Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The beginning of the Independence of Catalonia

Should anything unite Spain and France, apart from their congenital culture of extermination, is that, in no time, will lose one of their last colonies.

With the independence of Catalonia, Catalans will cease to exist as a regional product, to integrate ourselves among the States of the European Union, and at the same time, the whole Continent will witness the dismantlement of this Franco-Spanish colonial remora that has nowadays nobody to grief of.

Nobody doubt it. This wave of polls unleashed after the pioneer gesture of the people of Arenys de Munt are not only a simple poll: they are the beginning of the Independence of Catalonia.

It must be why. It is normal to hear voices that minimize the effects derivable from the plebiscites among those who are eager to deride and despise the new political paradigm to which Spain and France will face. These are the tentatives by who wanted to perpetuate, eternally, the situation of political dependence and the economic looting to which Catalonia is object. Definitely, it is not the bombs but the ballot boxes what causes real concern to Spain and France. These two States, with their opposition to Catalan votes are the live portrait of antidemocracy.

When Catalunya Acció gave unconditional support to the heroes of Arenys de Munt, the pioneers of the polls, we knew that were giving support to men whose gesture incarnated the courage that is needed for a Nation to build itself. Because they were the gestures that regenerate politics and exemplify the essential winning mentality to start a secession process.

The times of political ambiguity, euphemisms, playing word games and snake enchanters are over. The plebiscites for independence will promote a clear positioning between those in favour of the "yes" and those in favour of the "no". Is there anything healthier than to know who is in favour of Catalonia and who is against it?

History of Catalonia will remember the names of their heroes and also their detractors. But nobody doubt about it, from the moment Catalonia recuperates its State, its people will build a monument dedicated to those men who, with their attitude and morale of victory, deserve to enter in the altar that every country's History reserves only to their National heroes.

At the moment, a place in Arenys de Munt needs to be reserved.

Albert Ubach
Member of Catalunya Acció

Friday, 13 November 2009

Armistice Day

Ninety-one years ago, November 11th 1918, in a train carriage in the Compiègne Forest, the Armistice between France and Germany was signed. Curiously, the place is not far from where the War had begun four years before. The signature of the Armistice meant the end of the hostilities in the Western Front and was signed by Marshall Foch, the Allied Commander-in-Chief, and Matthias Erzberger, representative for Germany.

The treaty observed the end of warfare in all remaining fronts at 11:00 hours of that day, hence the saying "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month", although the definitive peace between the Allies and Germany was not signed until a year later in Versailles, Paris. The Armistice established a monthly self-renewal clause unless Germany resumed hostilities, to which the Allies would respond in 48 hours.

Here is the account by Col. Gowenlock, who served as an intelligence officer for the US Army, and was at the front line that very same day.

"On the morning of November 11 I sat in my dugout in Le Gros Faux, which was again our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonel John Greely, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Peabody, our G-1. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message:

Official Radio from Paris - 6:01 A.M., Nov. 11, 1918. Marshal Foch to the Commander-in-Chief.

1. Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front beginning at 11 o'clock, November 11th (French hour).
2. The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at that hour on that date until further orders.

   5:45 A.M.    

Although Spain had remained neutral, there were Catalan volunteers fighting in the French Foreign Legion. The exact numbers are still uncertain. It had been speculated with figures between 10 and 20 thousand volunteers but following investigations by David Martinez i Fiol, who searched through Joan Soler i Pla's studies and French Foreign Legion archives, rather obscure and confusing, and concluded the real figure was 954 volunteers, including 48 Northern Catalans from Rosselló. Such discrepancy in the numbers would be caused by the Catalan nationalists willing to appear important, the conception that only anti-Catalan nationalists would negate the figures and the cruel death toll of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, which was especially increased in Spain. Martinez i Fiol sustains that a mix up in the figures of both, along with more political reasons, had originated the discrepancy.

However meagre the number of volunteers might seem, the political repercussion within Catalonia was very notable. Important nationalist political figures of the time, Domènec Martí i Julià and Antoni Rovira i Virgili, among others, considered that Catalonia ought to have independent political relationships with the rest of the world to become independent from Spain. Even Francesc Cambó, leader of the "Lliga Catalanista" gave this cause some support, quickly withdrawn after taking possession of a Ministry in Madrid. Also, the French victory at the Battle of the Marne, 1914, which stopped the German advance in Europe, leaded by the Northern Catalan Marshal Josep(h) Joffre, made the Allied cause very popular among Catalans from the South of the border.

