Dear Burnet News Club members,
I am Paula Solanas, a journalist from Catalan newspaper ARA. Our newsroom is in Barcelona and I have been working here for almost three years. Actually, ARA is one of the youngest newspapers in Spain -it’s only seven years old-, but it’s already the third most read in Catalonia, as it has been reporting on the movement for independence of the region. Thank you for your interest in what is happening in Catalonia, I will do my best to answer your questions!
Do you think that the ‘illegal’ vote should have happened and do you think that Catalonians should have the right to do it?
From: Anime.raven#169 | Ravenscroft Primary School
You are right. The referendum for the independence of Catalonia held on October 1st was considered illegal by the Spanish government and the country’s Constitutional court. But this doesn’t mean that the referendum should have not happened. Catalonia has been trying for many years to talk the Spanish government into holding a referendum, just as Scotland asked the British government to do the same. Some people in Catalonia think that the region should be able to make more decisions on its own and decide whether it wants to be a part of Spain or not. There have been many meetings and big protests in the streets of Barcelona, but the answer from Madrid -the Spanish capital where the Prime Minister lives- has always been ‘NO’. The United Nations recognises that every nation is free to choose their own future, this reasoning is called the right to self-determination. This is why the Catalan government got tired of waiting for Spain’s support and decided to call the referendum that people had been waiting for years. The Parliament approved a special law for it, but the Spanish judges made it illegal. You might have seen images of the Spanish police hitting people while they went to vote on the referendum day and even pulling people by their hair. The use of violence should never be accepted and especially when people just want to express their thoughts in a peaceful way. The Spanish judges have also put some of the Catalan politicians and activists in jail that took part in the organisation of the referendum. Open-mindedness is a very important characteristic for any society and people should not be imprisoned because of their ideas, even if you don’t agree with them.
Do you think Catalan people should be able speak their own language? Do you think Catalan should be independent?
From: PogbaRaven#6 | Ravenscroft Primary School
Languages are a very important part of a nation’s identity. They can tell many stories about its past, its traditions and even the sense of humour of its citizens. So why should we not be able to use them? The Catalan language has been banned in Spain many times. For almost 40 years starting in 1939, Spain was run by a military dictator called Francisco Franco. He didn’t want anyone to speak Catalan at the schools, the government buildings or the television. But still some people would speak it at their homes because it was their mother tongue, so the language never died. However when Franco died and the country went back to democracy, everyone in Catalonia could speak and write in Spanish, but many people didn’t know how to speak or write in Catalan. This is why the government decided that all kids would learn both languages at school. Now it’s very common to hear conversations where one person asks a question in Spanish and the other answers in Catalan. And it works! For instance, in my family I speak Catalan to my father and Spanish to my mother and I believe being bilingual sparkled my curiosity to learn other languages like French, English or Arabic. Even if Catalonia would become independent, both Catalan and Spanish would be used in this hypothetical new country.
"Open-mindedness is a very important characteristic for any society and people should not be imprisoned because of their ideas, even if you don’t agree with them."
Paula Solanas, ARA Newspaper
How would the government change if Catalonia voted to leave Spain?
From: AgentKitty | St Peter's Primary School
There is a lot of scepticism about what would happen if Catalonia ever became an independent country. And the truth is that no one really has the answer. Some say that an independent Catalonia would have the same problems as Spain. Spain has a long list of scandals around corrupt politicians that take public money for their own benefit. It has also a problem with unemployment and since the economic crisis many people in the country don’t have a job. Many of these problematic issues also exist in Catalonia, even if it’s a quite wealthy region. This is why the government of Catalonia would also have a though time running an independent country. If Catalonia left Spain it would have to face some rough years for its economy, although it is likely that the country would be welcomed back in the EU. There wouldn’t be many advantages on the short term, but many say the country would improve in the medium and long run. As Catalonia is a wealthy region, it has had to contribute the most to the Spanish economy during the last years of the crisis. This also meant that Catalonia owed a lot more money and struggled to provide basic services for its own citizens in order to help Spain. In this case, an independent Catalonia would be able to decide how to use its own money and prioritize schools or hospitals.
Is a referendum the best way to collect our opinions?
From: Redfox | Streatham Wells Primary School
Usually citizens choose their local, regional or national governments every four years. As you know, then the politicians we elect decide on a lot of topics that affect our lives such as healthcare or housing. Anyhow there are more direct ways to participate in democracy like referendums that you don’t have to wait four years for. Some other ways to collect our opinions are even better than a referendum like participating in local assemblies or creating petitions that can later become laws. On the other hand, a big call like a referendum has a greater impact on the population and it might have a bigger chance to get many people involved. This can be a very useful tool when an important topic is dividing society between two different opinions and the government is not sure of what most people want. You should be aware that the most essential part of holding a referendum is that people have as much information as possible about both options. Storytelling is a very important part of this kind of vote, as each side wants to spread a message that will attract the most people. However this should never end up with people sharing information that is not true or creating confusion.
If Catalonia goes independent, will it compete as its own country in big sports competitions like the normal and winter Olympics?
From: Cocktail Inferno | Michael Faraday School
If Catalonia became independent and were recognised by the International Olympics Committee, it would be able to have its own team in the competitions. However Catalan sportswomen and sportsmen would still have their Spanish nationality, so they could choose to play for the Spanish team if they wish. The same thing would happen for other specific sports competitions such as the World Football Cup or the World Championship in Athletics. In fact, nowadays there are around twenty sports that already recognise the Catalan national team for international competitions such as indoor football, skating or karate. Catalonia has a long history in sports and the city of Barcelona was already the home of the 1992 Olympics. Actually in the last OIympics in Rio (Brazil) a third of the Spanish athletes competing were Catalan.