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THE EDITORIAL

The editorial: 'We must live up to this moment'

Catalan pro-independence parties lived up to the circumstances. The political process to set a date for a referendum on Catalan independence started on September 11th 2012 (Catalonia's National Day) and makes now a huge step forward. The Catalan government shared its leadership with the rest of political parties involved in this process, amid a truly democratic atmosphere. Now it is time for us to get united and live up to this moment

1. A historic decision. Pro-independence political leaders started writing a new episode in the history of Catalonia yesterday: they joined together and came to consensus on a question and a date for a referendum through which Catalan society will decide its political future, a decision that was also communicated to the Spanish government. This new episode has an essential objective, which is commonly shared: to make it possible for the Catalan people to decide on their political status, a matter supported by a wide majority of citizens. December 12th, 2013 will be regarded as the opening date of a process in which Catalanism's main goal has shifted: from trying to change Spain as a state to aiming to create a new state of its own.

2. In favour of democracy. This agreement between diverse political parties to hold a referendum represents a milestone in Catalan democracy and conveys a very clear message to the rest of the world. Catalonia introduces itself as a vital, mature society ready to mobilise and defend its interests and with a political class that has proven itself able to read the signs of the times. Anyone trying to analyse the events that have taken place for the last two years will see that this process has been profoundly democratic. The Spanish government showed its refusal from the beginning and civil society called for advanced elections in September 2012, sending a clear message to the new Catalan Parliament: the political parties need to agree on a future referendum that will permit Catalan citizens to decide for themselves. This is, for sure, a triumph of democracy.

3. Shared leadership. From the beginning, civil society has been-and still is-the driving force behind this Catalan political process, the foundation for uniting different people in this difficult yet exciting path. However, political leadership is needed to make progress in this challenge. The picture of the Catalan president, Artur Mas, together with the leaders of the Catalan political parties ERC, UDC, ICV-EU and CUP proves that the political class is able to reach a consensus and move forward. In about 48 hours, under the pressure of those who want to vote on a referendum-already rather disappointed and disoriented-an agreement was reached between political parties ranging from Christian democrats to the alternative left. This is a lesson we must all learn from. Everyone compromised, keeping a common objective in mind, a common leadership shared by political parties and social movements alike. Catalan political leaders have rightly understood that consensus and generosity are needed to face a national transition (just like in the historic Spanish Transition-from dictatorship to democracy- political, economic, and social ruling classes lived up to the moment). Now all actors must prove worthy of this moment and live up to the expectations raised by this great challenge.

4. A clear and inclusive question. A clear, inclusive question is the result of this shared spirit of leadership, a question supported by a wide consensus of political parties together with the main social platforms who have promoted the right to decide of the Catalan people. The question is divided into two parts: Do you want Catalonia to be a State? If yes, do you want this State to be independent? This format has made it possible for pro-independence parties and federalist parties to join forces and reach an agreement. Indeed, it has joined the forces of all those people who believe that Catalonia deserves to have the right to vote for its own political future.

5. Unexplainable Absences. Among the wide political and social unity that has made this agreement possible, and among the shared political leadership that could be seen yesterday, there was one important party missing. A political party that has been a significant part of Catalanism through all these years of democracy. Catalanism has been the large political core that for more than a century has strived to build a modern, democratic society, with the will to contribute part of its own singularity to the nation's unity. Yesterday's absence of the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC), which decided not to attend the meeting, is both a shame and very difficult to understand by many of their voters, members, and supporters, who from now on will have to make a decision that is not easy at all but at the same time unavoidable if they wish to join the democratic beat of the country.

6. The no-no bloc. The no-no bloc, politically represented by the Popular Party (PP) and Ciutadans (C's), greeted the agreement on the question and the date with a speech based on fear and criticism. The choice posed by the referendum will indeed be between yes or no. Therefore, it would be important and desirable that, instead of devoting their efforts to blocking the referendum, PP and C's explained and discussed their reasons for wishing to remain within the Spanish state, which is an absolutely legitimate option. What is not legitimate, though, is denying democracy. Nobody should fear exercising their right to vote, an exercise claimed by a wide majority of citizens in this case.

7. The Spanish state's response. The step forward made yesterday by a majority of 87 out of the 135 MPs that form the Catalan Parliament throws the ball into the Spanish state's court, to whom the request to agree on the referendum is addressed, and into the court of all Spanish politicians. This request enjoys wide support, is flawlessly crafted, and rests on a meticulously democratic foundation. Maintaining a staunch refusal to the Catalan proposal makes the Spanish government look bad, to both Catalan and European citizenry and to the rest of the world. To stick to a restrictive interpretation based on legalities will not solve the problem. Legal ways do exist for Catalonia to exercise its right to decide its future. Law serves the citizens, not vice versa.

8. The European challenge. Catalonia's future, whatever the results of the referendum, and however the process evolves, lies with Europe. The same broad majority that defends its right to decide, defends its European Union membership as well. Until now, the EU has kept a respectful neutrality towards the Catalan demands. Catalonia wants to decide if it becomes a new state of Europe and, when the time comes, Europe will have to decide if it wants a society with a long European tradition to integrate as a new state. In this regard, there's certainly a lot of work left to do.

9. It won't be easy. Neither the negotiation with the Spanish state, nor explaining Catalonia's will to Europe and the world, nor maintaining social cohesion-our most cherished treasure and a huge asset to the referendum process-nor setting in motion a process that has now begun with consensus around the date and question will be easy. As President Artur Mas said yesterday, a strong sense of country will be required, just like that which the pact's parties have shown in this first step.

10. Dignity and generosity. The historic chapter we are now starting demands rigor, concentration, determination, and generosity. And it demands, most of all, that Catalonia's people, its leaders, and the whole society live up to this moment. #Nowwewanttovote.

Riure, malgrat tot

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