By Alex Calvo
Faced with growing support for independence, some Loyalist voices have tried to embarrass the Catalan Government and parties by leaking information about the setting up of some of the institutions traditionally associated with a sovereign state. One such instance took place in late 2013, an attempt to prompt controversy by leaking an alleged report laying down the Catalan Government’s plans to set up its own intelligence agency. However, instead of prompting Catalan public opinion to take a step back, the incident seemed to facilitate a healthy, and very much necessary debate, on one of the key institutions of any sovereign state: its secret services. In an ironic twist of fate, what may well have been a fabricated document, brandished by a Loyalist lawmaker in a bid to attack the government’s plans to hold a self-determination referendum, fired back. The result was not a dent in majority support for independence. Instead, more and more people began to openly defend the setting up of a Catalan intelligence agency, with 89 percent of those taking part in an online poll supporting the setting up of Catalonia’s intelligence services.
1. Poll by newspaper ARA showed 89% of Catalans in favor of setting up intelligence services, 11% against.
“Enquesta: Catalunya ha de tenir una agència nacional de seguretat?”, Ara, 4 December 2013, available at http://www.ara.cat/politica/Catalunya-ha-agencia-nacional-seguretat_4_1041535837.html [page visited on 6 December 2013]
2. Catalan Joan Pujol, AKA “Garbo”, in the words of the UK’s MI5 often “described as the greatest double agent of the Second World War”.
“Agent Garbo”, website of MI5, available at https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/mi5-history/world-war-ii/agent-garbo.html
This is excellent news not just for Catalonia, but also for her future partners and allies, since it confirms that the (re)emergence of a new state in the heart of Europe will reinforce collective security. Whereas in the past, some Catalan voices, influenced by three centuries of oppression, may have appeared reluctant to build the full set of institutions that any responsible state deploys to protect its population and interests and those of partners and allies, this is fast giving way to a widespread pragmatic realism as the prospects for freedom loom larger in the horizon. It goes without saying that Europe cannot afford any void in such a strategically located territory, but fortunately it is becoming increasingly clear that Catalonia will be a serious, responsible, member of NATO. In technical words, a security provider, not a consumer. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), the EU’s third largest party and that of then NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, voted to include Catalan self-determination in its manifesto for the 2014 European Parliament election.
If Loyalists hoped that news, whether true or fabricated, of preparations for a Catalan intelligence agency would cause controversy and dent support for independence, they must have suffered a terrible shock. Catalan newspaper Ara (www.ara.cat) has launched an online poll, asking readers whether “Catalonia must have a national security agency”. At the time of writing, 3,196 people had answered, with 89% choosing yes and a mere 11% no. With those figures, there is not much more one needs to add. As one of the readers wrote in the comments section: “I would suggest another question: ‘should we collect garbage?’”. It is clear that freedom never comes free, and that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin.
Alex Calvo is an expert on Asian security and defense