Towards the end of last year, the Catalan language history magazine Sàpiens began sending copies of 'Catalonia Calling' – an illustrated book explaining the whys and wherefores of the current push for Catalan home rule – to thousands of people considered influential, from Kofi Annan to the manager of Manchester United. The thank-you letters came flooding in. Indeed, the project was going so well that one well-known, viscerally unionist Spanish journalist, José Antonio Zarzalejos, posted a blog entry praising the quality of the book and damning the Spanish government's sloth-like approach to such a successful internationalisation of the Catalan cause. Someone must waved Zarzalejo's blog under the nose of Mr García-Margallo, the Foreign Minister, because since then the Spanish diplomatic corps has been putting in an abundance of overtime: it immediately fired off thousands of letters denouncing the book as a pack of lies and urging its recipients to have nothing to do with it, to the extent that no less than three of Kofi Annan's secretaries asked Sàpiens to remove his thank-you letter from Facebook – and similar pleas have been sent by many other recipients. In Brussels, so much Spanish diplomatic pressure has been applied that one Catalan functionary in the European Commission complained recently that Catalonia now had virtually no potential allies in the EU. What's more, every time the Catalan president, Artur Mas, gives an interview to foreign media, the local Spanish ambassador vilifies Mas's supposed inaccuracies within the week. And it is the situation in Catalonia which has impelled Margallo to refuse to recognise Kosovo (thus backing Russia to the hilt) while fiercely defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine (thus criticising Russia in no uncertain terms). Such contradictions matter not a jot to Madrid: national unity at all costs, is the slogan being bellowed to the world round the clock by the Foreign Minister and his small army of diplomats. And if they can also arouse an anti-Catalan mood close to loathing by convincing said world that pro-independence Catalans are a bunch of economic egocentrics who invented a phony nation a couple of years ago just so they could take the money and run, then so much the better. All this frantic activity, of course, is simply whetting more and more Catalans' appetite for a state which will provide a buffer between them and such persistent animosity. Which is why the only thing that could really stop the November 9th referendum on independence, is the removal of the ballot boxes at gunpoint. But it won't come to that, surely?
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, abril de 2014