To help Catalan Volunteers in the Front, it was created the "Comitè de Germanor dels Voluntaris Catalans", supporting committees for the Catalan volunteers in the trenches. They even minted the "medal to the Catalan Volunteers", to be given to Catalan survivors of the War. Several Catalan politicians gave them support, but the death of J. Ferrés-Costa and Camil Campanyà during the Battle of the Somme, in 1916, the two more popular members of the contingent, frustrated the creation of a solid link among the soldiers and the politicians. The disturbances of the General Strike in Spain, the fall of the Unió Catalanista, the suspension of the Courts by Dato, the death of Martí i Julià and the Russian Revolution, all in 1917, decreased the popular support to the Volunteers too. The Russian Revolution caused the French High Command to be sceptical about the political aspirations of the Catalans, considering they were revolutionaries.

One of the Catalan personalties that took a significant support for the Allies was Francesc Macià. He covered the Battle of Verdun, late 1916, for the newspaper "La Publicidad" and gave the readers a very graphical description of the causes of the conflict, life in the trenches, and the destruction caused by the war. The months that Macià spent in France had great impact in his future political thought, strengthening his nationalism. The future Catalan President, and who proclaimed the Catalan Republic independent from Spain in 1931, returned to Catalonia certainly radicalised from what he had seen in France. Just a few years later, in 1922, Macià created Estat Català, the organization in which modern Catalan support for independence is based on.

In order to never forget who has given their lives in defence of democracy and freedom for Catalonia, to recognise the significance of a war that caused around 15 million dead and 21 million wounded, let this article be a small homage from Catalunya Acció to all who gave everything in "the war to end all wars".

Jordi Margalef i Turull
Catalunya Acció UK

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Treaty of the Pyrenees; 350th anniversary of the partition of Catalonia between Spain and France

The Treaty of the Pyrenees -or Peace of the Pyrenees- was signed on November 7, 1659, by the representatives of Philippe IV of Castile and III of Aragon, Luis de Haro and Pedro Coloma, and the representatives of Luis XIV of France, Cardinal Mazzarin and Hugues de Lionne, on the Pheasants Island (Bidasoa River, at the limits of the Northern Basque country), and ended the conflict of the Thirty Years War.  One of the consequences of this Treaty was the transfer of the county of Rousillon and part of the Cerdanya to France.

Philip IV negotiated this Treaty without consultation to the Catalan Court nor the affected.  In fact, he hid it from them, and did not officially inform Catalan institutions until the Courts in 1702.  The affected territories conspired for years to reunite again with the Principality, and the Catalan authorities resisted to accept partition, that was not effective until 1720.

The Catalan territory was divided against the will of the Catalan institutions, against the Oath for the Islands, from which the territories of the former Kingdom of Majorca could not be separated from the territories of the Crown of Aragon, by the will of the Hispanic monarchy to hand over the territories of the North of Catalonia in exchange for keeping the possessions in Flanders.  Differently from Gibraltar or Minorca, handed over to England in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, not one Spanish government has reclaimed the devolution of the Northern Catalan territories handed over in the Treaty of the Pyrenees.  Usually this Treaty is considered a part of the Treaties of Westphalia, from which it is considered a consequence.


France entered the Thirty Years War after the Spanish victories against the revolted Dutch, in 1620, and against the Swedish at Nördlingen in 1634.  In 1640, France started interfering in the Spanish politics, positioning in favour of Catalonia during the Reaper's War, while Spain gave them support during the Fronde in 1648.  In the negotiations of the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, France won the territories of the Alsace and Lorena and cut the access of Spain to Holland from Austria.  This caused the War between Spain and France.  After 10 years, France –allied to England- won the battle of the Dunes, in 1658, and peace was signed in 1659.

The negotiations

During the negotiations to delimit the border, Luis de Haro, Philip IV's representative, tried to preserve the counties of the Rousillon and Cerdanya for the Crown.  French negotiators presented a line for the border very favourable to their interests, while the Castilian representatives, ignoring the characteristics and customs of these territories and the illegality of the separation -Oath for the Islands-, preferred to defend the positions in Flanders before keeping territorial unity in The Principality.
The fact that the skilful negotiators chosen by Louis XIV, Cardinal Jules Mazzarin,  Pèire de Marca, Plessis de Besançon and Ramon Trobat had great knowledge of the land and history of Catalonia, unlike the negotiators chosen by the Spanish monarch, while holding the talks behind the Catalan government backs, had a very negative influence in the results of the Treaty for Spain. Mazzarin defended, as indicates in a letter still kept, speaking about Monts, “j'ay fait expliquer que ce sont ceux qui separent de toutte ancianneté des Gaules d'avec les Espagnes”, “… the Pyrenees separated the Gaul from Spain since ancient times”, skilful historical vaguish that fed Spanish vanity, keen on building her own History, but that created to successive problems of definition that had to be resolved in successive Treaties.

