In English Voices From Spain

Why we’ll leave Catalonia

Published originally in Spanish. Marco Hulsewe. Expansión

The damage inflicted upon the Catalan civil society and its economy will be long-lasting. Society is completely fractured and a perception of risk has been cast among investors.

For these reasons we are certain that in time we, and many like us, will leave Catalonia. We want to live in freedom.

It is in a distant 1995 that I arrived in Barcelona, like so many other expats. Hired by a German transnational company, after a period of training in the US, the Netherlands and Germany, I was relocated in Spain.

Personally, it was the realization of a dream, as the son of an Asturian mother and Dutch father, finally being able to work in Spain and moreover, Barcelona. A city that was recently propelled into world stardom after the best Olympic Games in history.  Spain was admired in the rest of Europe, the best example of the blessings of European integration.

I studied at one of the world’s leading business schools, IESE, and married a violinist from Bilbao. We are now a family with three wonderful daughters. It’s with sweat and perseverance that I have built my company dedicated to corporate finance, with more and more work in the international stage. What more can a person wish for?

October 4th, 2017. We gathered with a few parents of my daughters’ school: a lawyer, an engineer, a banker and the manager of a Catalan wine cellar. The topic of conversation: we are considering leaving Barcelona. If the current situation continues, we’ll leave. I’m no longer on speaking terms with my father-in-law. I had an argument with my neighbor after removing an Ómnium Cultural’s poster, he insulted me for not being Catalan. What happened?

On September 6th, a slow-motion coup d’état began in the Parlament de Catalunya. This definition was devised by a journalist from one of the leading newspapers in the Netherlands. On October 1st, we saw for the first time a police force, the Mossos, not comply with the unambiguous orders from a judge to restore the Rule of Law in the region, based on the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy.

Those of us who have had the vital experience of having worked in countries like Germany or Croatia, coupled with knowledge of their history, are aware of democracy’s fragility. We know that democracy is nourished by the respect for one’s neighbor and sharing of common values ​​and tales.

These days, the future of Spain and even membership in the European Union, is at play. This may sound pretentious, but in Yugoslavia in 1988, where I visited in that spectacular summer, few thought that a conflict that was about to erupt would affect its existence.

Although the alleged coup d’état cannot be consummated in its entirety, the damage to Catalan civil society and its economy will last. Catalonia’s society is fractured and the perception of investment risk has emerged. It is the culmination of a feina ben feta (a work well done) by Jordi Pujol’s team and his Catalunya 2000 program of nation-building, described in a Periódico de Cataluña’s article, dated October 28th, 1990. It is, in essence, a strategic plan for the creation of a national identity founded on the Catalan superiority story, grievances on the part of Spain, control of civil society through the cause’s acolytes and purging of dissenters via civil death.

I had not learned of any of this until my daughters started to attend school. I learned that in Barcelona, ​​where 70% of the population is Spanish speaking, Spanish is prohibited in the classroom until the age of 6, and then for no more than 2 hours a week. It’s the EU’s single case where one cannot learn in the country’s official language. I also learned that academic failure among Spanish speakers is twice as much as Catalan speakers’, figures that are hidden from public opinion. Of course, the leaders and acolytes of nationalism take their children to the Italian, German or French school in a sublime act of incoherence.

Books are something else. All neuro-linguistic programming focuses on making Catalonia the center of the world, manipulating history, and when mentioning Spain, it is usually done in a derogatory form or dismissing it by referring to it as ‘Estat’ (‘the State’) rather than Spain. Incidentally, I discovered that 90% of the executive positions in the public and semi-public sector are for Catalan speakers with a nationalist profile, breeding a sense of Catalan apartheid.

Adding insult to injury, in the business world I am familiar with, I know of too many cases of corruption involving Catalan authorities, regardless of the industry, from IT to construction. All of this corruption, unchallenged by great silence. The omertà. The paterfamilias of an excessive kleptocracy was able to cast its vote on October 1st quietly. How come the CUP has never protested this in front of his home?

This August, a foreign national from the Netherlands had the audacity to request at the press conference after the terrible attack in Barcelona that shocked all Europe, that the Mossos’ director of the spoke in Spanish so that the international press could understand what was briefed. The policeman did not concede and the journalist left – that’s the moment Trapero pronounced his famous phrase ‘Well, then molt bé, goodbye’. The following days he was praised by the Catalan press as a hero and the journalist infamously condemned by the people. The fact that the journalist had traveled from another country, explicitly to report a terrible attack, did not matter.

In 2012, when the well-known Procés de la Independencia began (no, I do not mean Kafka’s Der Process) a group of Catalan entrepreneurs asked me to do a presentation on the subject. Since I was barely familiar with the subject, I read dozens of studies and articles on the impact of independence movements, border effects, European Union outings, etc. I made a speech that, in essence, conveyed independence as a genuine, economic disaster. It’s like a Ferrari, if you have enough money and you can afford it, it’s a very expensive hobby; if not, it can ruin you. My presentation had no impact on the vast majority of them. Five years later, many of these businessmen are joyful after casting their vote on October 1st and expect a march to paradise.

The Catalan kleptocracy is delighted. After 30 years of being looted, the working class supported by vertical unions and pro-independence entrepreneurs, are now excited to throw themselves off the cliff. Nobody talks about corruption, nor that the report Pisa Catalonia is just behind Portugal, nor that in the index of competitiveness of the European regions, Catalonia is among the lowest ranked, aligned with the regions of the southern Italy. All this does not matter. What could be more important than the Nació?

This is why we are certain, and many like us, that in time, we will leave Catalonia. We want to live in freedom, we are tired of nationalist supremacy, we are tired of being treated as guests. The world is very big and life is too short to waste time here.

‘Well, then molt bé, goodbye’


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