Catalonians independence call
By Mark Arnold-Forster.
The Spanish Government's claim the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 has lapsed means that Catalonia is once again an independent State, according to the exiled National Council of Catalonia. Under the treaty, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain «with all manner of right for ever» and incorporated Catalonia into Spain for a similarly indefinite period. Spain cannot have it both ways, the Catalans argue. Either Gibraltar is Spanish and Catalonia is free or Gibraltar is British and Catalonia Spanish.
Spain's eagerness to get Gibraltar back (after more than two and a half centuries) has proved so infectious that the United Nations' decolonisation committee has accepted the Spanish case that Spain signed the Treaty of Utrecht under duress at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Therefore, according to the Spanish case, the treaty no longer has validity in law, and is an historical anachronism.
In particular, say the Spaniards, there is Article 10 which states: «The Catholic king (Philip V) does hereby, for himself, his heirs, and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain, the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar together with the port, fortifications and and ports thereunto belonging: and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed abolsutely with all manner of right for ever...»
But also in particular, say the Catalans, there is Article 13: which reads: «whereas the Queen of Great Britain has continually pressed and insisted with the greatest earnestness that all the principality of Catalonia, of the principality of Catalonia, of what ever stae or condition they may be, should not only obtain a full an perpetual oblivion of all that was done in the late war (Catalonia had been on Britain's side), and enjoy the entire possession of all their estates and honours but should also have their ancient privileges preserved safe and untouched.»
The article 13 went on to say that in return for Philip's forgiveness, Spain could have Catalonia. Without delay Spain annexed Catalonia, enforced Castlian law, the Castlian language, and administered the province from Madrid.
The Catalans argue that if Article 10 has gone down the river of time (as the Spanish Government claims) then Article 13 has gone down the river too. So Catalonia ought to be free and is currently enduring an illegal occupation by the forces of yet another Bourbon. (Philip V was a Bourbon and so is Juan Carlos.)
The Treaty of Utrecht, which came in several controversial measure. (Part of it gave Britain the monopoly for 30 years of the Atlantic slave trade.) Although Britain has never repudiated the treaty and maintains that it is still as valid as ever, it was not at all popular at the time Bolingbroke, who had negotiated the treaty, was impeached for his pains and fled in disguise to France. The Catalans, meanwhile, had to learn Castilian.
«The Guardian» (London, 20.4.1977)
• Gibraltar i els catalans (Jordi Romaguera)