In English Voices From Spain

Tales and Accounting – Part I: Oriol Junqueras

Excerpts from the book: “Las cuentas y los cuentos de la independencia”. Josep Borrell e Joan Llorach. Ed Catarata. 2015 


“How Oriol Junqueras and Artur Mas state their arguments in support of independence”


Ever since took over as ERC leader, Junqueras has worked with resolve and determination to turn Catalan political discourse towards a lifelong goal of his: Catalonia’s independence. To achieve that, according to his own explanations, he uses three types of arguments:

-The economic argument: the fiscal pillage that Catalonia suffers.

-The political argument: Catalonia’s right to self-determination.

-The exemplarity argument: ERC’s public management record, and his own as a mayor.

Regarding the economy, he has widely shared his certainty that Catalonia could enjoy a standard of living like that of Scandinavian countries, but fiscal pillaging by the Spanish state prevents it: “Economic crisis deprives us of many resources […] but Spanish administrations deprive us of a much larger quantity”. [18]

[…] Mr. Junqueras is one of the original creators of that mythical €16billion figure that “Spain steals from us”, and of the no-less mythical belief that Spain substracts from Catalonia half of all the taxes paid by Catalans: “More than half of the taxes we pay go to the Spanish state never to return in any form whatsoever”. [20]

[…] To illustrate the sheer magnitude of the “pillage”, Junqueras translates it to daily life references of pillaged citizens, such as their mortgages, unemployment levels or budget cuts: “Each one of us gifts the Spanish state €3,000 every year. […] Two million pesetas per average Catalan family, that we have been giving them for 23 years make a total of 46 million pesetas. ¿How much does an apartment cost in your town? You could have probably paid for an apartment with such amount. People who may still be paying their mortgage wouldn’t have to do it”. [22]

“The price we pay for [the pillage] is 840,000 unemployed people. […] how many more unemployed do we need until it’s enough? 1,000,000? We will soon reach that milestone”. [23]

In December of that same year, in a debate on RAC1 radio, Mr. Junqueras assumed that such additional resources would be available immediately: “We would have an additional €16 billion every year […] that’s four times more money than all of the budget cuts made by the Generalitat […] it is that easy!”. [24]

[…] With this special sense for arithmetic, Junqueras does some calculations that let him tell one of his favorite tales: that without the economic suffocation that the “pillage” entails, Catalonia would have doubled its standard of living every 10 years for the last 26 years: “If 8% of our GDP didn’t go missing from our country every year, we would double it every 10 years, every 10 years we would be twice as rich”. And this pillage is not a recent phenomenon, according to Mr. Junqueras, it’s been ongoing for a quarter of a century. “At a minimum, it’s been going on since 1986. Since the fiscal reform driven by Treasury Secretary Josep Borrell. Hence, it’s been going on for 26 years. We would have increased our GDP almost fourfold”. [25]

He tells the story with such enthusiasm as to give the impression that he truly believes it. In truth, he falls short, because he’s not too good with compound interest: If we doubled our wealth every 10 years, with that same 8% growth rate, after 26 years we would be 6.84 times richer. If Catalonia had become independent 26 years ago, it’s per-capita GDP would be $204.394 per year. More than twice that of Qatar and more than four times that of Germany. And even if we were “just” almost 4 times richer, Catalonia would also be the richest country in the world.

[…] But despite his emphasis in the great cost that Catalonia bears for being a part of Spain, his personal motivation for independence is not the increased prosperity of an eventually independent Catalonia. As we saw in that quote in the introductory chapter (pag 12), even if being a part of Spain were beneficial for Catalonia, he would still yearn for independence “as a matter of dignity”: “Even if the Spanish state were the most democratic, the most prosperous, the fairest and friendliest in the world, I would still call for independence as a matter of dignity”. [13]

And it has been like that since his childhood; his pro-independence position is not the result or economic or political factors: “I have been pro-independence all my life and I didn’t need an economic crisis to arrive at these views […], when I was seven years old I went polling door to door in my town. I was convinced that most of them supported independence just like myself”. [26]

