by Joshua Krause
Since the early 20th century, Catalonia has seen a massive resurgence of its nationalist movement. Despite being brutally suppressed by the Franco regime, the movement made a comeback in the late 70′s and 80′s, and managed to secure several autonomous rights in the process.
Nestled along the coast of Spain, is the ancient city of Barcelona and the surrounding countryside that make up the state of Catalonia. Within its borders, lives an old and storied people, with their own language, culture, and even its own parliament separate from the legislative bodies in Madrid. They are by far, one of the most Independent regions within the European Union. Don’t tell that to Spain’s central government though. As far as they’re concerned, Catalonia is just another vassal state with a tax base.
Fast forward to the present day, and now we see the secession sentiments stronger than ever, as the people of Catalonia try to separate themselves from the nation of Spain. And they should. Spain, like many of the European Union’s southern members, is a total basket-case with an enormous unemployment rate, a large class of welfare dependent citizens, and debt levels so high it would make a casino blush.
As is to be expected with most nations, the central government refuses to allow them to strike out on their own. They continue to claim that their constitution allows no such right, as if a contract that doesn’t protect the right to self-determination is binding in any way. Despite these setbacks, the state of Catalonia has decided to go ahead with a non-binding secession referendum, in defiance of Spain’s demands:
The Catalan leader, Artur Mas, formally called a November referendum on independence on Saturday, in a show of defiance that puts the wealthy north-east region of Spain on a collision course with the central government in Madrid.
Mas’s signature on a decree allowing the vote to go forward came one week after the Catalan parliament passed a law paving the way for non-binding consultations in the region. As the solemn signing ceremony took place yesterday morning, government officials crowded around the document, excitedly snapping photographs on their mobile phones.
“Catalonia has the right to decide its political future,” said Mas. “We know that democracy is the most civilised way to resolve difficulties between nations.” The 9 November referendum would see two questions put to Catalans: whether Catalonia should be a state and, if so, whether it should be an independent state.
Despite the referendum being non-binding, not unlike a straw poll, the government of Spain has the gall to claim that it too is unconstitutional. And while they blast the public with their high minded rhetoric of unity and solidarity, nobody doubts their true motives for preventing this separation:
Proud of their Catalan language and culture, but suffering in an economic crisis, many of the 7.5 million people in Catalonia say they feel short-changed by the central government which redistributes their taxes.
Catalonia was there at the symbolic birth of Spain when Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, a region that included Catalonia, married in 1469. Now Catalonia accounts for one-fifth of Spain’s total output and an even greater share of its exports.
Catalonia is one of the few regions that gives more than it takes back. Their percentage of the GPD is higher than their percentage of the population, and the people are sick and tired of giving their tax dollars to failing system. They are a region that has historically, been marginalized and persecuted by a central government that doesn’t much care for their customs and institutions. If Catalonia goes, it’s doubtful that the Basques will stick around for much longer. It would essentially put an end to the nation of Spain as we know it, and the drop in tax dollars would push them further over the fiscal cliff.
Moreover, the central government has quietly hinted at the repercussions the Catalans will face, if they attempt to leave Spain:
“Spain is an indissoluble nation. In case of threat of fracture or separatism, according to article 8 of the Spanish Constitution, we have to guarantee the integrity of the territory. Therefore, it is our opinion that we have to declare a state of war or siege.” This is the opinion of the president of the Spanish Military Association (AME), Colonel Leopoldo Muñoz Sánchez. These are the words of Colonel Muñoz who expressed his opinion on behalf of one of the three largest military associations in Spain, who gave an interview regarding the current political issue in Catalonia that was shown on Dutch television channel “Niewsur”
Funny, Section 8 of their constitution talks about defending their sovereignty and independence, but makes no mention secession. I guess violating the spirit and intent of the constitution, isn’t just an American habit.
If the political class in Spain continues to ignore the wishes of their industrious province, and is prepared to violate their own constitution, they may very well have a war on their hands. The last time they had such a war, 500,000 people died, and the nation was left under a fascist dictatorship for nearly 40 years…
…But no, they can’t just get their fiscal house in order, and let their countrymen leave on friendly terms. They must do everything in their power to keep their passengers at gunpoint, on a sinking ship.