European Union has a political and moral responsibility to support dialogue to identify how the situation can be resolved peacefully and democratically.”
It comes as Britain, France, Germany and the United States backed Madrid.
Downing Street said Britain will not recognise the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence from Spain.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said the declaration was based on a vote which had been declared illegal and that the UK wanted to see the unity of Spain preserved.
The spokesman said: “The UK does not and will not recognise the unilateral declaration of independence made by the Catalan regional parliament.
“It is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts. We continue to want to see the rule of law upheld, the Spanish constitution respected, and Spanish unity preserved.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he was fully supportive of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, regarding the crisis taking place in Catalonia.
With Basques, Bretons, Bavarians and many more eyeing the outcome of events, could this be the moment to formalise various levels of autonomy?
The EU countries may be right that Catalonia is legally a matter of Spanish constitutional law. But they should also be frightened. Catalonia is Europe’s problem.
The imprisonment on remand of eight Catalan politicians, on blatantly political charges, and the Belgian asylum sought by its president, appears to be an engineered confrontation.
Two days ago, the Madrid government reneged on an agreement that it would not suspend the Barcelona government if it did not declare independence and agreed to new local elections next month. Madrid then proceeded with suspension, and Catalonia duly proceeded with declaration – though with no mention of implementation. Madrid immediately arrested those Catalan politicians (and officials) it could find, on charges of rebellion and treason.
So far, so absurd. No poll has yet delivered a clear majority of Catalans for independence. Barcelona has proceeded within accepted democratic norms and without recourse to violence – unlike Madrid in the government’s efforts to stop the recent referendum.
Never in the long and far bloodier fight of the Basques for independence was the Basque leadership ever imprisoned. Catalonia now faces an election next month with the prospect of its entire independence leadership in prison.
Catalonia is being watched, with varying degrees of intensity, by Basques, Bretons, Flemings, Scots, Bavarians, Silesians, Ukrainians, Transylvanians, Venetians, Corsicans and others. Its struggle resonates among increasingly nationalist Poles, Bohemians, Hungarians and Greeks, across Europe’s patchwork of regional sensitivities and long-harboured grievances. Old feuds are rekindled and jealousies revived. Hypocritical Britain cannot talk. It long opposed Irish separatism and denied devolution to Scotland and Wales, while it sent soldiers to aid the break-up of Yugoslavia.
It is hopeless to seek recourse from these woes in statute books and legal niceties. Self-determination has been the essence of Europe’s stability since Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point programme for Europe’s future in 1917. How such determination is defined may be moot: what of the self-determination of Spaniards against that of Catalans? But it is in Europe’s interest to seek that definition, to formulate protocols whereby separatism can be resolved into grades of autonomy. European statehood has long been a “vale of tiers”.
Since the EU itself is inherently centralist, it makes sense for the Council of Europe, the 47-nation organisation which deals with democracy and human rights across the European continent, to undertake such a task, urgently. The EU has worked itself into a political straitjacket, such that few of its member nations would dare hold a referendum on continued membership. This cannot be healthy for the EU or for Europe. The rising tide of identity politics is now the greatest threat to Europe’s free development. Catalonia is not a little local difficulty. It is an awful warning.
Carles Puigdemont says he’ll cooperate with Belgian courts
Ousted Catalan president, accused of sedition over independence campaign, brands Spanish authorities ‘extremely barbaric.’
Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said Friday he would cooperate with the Belgian justice system but could not get a fair trial in Spain, which issued an international warrant for his arrest.
In his first interview since he arrived in Brussels on Monday, Puigdemont also condemned the Spanish authorities as “extremely barbaric” and said he was ready to stand in the December 21 Catalan election called by the central government, which took direct control of Catalonia after the region’s parliament declared independence last week.
“All of us who led this process have to be committed to this cause, especially if there is even the smallest chance that we can all move forward together,” he told Belgian public television station RTBF.
A years-long power struggle between pro-independence leaders in the northeastern region and the Spanish government came to a head last month, when the Catalan administration organized a referendum on secession that had been ruled illegal by Spain’s constitutional court. Madrid deployed police in an effort to stop people taking part in the plebiscite.
Puigdemont declared that his administration, sacked by Madrid as part of its direct-rule measures, remained “the legitimate government of Catalonia.” He said he could campaign in the election from Belgium as “we live in a globalized world.”
The 54-year-old Puigdemont traveled to Belgium on the same that day Spain’s attorney general announced he had been charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds over the regional government’s independence drive.
Puigdemont insisted he had not fled the country but simply traveled to the capital of the European Union to draw global attention to the Catalan crisis. However, he said there was no guarantee of a fair trial back in Spain, where a judge issued an international warrant for his arrest on Friday after he failed to heed a court summons.
“I will not flee from justice. I will go towards justice, but real justice,” Puigdemont said. “I’ve told my lawyers to tell the Belgian justice system that I’m completely available to cooperate.”
“It’s obvious it’s politicized,” Puigdemont said of the Spanish justice system. “The guarantees are not there for a fair, independent trial,” he declared, saying there was “enormous influence of politics over the judiciary in Spain.”
As evidence for his assertion, Puigdemont cited the fact that eight members of his government had been sent to jail pending trial, without the possibility of bail. He said they had been given less than 24 hours’ notice to appear in court and their lawyers had been given only the same amount of time to familiarize themselves with the charges.
“It’s not normal to have the leaders of cultural and pacifist citizens’ groups in prison,” he said. “It’s not normal that all of us risk 30 years in prison — 30 years! — for having kept our commitment to the voters … It’s something extremely barbaric. You can’t talk about democracy if you have to play according to those rules.”
Nevertheless, Puigdemont said he was open to dialogue with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“Mariano Rajoy has never put dialogue first, “he said. “He has used the police, violence … to get what he wanted. He should try using politics instead.”
Asked if he would request asylum, Puigdemont replied: “I’m not here to ask for political asylum in Belgium, I’m here to defend a legitimate government.”