Junqueras holds a master’s degree in History, but he tells it self-servingly, like when he states that half of the EU member states did not exist before the Second World War. This imprecision has cost him a few calls to order. [27]

He has written several works on Catalan History. He’s a coauthor of the book Sovereign Proclamations in Catalonia (1640-1939), in which he wrote a preface titled “When will we learn?”. The last paragraph reads: “Since then, we Catalans have been making an effort to be Spaniards. Time and time again, we swallow the promises that everything will finally change. And we keep falling for it hook, line and sinker. They take us for a ride and we have to provide the car. And to top it all off, we’re the ones paying up at the tollbooth”. [28]

Belief and emotion in favor of independence are indeed clear in Junqueras. Felt and practiced since childhood and reinforced by his work as a historian. For Junqueras, the fitting of Catalonia in Spain is neither feasible nor desirable. And he doesn’t need a fiscal pillage to take place or the Constitutional Court sentence from 2010 or any other consideration.

But he knows that there are many Catalans do not share such staunch views. That’s why he pounces hard on economic arguments. As he admits “The economic argument […] allowed us to convince a lot of people”. [29]

[…] It doesn’t matter. For Junqueras, Catalonia has a right to secession because that is a natural and universal right accepted worldwide.

[…] This certainty hasn’t been undermined by official statements from all EU authorities warning that Catalonia, Scotland or any new state that arose in Europe, would have to apply for EU membership, since they would not be members automatically.

[…] Junqueras also sees no reason why foreign investments in Catalonia would be affected, or the resettling of multinationals that serve the whole Spanish market from Catalonia.

The following quote showcases how persuaded he is about this, although it doesn’t provide any arguments other than the strength of his own certainty: “I am not worried about an eventual flight of companies. I would worry if I thought it could happen. But since I am convinced it won’t happen, and that the opposite will take place ¿how could I worry? I insist, markets are global”. [33]

[…] Regarding the third argument, exemplarity, Junqueras highlights his willingness to integrate people through affection towards citizens. Bonds are created with them and a national community is build, as well as a free country: “The best argument we have is day-to-day example, our commitment, our effort […] a fondness for people is more important than being pro-independence, […] if you love them enough, they will feel loved, they will want what you want and they will be willing to make a free country with you”. [34]

[…Sometimes he embellishes his arguments with facts about his sound management that are not true.

We finish this annotated tour through his way of thinking with an example taken from one of his favorite topics, improvements to education and equal opportunity in San Vicenç [Were he was mayor -TN]: “The key for Sant Vicenç and for the country lies in education. For example, last year we had 3% of high school extraordinary achievement awards […] with 28,000 inhabitants we have a percentage that would correspond to 225,000 people” (225,000 is 3% of Catalonia’s population). [37]

Impressed with such an outstanding result, we tried to fact-check it. Junqueras made those remarks in 2014. The list of high school award winners is published in the Regional Official Register. In the last five years, from 2009 to 20014, according to the Generalitat website, none of the winners had studied in a Sant Vicenç high school.

[…] It seems that Mr. Junqueras tells what he needs, more concerned with desire and imagination than with arithmetic rigor. He states arguments with conviction and aplomb, sometimes abusing of his listeners’ lack of knowledge, that are not true. They are just tales. Whether it is about macroeconomic figures, growth rates, compared constitutional law or the reality that is closer to him and than he should be better acquainted with.

[13]. Acto ERC, Breda, 20 de septiembre de 2013

[14]. ERC conferencia nacional

[15]. 8TV

[16]. Acto ERC

[17]. Conferència Espoli i Crisi

[18]. RAC1

[25]. Conferència Espoli i Crisi

[26]. RAC1

[27]. Ignacio martínez de Pisón: “La historia, señor Junqueras”, La Vanguardia

[28]. Les proclames de Soberanía de Catalunya, Farrell Editors, Barcelona, 2009.

[29]. Acto ANC

[30]. La Sexta

[31]. Acto ANC

[32]. Dinar d’Emprenedors amb oriol Junqueras AIJECTV

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