Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

Demonstrators, many waving Spanish and Catalan flags, rallied in Barcelona on Sunday to oppose a push by the regional government of Catalonia to break away from the rest of Spain. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2017
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Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

MADRID: Catalonia’s separatist government has again urged Spain’s central government to let it hold a legal referendum on independence like the one Scotland staged in 2014 with London’s approval.
“The government of Britain and Scotland agreed on a referendum,” the president of the regional Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, wrote in a letter published in daily newspaper El Pais.
“And everything indicates that Scotland and Britain will once again agree on the celebration of a new referendum on independence.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday demanded a new independence referendum by early 2019, once the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union are clearer.
She is widely expected to get the Scottish parliament’s support for her quest in a vote on Wednesday but still needs the agreement of the British government to proceed.
In Scotland’s 2014 plebiscite, 55 percent backed staying in the UK.
“The scenario of an agreed referendum is what we desire in Catalonia,” the Catalan leaders wrote in their letter.
“We would like to recall that we have proposed it on various occasions. Today, despite the bad omens and the outright rejection of the Spanish government, we once again insist on it.”
The government of Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain that has its own distinct language and is home to 7.5 million people, has since 2010 sought to hold an independence referendum.
But Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly ruled out giving the region a vote on independence, saying it would be illegal and against the constitution — a stance supported by the judiciary.
The Catalan government has vowed to hold an independence referendum by September — with or without the approval of the central government.
“We will do the unspeakable so that the citizens of Catalonia can vote in 2017 in an auto determination referendum,” Puigdemont and Junqueras wrote.
Demands for autonomy have been fueled by Spain’s economic downturn, leading many to resent sending tax money to Madrid to prop up poorer regions.
Recent attempts by Madrid to interfere with Catalan education have further stoked passions as did a 2010 ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court that struck down part of a 2006 autonomy statute that recognized Catalonia as a “nation” within Spain.
Opinion polls show Catalans are evenly divided on independence, although the vast majority back a referendum.


Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

Updated 18 June 2018
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Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

  • British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
  • Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”

GENEVA: Britain on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to reform its treatment of Israel, joining the United States in demanding an end to the body’s alleged bias against the Jewish State.
Addressing the opening of the 38th council session, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace, and unless things change we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.
Israel is the only country with a dedicated council item.
Washington, some European countries and Australia have sided with Israel in condemning Item 7 as prejudiced, noting that countries with arguably worse rights records in recent years, like Syria are spared such intense scrutiny.
While previous US administrations have criticized Item 7, President Donald Trump’s government has raised the prospect of withdrawing from the council unless it is scrapped.
Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”
Each council session includes an agenda item on so-called country specific situations, known as Agenda Item 4, where debates on the crises in Syria, Burundi and others typically take place.