Barbarously, Borrell will go on and on and on

22 February was the 80th anniversary of the death of one of Spain’s great poets, Antonio Machado, who died in Collioure, just across the border with France, as he fled from Franco’s troops at the end of the Spanish civil war. Throughout the past week, Machado was very much on the mind and lips of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the EU and Cooperation, Josep Borrell, but his quotations of the literary giant were the only beautiful words he produced. Borrell’s language, while often full of symbolism, lacks grace. Josep Borrell i Fontellas has no filter.

Nevertheless, he is proud of his work. He posts his simple propaganda, car crash interviews, ill-conceived reflections, inappropriate outbursts and abysmal metaphors with unfailing self-satisfaction, an embarrassing feat made possible by his paid sycophants and the oblivion afforded him by his montruously swollen ego.

This Narcissus of ours
Can’t see his face in the mirror
Because he has become the mirror.

Proverbs and Songs VI – Antonio Machado

In his mirror he sees a luminary, a sage, above and beyond mere mortals, but most importantly for the oneness of Spain, he is against his fellow Catalans. On the topic of Catalonia, home and away, he is one of those “pompous and melancholy men, drunk with black shadows” that Machado meets in “I Have Walked Down Many Roads”.

Appearing on 20 February on Bloomberg US, Borrell was interviewed about Brexit, Spain’s role in the EU, EU-US trade and Catalonia. True to form, he had particular problems with the female interviewer’s accent and ungraciously blamed her articulation.

When Borrell asks the interviewer to “speak slowler [sic] and vocalize better”, he means “articulate better”, something he fails to do himself throughout the interview, but particularly when responding to a question about potential EU “rituliation” to US tariff increases. “Yes, some things must be, must being thought by the responsible of the European trade” is a sentence Spanish speakers will understand more readily than English speakers.

It is unfair to criticise or ridicule people for linguistic problems when they are not using their first languages – what they need is gentle correction and encouragement – but Borrell sneers at those who do not understand him and blames those he does not understand for his incomprehension. He deserved the roasting he received on social media. When talking about the Catalan question the poverty of Borrell’s garbled narrative, which for the world is the Spanish narrative, is exacerbated by the poverty of his English.

When Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, chose the darling of Spanish nationalist demonstrations in Catalonia, Josep Borrell, as his Foreign Minister, Catalans knew that cooperation was the last thing in the new Spanish government’s agenda. Like much of the national and international press, Borrell is peddling the idea that the breakdown of talks with the Catalans, the rejection of the budget, the calling of elections, and even the rise of the far-right, are all down to Catalan independentism.

In fact, there never were any talks and, unless pro-independence parties formally renounce self-determination, which many pro-independence voters feel they already have in practice, there will be no negotiations, whichever Spanish party is in government. The main sovereigntist parties actually wanted to approve the budget, but the PSOE could not even make so much as a “gesture” without committing political suicide.

If the budget had been approved, there is no guarantee that it would have made it past the EU in one piece. On the Catalan question, the PSOE has actually done nothing but go through the motions, and even that was too much to take for a good part of the PSOE itself and the three Spanish right and far-right parties, the so-called “trifachito“. As for the elections, they had to be held sooner or later. Who knows? The polls could be worse for the PSOE in a year. Where Catalonia is concerned, what we have, in effect, is a “quatrifachito“.

The following day, Borrell was back in his comfort zone on Spanish television. On Telemadrid, he was able to say exactly what he meant exactly how he meant it. No misunderstandings. But when Borrell can express himself with fluency, his audience is more likely to be exposed to the “black shadows” of Borrellspeak. He was so proud of this particularly tumescent phrase, reminiscent of dead baby jokes, that he quoted himself in his tweet sharing the interview.

