Remember a few years ago, when Estonia started allowing people and companies register as e-citizens, allowing them to have a digital base in the European Union? I always thought of it, without knowing much about it, as a way to attract companies to low rates of tax, or maybe a way to allow companies to have an EU headquarter or office in paper to comply with EU legislation. I never thought much about it afterwards, to be honest.
Well, quite unexpectedly this was all brought back to me. Following the uncompromising stance of Spain towards Catalan independence, its heavy repression of activities such as consulting its own people in a referendum or debating the issue, and the imprisonment of elected politicians that ensued, a new way to interact freely with citizens became necessary
if any truly democratic activity was to take place, especially in relation to self-government, consulting the citizenship and creating independent state structures, all areas that Spain tends to interfere with. It is in this context that IT technologies such as the blockchain have started to be mentioned as part of new Catalan government initiatives, as they offer solutions to our oppressive present situation. Blockchain, in particular, brings something that is needed: a free medium difficult to tamper with by central state control.
Being much cheaper than physical storage of data, a new state such as Estonia, that had just become independent from the Soviet Union, was able to create all the previously inexistent infrastructure needed by a modern state by using the digital medium exclusively, even when the financial resources available for this rebuild task were scarce. Nowadays Estonia runs its citizen register, voting, tax, benefits, health, passport, housing, banking and public transport systems using only a simple identification method involving a digital chip card together with username and password authentication. One government interface gives universal access to all the services, with an ultra secure, encrypted and de-centralised data storage network that ensures that data is available, secure and transparent. Citizens feel comfortable with this system and trust it.
Just a few days ago, the answers that blockchain technology offered ceased to be a distant promise and became real. Catalan exiled president, Carles Puigdemont, together with Toni Comín, Quim Torra and Pere Aragonès, set up a new official Catalan government body called the Consell per la República. By definition, this is an advisory body setup in order to design, promote and ultimately make real the Catalan Republic, based on the mandate obtained from last year’s Catalan independence referendum and the ensuing Catalan elections in which the pro-independence block obtained the majority of votes and parliamentary seats.
Without wanting to get too technical, let me tell you that this body has an Assembly of Representatives that is elected by everyone that registers with the organisation. Who is allowed to join the organisation? Everyone – this is currently being promoted online and in stalls in villages, towns and cities around Catalunya by volunteers. And this is where the link with technology comes in: it’s all done digitally, online. And a card that uses the same technology as the Estonian citizen ID system is sent to everyone that registers, after an ID verification is done and an admin fee is paid.
What does this government body, the Consell per la República, look like? To me it looks like a mini-parliament and government, with structures for citizen registration and participation, and it seems designed to serve both purposes: as an inclusive advisory body
that discusses how to create a new state, and as a precursor of the structures that, given the right conditions, will be needed when independence takes place, so that the new state can pay employees, collect taxes, and pay pensions, for example. No one wants a jump into the unknown with nothing in place. From my point of view, everything should have been thought of when independence is declared, so that the individual and collective disruption is minimised to as close as possible to nothing.
What is the cost of this? If you are over 16 you need to make a one off payment of 10€ (with the possibility of defering the payment) to cover costs, which is relatively cheap–some people on Twitter have compared it to the price of a takeaway pizza–, and it’s free for under 16s. A digital ID card will be sent, which will be increasingly used as a personalised card to use in public transport, to vote, etc. Interestingly, any payment above the minimum 10€ is considered an investment in shares
Then, the setup process also involves adhering to a set of shared values that I quote:
- “The right of self-determination of peoples.”
- “Peace and non violence as our only way.”
- “Respect and will to talk to all democratic options.”
- “Individual and collective linguistic rights.”
- “People’s empowering in all aspects and at all phases of decision making and collective managing.”
- “Cooperative and collaborative work between citizens, institutions and public and social stakeholders.”
- “No discrimination against, equal opportunities, dignity of people and the defence of an inclusive society.”
- “Sustainability and social, economic and environmental justice.”
- “Contributing to building a Republic for everyone with freedom as a main aim, specifically civil, political and social rights.”
- “A self-demanding spirit, aspiring to excellence, rigour and good work.”
And the best part of all of this, in my opinion, is that all of you can be part of it. If you have a connection with Catalonia –whether you are Catalan, your family or your partner is Catalan, your work or business has a link, or you have a strong affinity for the culture, the place and its people, or maybe you have no connection at all but you would like to have a digital presence that would allow you to access what the new Catalan Republic will have to offer to you, your business or your organisation–, in whichever case, you can now register with the Consell per la República and help us make it a reality.
Please join us, invest in us. It will be an exciting journey, I promise.