The Treaty that established that, from the County of Cerdanya, thirty-three towns had to be handed over to France. These were defined in 1660, at the Conference of Ceret and at the definitive Treaty of Llívia, under which the new border between the territories of the two crowns was drawn and were the Philip IV’s representatives got to retain Llívia with the argument that it was a “village” and not a “town” –see the note about Llívia and the extract of the text.

In total, French crown won the territories of the County of Rosselló –that included the Vallespir, Conflent and Capcir- and half of the Cerdanya; Artois, Luxembourg and Flanders. The border with the Spanish crown was fixed following the Pyrenees only in part, except the “village” of Llívia. If the line of the Pyrenees had to be followed, by the Corberes, all the Northern Catalonia had not passed to France. In return, the French returned the Charolais and the conquests of Italy to Spain.

The Treaty previewed the marriage between Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter to Philip IV of Castile. Maria Theresa had to renounce to her successor rights to the Spanish throne, in exchange for an economical compensation that had to form part of the dowry. This compensation was never paid and was one of the factors that concluded in the Spanish Succession War, 1702.

Consequences to Catalonia

Catalonia was a very important piece in the chequer of the international politics since the Reaper’s War. She has demonstrated largely her capacity to destabilize Spanish monarchy. Catalonia had the disgrace to be the hinge between the two great powers of the time.

The territories of the Northern Catalonia annexed to France with the Treaty (Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir, half Cerdanya and Capcir) have reminded under French dominie since then.

The Treaty included to preserve all Catalan institutions Northern from the Pyrenees, but this part was not respected by the French King Louis XIV –the simple-. A year later from the signature, Catalan institutions were dissolved –Generalitat, consulates, etc- despite the Treaty said to conserve them.

A Royal Decree, on April 2nd 1700, to be applied from May 1st of that year, prohibited the use of Catalan language in official acts of any kind. From then, French is still the only official language and the only one that is being used in the public education. Recently, France has modified her Constitution, including in the 2nd article “la langue de la République est le français”, the language of the Republic is French. This article is often used to negate grants or to refuse the presence of the Catalan language in the bureaucracy.

After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, there are the following years of war: 1667-68, 1673-78, 1680-84, 1689-97. In all those periods, the Treaty of the Pyrenees has no effect. The very Cerdanya passed from one hand to the other in numerous occasions. There, the Church border did not coincide with the real border until 1802. Thirty-three towns of French Cerdanya still belonged to the Bishop of Urgell.

The nearest weekend to November 7th has become, every year, the date chosen for Catalans to demonstrate in Perpinyà, in favour of Catalonia and the Catalan language.


“Having convened within the negotiation that began in Madrid in 1656, about the foundation of which is this Treaty, that the Pyrenees mountains, that commonly have always been held by division between the Spains and the Gauls, were from here and always the division of the same kingdoms too”.

Article 42:

“Has been convened and accorded that the Mr King Chr will remain possessing and will effectively enjoy all the County and vegueries of the Roussillon, and the County and vegueria of Conflent, and that to Mr Catholic King has to remain the County of Cerdanya and all the Principality of Cataloina […]; well understood that if there were places of such County of Conflent only, not Roussillon, that would be found to be within such mount Pyrenees, in the Spanish part, would remain to the Catholic Majesty; as well as if there are places and the vegueria of Cerdanya only, that would be within said mountains, will remain to Majesty chris”.


Èrika Serna i Coba, "Aproximació a l'estudi del Tractat dels Pirineus: les conferències de Figueres (1660-1666)", Annals de l'Institut d'Estudis Empordanesos, 21 (1988), 111-134.

External links

El Tractat dels Pirineus al Museu d'Història de Catalunya
El Tractat dels Pirineus a El Talp.
La duana de Sant Lllorenç de la Muga i el Tractat dels Pirineus article de Marià Baig.
(francès) Text complet del Tractat transcripció dels arxius nacionals de França (en PDF)
Carta Europea de les Llengües Regionals o Minoritàries
Resolució del Parlament Europeu de 30 d'octubre de 1987 sobre les llengües i cultures de les minories regionals i ètniques de la Comunitat Europea

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