A postcard from… Valladolid

It seems that this idea is catching on, as Liberal Democrat Voice has received its first unsolicited postcard. So, without further ado…

It is generally assumed that the Mediterranean countries do not have a strong liberal, democratic strand to their politics. Indeed, the two members of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) Group in the European Parliament are the nationalist parties of two Regions, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (Catalonia) and Partido Nacionalista Vasco (the Basque Country).

However, there are liberal democrats in Spanish politics, awaiting discovery by the European liberal family, and the failure to engage with them has been to the advantage of the nationalists. Ironically, they represent the only nationalist parties within ALDE.

Why ironically? ALDE should end such a contradiction, because nationalism travels in the opposite direction to the universalism of liberal democracy. Indeed, the leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has described nationalism as being ‘the ruin of Europe’. And yet the ALDE website includes Catalonia as though it were an independent country, an insult to those Catalans who do not support an independent Catalonia. What is more, the nationalists campaign for preferential fiscal treatment, running contrary to ALDE policy which calls for greater fiscal integration across Europe.

Nationalism is egotistical in all its variants, so there is no reason to include such political parties in ALDE, especially when Spain’s fourth largest political party, a genuinely liberal, democratic force in the nation’s politics, is excluded by the presence of those nationalists.

That party is Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), a party that fights for a third way in Spain, for federalism in Europe, against egoism and nationalism of the States, that puts the citizen and his personal development at the centre of its political programme. I hope to see Spanish liberal democrats working together with ALDE soon for a better Europe, a more united Europe.

Rubén Arbaizar is a law student at the University of Valladolid, Spain, and a member of UPyD (Union, Progress, and Democracy).

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12 Comments

  • Al Williams 14th Feb '12 - 2:14pm

    I think this is a bit of a strident and unjustified attack on small-nation nationalism.

    Historically you cannot disassociate liberalism and nationalism, and it is distinctly unwise to allow national identity to become the preserve of the hard right. Furthermore it is very easy for a people who have long enjoyed their own nation-state (having once been very successful nationalists themselves, often at the expense of smaller ethnic and linguistic groups within their borders) to label those strive for recognition and self-determination as ‘egotistical’.

    It’s also flagrantly dishonest to label all nationalisms as intrinsically isolationist and egotistical: in Britain nationalist parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru look to become independent members of a more united Europe, working on equal terms with their larger neighbours.

  • Richard Swales 14th Feb '12 - 6:08pm

    Does this UPyD accept the right of Basques and Catalans to become independent from Madrid if a majority in those places want it and vote for it in a referendum? Does it accept Gibraltarians’ right to reject rule from Madrid?

    If not then we should have nothing to do with it.

  • Oranjepan, there is indeed a problem in trying to find a mutually acceptable settlement for larger and smaller nations within a broader union. How does one balance the need for serious leadership from larger nations with the rights of smaller nations not to be coerced?

    I’m not quite sure I understand you with regards to language – surely language can often be critical to national identity, and can be the entire basis of a culture. Language can be the cause of significant cultural differences, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. On the contrary, I’d say it’s something to welcome – as is a common knowledge of a few major languages (e.g. English and French) so as to ease communication within a diverse Europe.

    I’ m with Richard on this party – internationalism, federalism, and universal values are all good things, but nationalism does not have to be contrary to these values.

  • Al Williams 15th Feb '12 - 3:48pm

    Oranjepan, that’s a fine idea, only I’m not optimistic: LittleEnglandism may well prove to be our undoing.

  • Ruben Arbaizar 15th Feb '12 - 11:36pm

    Nationalism is contrary to liberal democrat standards because it main objective is the nation. I am not saying nations don´t exist, i am saying nationalism consider that the citizen is supedeted to the “destiny” of the nation, to mantain the “real values and will” of the nation, when is the people who has created the nation, so it is the nation who has to be supedetted to the people. It is not about recognize or not nations, it is not about languages, it is about perspective. A nationalist put first in order the nation, when that´s not truth, it is the people who create the nations, that are not estatics, they change, and change in the direction people´s will. If people would say in the past: “ey, let mantain our nation just how it is now”, we would not have right now actual nations, cause they would never be built. In my opinion, nationalism even is against benefit of the nation, because it doesn´t make that nation continue developing. The idea of nationalisms nowdays in Europe goes in the opposite direction to the unification of Europe, that means make bigger the vital opportunities of the people, and not contract them, like nationalism, in fact, do.

  • Richard Swales 16th Feb '12 - 12:11pm

    @Ruben. This is true, but it’s equally a kind of nationalism to say Gibraltar and the Basque country should be ruled from Madrid (or that Scotland should be ruled from London).

  • Ruben Arbaizar 16th Feb '12 - 1:58pm

    I believe in federalism. And i understand federalism in that way: The aspects that affect directly to, for example, basque country, has to be managed by basque institutions democratically chosen by basques. The aspects that affect directly to all spanish people, has to be managed by institutions chosen democratically by spanish. The aspects that affect to all europeans, has to be managed by european institutions, chosen democratically. Regions, states or any other territory DOESN´T HAVE righits, and don´t decide anything. Decisions are taken by citizens, so it is not madrid or vitoria or brussels who decide anything, are basques, spanish, or europeans citizens who decide. About Gibraltar, my personal opiinion is that i don´t care if gibraltarians has spanish or british citizenship, i just care about one thing: That alegating democracy, they pervert it to be in an unfair position ruling in unloyal competence aspects of, for example, fiscality. In my opinion it is ok that Gibraltar is a part of United Kingdom, but as an autonomous region. If me as european have same rights in Gibraltar than in London, for me it would be perfect tgat Gibraltar is UK. But i don´t want a “fiscal paradise” next to me alegating in a false way democracy.

  • Richard Swales 18th Feb '12 - 10:06am

    @Ruben – Ok, but who decides if the Basques are part of “all Spanish people” or not, the Basques or all Spanish people? The Spanish government also has a notoriuosly wide definition of what matters affect all Spanish people, for example running court cases about whether or not Commonwealth citizens should be allowed to vote in the UK.

    I have a certain amount of sympathy with your position on Gibraltar as a tax haven from the point of view of Business to Consumer VAT, but other than that there are lots of places in the EU with lower tax rates than Spain and you need to make sure you have the right rules (e.g. transfer-pricing) to make sure you don’t lose revenue regardless of Gibraltar.

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