A Human Chain Towards Independence…Once Again?
24 years ago today, on 23 August 1989, approximately two million people joined hands to form a 600 km long human chain linking the three capitals of the Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – in their drive for the freedom they had lost 50 years earlier, when the Soviet Union occupied their territories after having gained agreement with Nazi Germany to divide Eastern Europe into “spheres of influence”.
The “Baltic Way”, as the human chain became to be known, is an impressive example of a peaceful claim for freedom and democracy. It has also been the inspiration for “The Catalan Way Towards Independence” which the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a civil society organisation committed to working towards the creation of a new Catalan state, is organising for 11 September 2013 – the same day that, 299 years ago, Catalonia lost its sovereignty and democratic institutions. The aim is to form a human chain of approximately 400 km starting in El Pertús (northern Catalonia), following the Catalan coastline on the ancient Roman Via Augusta all the way to Alcanar in southern Catalonia. But the ANC also wants to extend the “Catalan Way” beyond the borders, with the aim to reach Catalans and friends of Catalonia which are outside of the country and to make the world aware of what’s happening in Catalonia. It has therefore organised small scale human chains which take place between 1 August and 11 September in more than 80 cities worldwide.
After last year’s peaceful mass demonstration, which took 1.5 million people to the streets of Barcelona claiming for Catalonia’s independence, the “Catalan Way” initiative is the second mass participation event organised by the ANC. It responds to the growing disaffection between Catalonia and Spain. Pro-independence sentiment in Catalonia has grown significantly during the past few years, as the Catalan society, the longer the more, does not see fit anymore within the Spanish state. A clear turning point for getting to the current situation was the Constitutional Court’s ruling from June 2010 regarding Catalonia’s autonomy statute, which significantly trimmed Catalonia’s self-rule aspirations in areas such as language, justice and taxation. Other factors, such as the Spanish government’s reluctance to negotiate a new “fiscal pact” for Catalonia, the central government’s language policies aimed at undermining Catalonia’s successful “language immersion” model, and politicians and Spanish army members suggesting that the armed forces should consider invading Catalonia if it attempts to get its independence from the rest of Spain, only reinforce the trend towards a growing pro-independence movement in Catalonia.
On 11 September 2013, a little more than 24 years after the “Baltic Way”, the world will witness a new human chain. It might well help to pave the way for Catalonia to become a new independent state.
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