On Sept. 11, hundreds of thousands of Catalonians joined hands to form a 400 kilometer long living chain. Their purpose and their desire was profoundly understood by tens of millions of Europeans.
Their own independent state – a dream for centuries for the Irish, the Poles, Finns, Norwegians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and many other Europeans. They have all had to take the long and difficult Way to fulfill the dream of an independent state. The memory of their struggles for independence is sacred to these people – their fathers, grandfathers have dreamed and aspired, quite often sacrificing what is most precious – their lives.
So, deep in their hearts, millions of Europeans understand and support the Catalan aspiration for their own independent state. To them, Catalonians are not some sort of separatists. They are heroic people ceaselessly striving to fulfil their fathers’ and grandfathers’ dream – an independent state.
When Pope John Paul II returned to Poland in 1979, he was surely advocating freedom for his native homeland. For centuries countless emperors and dictators had tried to destroy and divide Poland. But the Polish people stubbornly and faithfully followed their dream of an independent state.
Finland, for centuries saddled by various empires, achieved independence in 1917, as did a year later also the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Later the Baltic states remained true to their dream in spite of long years of occupation, repression and mass deportation to Siberia.
The closest parallels to the situation between Catalonia and Spain might be the Nordic states – Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. This was not always so. Only comparatively recently – early in the 20th century – they were relatively impoverished nations. For several centuries Denmark and Sweden ruled over the peoples of Iceland and Norway. From time to time the Danes and Swedes would wrangle over Norway, trading and redividing it, until, in 1814, the Norwegians declared independence. Naturally their Swedish masters found this unacceptable at first, and dispatched an army to reestablish “order”. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and a truce was declared, in which Norway entered into a union with Sweden, while retaining its previously adopted constitution. This union held until 1905, when Norway became a fully independent state. Another northern European state, Iceland, small but proud, declared its independence in 1944.
The example of the Nordic states shows us that even in the recent past, powerful European kingdoms were able to recognize the independence of subject neighboring peoples, enabling them to become pround and wealthy states today. They are all now universally respected in international society. One of the reasons for their success is that their relations are no longer dominated by resentment, but rather by cooperation and friendly competition. They all learn and compete among themselves for better ideas, for better solutions to their problems. In difficult, trying times, they unite in mutual cooperation and assistence. Their example could be a wonderful road map for the future of Catalonia and Spain, profoundly understood not just by northern Europeans, but by all European nations and states. That is why the peoples of the Baltic states sympathetically support Catalonia’s dream of independence.
Some time ago, one of Europe’s most brilliant thinkers and most outstanding diplomats, Estonia’s president Lennart Meri wrote: “The diversity of Europe’s large and small cultures is the key to understanding Europe’s creativity. Europe’s mineral wealth is relatively insignificant, Europe has never been a garden in paradise. Europe is the creation of its people, and, one could add poetically, that Europe in gratitude has created the European people. The idea of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality could have been born in many places, but it could only have taken root first here, in Europe.”
Lennart Meri is no longer living, but his deeply held conviction stays true, that the freedom of nations, including the freedom of self-determination is at the foundation of the European ideal. Bureaucracy, laws complicated by design, fear of change must not be allowed to deny any nation its right to determine its own future. Catalonia must be allowed to decide its own future. Those nations of Europe that have achieved their dream of independence must not betray the ideals of their fathers and grandfathers today, when their brother Europeans – the Catalonians – are striving to realize the same ideals.
Therefore, as a Latvian I say that I will be a Catalonian until Catalonia is free and independent. I believe and I hope that millions of Irish, Poles, Finns, Lithuanians, Estonians and many others will be Catalonians likewise.
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