Of all the events in the world that have not happened which Borrell could have chosen to illustrate the gravity of a Spanish government’s hypothetical acceptance of a Catalan president’s demands, he chose having “uncooked children for breakfast”. Borrellspeak is ugly. He follows it up with a reference to Machado, on the eve of the anniversary of his death. For Borrell, his himself is the thinking head, and the Catalan independentists are the fools rushing in.

Of ten heads, nine
ram and one thinks.
Never be surprised at the brute
losing a horn for an idea.

Proverbs and Songs XXIV – Antonio Machado

It was these very lines of Machado’s that the journalist, Carles Francino, remembered on 27 October, 2017, on the occasion of the symbolic and unpublished unilateral declaration of independence.

Later in the day, he linked to the Castilian translation of his interview with Flemish newspaper, De Standaard Weekblad, on an official Ministry of Foreign Affairs web page, proud of his typically contemptuous performance and his fractious exchanges with the Flemish journalist.

As the journalist pointed out, diplomacy is not one of Spain’s diplomat-in-chief’s strong suits. In the interview, Borrell claimed to disapprove of the judicialisation of a political process, but insisted that “laws have been violated” and so there was no choice. It has recently become obvious that the presumption of guilt is key to the Global Spain argument. He also claimed that there had been no referendum on self-determination because there is not enough support, when support for the right to decide stands at 80% of Catalan society. Borrell has always stated that, not only will there be no referendum because it is not considered in the Constitution, but also that it will not be discussed. When asked about David Cameron’s allowing of the referendums on Scottish independence and UK membership of the EU, Borrell mused that Cameron is “hiding in some London sewer right now, isn’t he?” When asked about European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani, banning presidents Puigdemont and Torra from speaking there, he lied that he believed it was for security reasons. When asked if the far-right emerged because of the Catalan crisis, he replied, “to a great extent”.

Borrell did not “doubt that the [Catalan] nationalists love Catalonia, but there are loves that kill”. Borrell’s prominence in the main Spanish nationalist platform, Societat Civil Catalana, alongside the right and far-right has produced similarly bellicose rhetoric. “What are national borders? Borders are the scars that history has left on the skin of the earth, carved in blood and fire”. Throughout the interview, Borrell insisted on the Spanish government’s willingness to hold talks with the Catalan government, and argued that pro-independence parties did not approve the Spanish government’s budget “to precipitate the downfall of the only government willing to speak”, an assertion unsupported by the facts. Let me repeat: there was no dialogue between the last Spanish government and the Catalans, there has been no dialogue between this Spanish government and the Catalans and no Spanish party wanting to win the upcoming general election in Spain can be seen to be speaking to the Catalans. It is simple.

Borrell’s ego has grown to montruous proportions during his comeback. Though his mind seems sometimes to be in retirement, his mouth works overtime. Machado might have been on his cynical mind this week, but he was absent in Borrell’s own words. There is no beauty in the poisonous language of Borrell where Catalonia is concerned. It is all about blood, scars, infection, swelling, disinfection, putrefaction, death and war. It is macho and it is violent. Borrell is a vile propagandist. His use of similarly inflammatory language during the Catalan socialists’ campaign for the 21 December elections in 2017 made him the right man for the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Then, he asserted that Catalonia was a “sick country” and that, for its wounds to heal, “they must be disinfected” otherwise they would “rot”. All this from the man who could not be president of Spain because he is Catalan.

One might expect there to have been times during the past nine months as he has stumbled from gaffe to diplomatic incident to controversy to scandal when Borrell has regretted coming out of retirement on his mission to fight the Catalan pro-independence movement, moments when he has wondered about his failing faculties.

Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?

Has my heart gone to sleep? – Antonio Machado

But Borrell does not do self-awareness, self-doubt or self-criticism. He is all about self-importance, self-satisfaction and self-belief, and he will head the PSOE list for the EU elections in May to continue his bilious assault on Catalan independentism from the European Parliament, where he has spent so much time during his career. Borrell has decided that his heart has not gone to sleep, “its eyes are opened wide”, and, barbarously, he will go on and on and on …

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