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Joseph Kaminski

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December 16, 2017

Catalonia and The Independence Movement in Europe


I haven’t discussed much on the Catalan referendum and the quest for independence in Spain’s wealthiest region; but I do believe it’s an important discussion to have. If you haven’t been paying much attention to world news, I do suggest reading on and finding other news articles on the subject afterwards. It’s an intriguing and important subject, one that has the chance to change the face of Europe as we know it.

Independence is a nice idea; and as a social historian in America, the idea of crushing the institution (in a sense) sounds like the modern day equivalent of the historical revolutions of old. Hell, I pushed for the Scottish Referendum back in 2014 and pushed for the idea of the Second Scottish Referendum last year after Brexit. But, it’s important to get a sense as to what Catalonia has been doing and how the idea of independence would affect the already crippled Europe.

Catatonia on a map.

Catatonia on a map.

Catalonia is a triangular region with an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, and it has been itching for an independence movement for much longer than the likes of Scotland in the United Kingdom and the Veneto State in Italy.

Despite having Barcelona – ranked #2 in population within Spain – inside of its borders, the people of Catalonia consider themselves different than the “rest” of their country with a sense of nationalism that rivals the strength of patriotism during the death of colonialism.

Questioning the idea of independence from the established European “powers” is just like questioning the idea of colonial “sovereignty” back in the 18th-and-19th centuries: it’s controversial as all Hell, but an important mark in all geopolitical and economic history.

How the Spaniard government decided to handle the Catalan referendum was utterly disgusting and without merit. Closing down registered voting platforms and setting up police forces to take down individuals is not the way to handle institutionalized politics and remains a threat to the “Democracy” that Western European allies had pushed for.

According to a recent article by the BBC, it appears that the region will declare their independence “in matter of days” after the problems it witnessed throughout their referendum. It goes without saying that no member of the European Union, or even those identified within the NATO agreement, would recognize the Catalan declaration of independence. With regional disputes at an all time rise after the peak of Brexit, no sane power of Europe would currently endorse a movement that would encourage others to split as well.

Spanish police drag away old lady trying to vote in Catalonia referendum

Spanish police drag away old lady trying to vote in Catalonia referendum.

The current government of Spain has already proven themselves to be nervous about the idea of Catalan independence, as seen within their reactions during the referendum itself. Over 900 people were deemed hurt by the authoritative forces that Spain imposed. Rather than encouraging some form of debate or enlightening the people of Catalonia as to why independence wouldn’t be a good idea for them, the “power” and “law” was brought in as if history hasn’t disproved the iron-handed theories of preventing revolution. If independence is announced, the Spanish government would have no reason to hold back what very little they haven’t unleashed. There remains a major chance that direct rule would reign over the region, and lots of people would be arrested or even worse.

As one of the richest regions within the country, the economic problems that would plague Spain would be devastating. The European markets would be just as problematic as they were after the results in the U.K.’s referendum for leaving the E.U. last year. If Catalonia succeeds in secession, Spain would find itself on the verge of economic downfall with an unstable way of handling things. These economic difficulties are one of the foundations for the Catalan independence to begin with, as the region serves as a break-it and shake-it piggy bank for the poorer areas of the country.

In a sense, this is the mindset that independence-pushers within the region have: Why should the people of Catalonia support the people of Extremadura (the poorest region of Spain, with 32% unemployment and only 2/3 the national GDP) when the people of Catalonia get nothing in return?

Catalonia secession would fuel precedent in more ways than one would expect. Of course, as Brexit plagues the European Union and far-right national parties attempt to push for referendums across the continent, there remains the possibility of other countries deeming the union “too divisive” to be useful.

On a lower level, other regions of Europe that have been pushing for independence referendums from their own countries would be encouraged to continue after witnessing any form of relative success from their fellow revolutionaries in Spain. Regions such as Veneto in Italy would want to re-create their Venice Empire of old and all of these active separatist movements would begin thinking and fighting with precedent in their minds.

On an even lower level than this, Spain itself would most likely find itself battling collapse from the inside out. Spanish regions like Basque and Galicia have both been considering such an idea in the past. The Basque Conflict serves as a great example of this. This would lead to levels of political upheaval and unrest that we haven’t seen in quite some time.

Translate the problem to an American map, if all of this geopolitical and economic talk doesn’t align with your political ideas. Imagine if California (one of the top ten economies in the world) decided to secede from the United States of America because they got huffy over the amount of subsidies their funding spent on dirt-poor rural backwaters in Mississippi, the poorest GDP in America. Debate would hit the floor as to how the Californians could benefit from new acts or change; and even though threats would be relevant during the debate, eventually it would end with the Californians being thrown a bone or calming down.

Americans have personally seen what secession can do to them; and even though it’s been a good 150 years since that experience, I’m not yet sure if we’d allow it to happen again – and government threats seemed to hurt the situation more than help it, even back then.

Spain has every incentive on the board to keep the Catalans apart of the country; but that concept leaves out a very important aspect of it all. The government does have every incentive to keep the Catalans part of Spain; but in turn, that should mean they have every incentive to keep the Catalans happy with the government that they have.

Catalonia Secession

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