Language Struggle

FRANKFURT (MAIN)/BARCELONA | | spanien

FRANKFURT (MAIN)/BARCELONA (Own report) - The Frankfurt Book Fair opened on Tuesday, October 9, amid protests against the organizers' decision to make "Catalan Culture" the guest of honor. Until now, Frankfurt has reserved this honor for sovereign states or groups of states. This year, Catalonia, an autonomous region seeking secession, is the focus of this event. Particularly resentment provoking is the selection of writers representing the "guest of honor". Only writers, cultivating the Catalan idiom - and not the Spanish language - are in attendance. This is strongly in the interests of the secessionist government, seeking to do away with the Spanish language in Catalonia, says the Barcelonian regional parliamentarian, Antonio Robles, in a discussion with german-foreign-policy.com. The attempt to turn the world's largest book fair into an instrument of separatist ventures is being met with sharp criticism. For years, Catalan separatists have been supported in Germany, particularly by the Green Party. But the present affair is of special importance, because the German foreign ministry is an official "partner" of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The selection of writers representing the "Catalan culture", this year's "guest of honor" at the Frankfurt Book Fair, is being met with criticism. Only a portion of Catalonia's literature is being written in the Catalan idiom. Numerous writers in that region prefer writing in Spanish. In spite of this, only those writing in Catalan are in Frankfurt. "We criticize the exclusion of that portion of Catalan culture that expresses itself in Spanish", declared Antonio Robles in his discussion with german-foreign-policy.com.[1] Robles is a parliamentarian representing the party "Ciudadanos - Partido de la Ciudadanía" in Catalonia's regional parliament. The party was founded two years ago and opposes the growing separatist tendencies in this northeastern region of Spain.

Referendum on Secession

Antonio Robles explains that the limitation to authors writing in Catalan, underlines the regional government's intent to "eliminate Spanish and make Catalan the only official language (in Catalonia)".[2] According to Robles the Catalan idiom is already dominant in the region's administrations and media. For the parliamentarian, this poses a serious threat to the survival of the Spanish nation. Focusing solely on Catalan, excludes all those who do not speak the regional language - many inhabitants of the region, as well as most Spaniards, living in the other parts of the country. Some members of the regional government want to hold a referendum in 2014 - on Catalonia's secession from Spain.

Linguistic Area

The initial reason given for choosing Catalonia as the book fair's "guest of honor", is the fact that an extraordinarily large number of publishing houses can be found in Northeastern Spain. The accompanying program presenting "Catalan Culture" in Frankfurt is organized not only by the government and publishing houses of the Catalan region. The regional governments of the Balearic Islands and of Andorra, as well as the city of Perpignan (France) are also included, "to breathe life into the culture of the entire Catalan-speaking area both in Frankfurt and throughout the rest of Germany," the organizers announced.[3] At the book fair, detailed maps are being distributed corresponding to the way proponents of a "Greater Catalonia" are planning to redraw the borders, with the objective of disintegrating the Spanish nation and atomizing Southern France, to create an ethnic Europe, as it had been propagated by the Nazis.

Courted

Governing parties of Catalonia are being courted in Germany, in spite of their clearly secessionist aims. The Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV, a partner in Barcelona's coalition government) and the German Green Party are organizing en event on October 11, with the participation of ICV President, Joan Saura, the Chairman of the Greens Reinhard Buetikofer as well as Ralf Fuecks, Executive Director of the, Green Party affiliated, Heinrich Boell Foundation. The Green Party is also cooperating with the ICV in the European Parliament. Both parties belong to the group "The Greens/European Free Alliance".

In Turkish

Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, vice president of the Catalan regional government, is in charge of the "guest of honor's" accompanying program in Frankfurt. He encountered strong protests, last weekend in Barcelona, when, on German television, he explained why Catalan authors writing in Spanish are excluded from the book fair. "If the German culture would be invited to a book fair, you wouldn't admit German writers who write in Turkish," declared Carod-Rovira, the Chairman of the separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC).[4] The ERC is also a member of the Greens "European Free Alliance".[5]

Contorting

Centrifugal economic forces are behind the Catalan secessionist trends. For some time now, saturated business circles of one of the richest regions of Spain, have been demanding autonomy, to avoid having to make compensatory payments to the Spanish central government. This nationalist milieu is contorting their financial interests by veiling them with cultural endowment, which is strengthened by nationalist intellectuals insisting upon their Catalan identity. Socialists are also participating in this secessionist campaign.

Transnational

Catalonia's special role within the Spanish nation is supported by a "regional partnership," initiated in 1987 by the German federal state of Baden Wuerttemberg and, in 1988, expanded to include two other regions. Since then, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Catalonia have been cooperating, within the"Four Motors for Europe" network, with the Northern Italian secessionist region of Lombardia and the Rhône-Alpes region in France. This transnational alliance strengthens Catalonia's autonomy at the expense of Madrid's influence.[6] New Spanish organizations, such as the party "Ciudadanos - Partido de la Ciudadanía," are opposing these centrifugal tendencies, promoted by the "Four Motors" and by this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. Referring to the separatists, who receive aid from Germany, Antonio Robles says in his discussion with german-foreign-policy.com: "They act like a state, without being a state; they restrict the rights of the majority of Catalans and have no solidarity with the rest of the Spaniards."[7]

Please read also the interview with Antonio Robles in Spanish or in German translation.

[1], [2] see also Wie ein Staat
[3] Ehrengast Katalanische Kultur; www.buchmesse.de
[4] Sprach-Nationalismus. Zum "Gastland katalanische Kultur" der Frankfurter Buchmesse; ZDF aspekte 05.10.2007
[5] see also Die neuen Grenzen Europas
[6] see also Los von Madrid, Speerspitze and Zukunft als Volk
[7] see also Wie ein Staat