I’m on a plane back to Brussels from Barcelona at the moment, still digesting the amusingly polarised reaction to Friday’s announcement that the EU has won the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of the announcement was only heightened for me this weekend by the fact that, as the Nobel committee spoke of the achievement of the EU in keeping Europe together, I was in a country that may be about to tear itself apart.
Friday was Spanish National Day, but you wouldn’t have known it on the streets of Barcelona. The Catalans may have been happy to take the day off work, but they were clearly not in the mood to celebrate. There was no parade, no festivities and - most noticeably - not even any Spanish flags.
In fact the only way one would have known it was national day at all was that in the morning, the streets around Placa de Catalonia were filled with Police officers preparing for a planned march by secessionist demonstrators. Helicopters thundered above us, preparing for the possibility that the city would see a repeat of the massive secessionist demonstrations that took place on 11 September (Catalan National Day) that saw more than a million protestors flood the streets of Barcelona. However from what I saw, this time around the Catalans seemed to prefer ostentatious non-observance to demonstrations.
Though there were Catalan flags draped from nearly every window (perhaps left over from the 11 September celebrations), I did not see one Spanish flag except for those on government buildings.