The Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) is extremely popular in Germany thanks to the personal experiences of --among others-- writers such as media personality and author Hape Kerkeling, who wrote about it in his 2006 book. The Camino has also provided Angela Merkel with the iconic photo of her recent trip to Spain. There is a certain symbolism in the fact that, after a difficult trip in aid to a desperate Ukraine, Merkel --whose father was a Lutheran pastor-- went to pray before St. James the Apostle, a figure used in the olden days as a secret weapon to fight the infidel.
Actually, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wondered about why Germany supports Luis de Guindos as candidate to head the Eurogroup. In Germany, news programmes speculated about Vladimir Putin's true intentions and the impact of Russia's boycott on the nation's industry. They also worried about the events in France, where the German austerity "diktat" on Europe had toppled the government exactly the day before the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris by the allies. The cherry on the cake came when the latest IFO-Institut report warned that all of it was causing Germany's economy to slow down. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung used the word "deflation" to headline its economy section.
Amid all these problems, Germany seeks stability and tries to prevent new ones cropping up. Hence the support to the Spanish government. However, out of the new words of chancellor Merkel on Catalonia, we should focus on the last paragraph of the German government's transcript of her statement at the press conference, as journalist --and former Catalan government delegate in Berlin-- Martí Estruch has suggested: "with the restraint expected of a foreign prime minister when answering a question like that". From Catalonia we ought to regard Germany as a big player, with many interests in our country, who can have a decisive influence on the success of our national transition Process. In fact, it's interesting to notice how Germans sympathise with what is going on in Scotland, especially after Salmond's victory in the latest TV debate. The Tageszeitung actually spoke --somewhat maliciously-- of a future "Little Britain".
The reasons driving the cause of the Catalans must also be explained from the point of view of Germany's interests. The current situation in Spain might be purely cosmetic, as several analysts in central Europe believe that the necessary reforms haven't taken place and the mid-term economic outlook is negative. After the Lindau summit of experts, timely reported by this newspaper, the economic press spoke about specific recipes for Europe's South, which didn't conceal their preference for an economy based on flexibility and the creation of low-skill jobs with little added value and low salaries, eventually even outside the eurozone. This model conflicts with Catalonia's legitimate aspirations, but might prevail if nothing changes. Europe's woes about Spain's viability can't turn into an insurmountable hurdle for the future of Catalans. Rather, such concerns demand realistic, convincing solutions, proposed and designed from Catalonia, with an awareness of the costs inherent to any change but also of the risks of doing nothing.
In Germany, it is necessary to approach, converse, discuss and elicit the sympathy of the political representatives, civil society and the industrial, economic and financial circles who are in a position to influence and make decisions. This must be done discreetly, in German and bearing in mind the current state of affairs, with a view to creating synergies and mutual understandings. We must explain the reasons why Catalans wish to decide --peacefully and democratically-- on the issue of independence, considering the consequences, the actual risks and the contingency plans in every case. We must do this, at all times, as we draw up innovative future scenarios for Spain, ensuring that the country remains viable.
Victory won't come free. Catalonia can succeed if it truly wants to and acts with determination. Then Chancellor Merkel and Germany will no longer see Catalonia as a new problem but, rather, as a new path to the solution.