Catalonia freezes in face of independence

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/11 10:47:40 Last Updated: 2017/10/11 21:58:00

In a highly anticipated speech to the regional parliament, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont announced, "I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic." He later proposed the suspension of the declaration of independence in an attempt at further dialogue with the Spanish government. His ambiguous remarks made the situation even more confusing.  

The Catalan president's speech arrives upon the heels of the October 1 referendum, a moment that saw 90 percent of voters cast their ballots for independence. Meanwhile, protestors took to the Barcelona streets in opposition to Catalan independence

Some analysts believe that as the turnout was only 43 percent, only about half of Catalonia's population truly support independence and another half oppose it. The referendum was declared illegal by Madrid. All EU countries support the Spanish government and oppose Catalan independence.

As one of Spain's wealthiest regions, Catalonia has its own language, laws and customs but the main reason they want independence is they believe the losses outweigh the gains of remaining within Spain.

Catalonia has a rich, proud history, including its differences with Madrid.  The recent push for independence is not a manifestation of cultural conflict or racial tension. Instead, it is a calculated result of deliberate regional interests. 

The rise in populism and rightwing nationalism that has swept parts of Europe is the real inspiration behind Catalan's independence movement.

Populism is geared to protect regional interests which have fomented separatist tendencies in regions similar to Catalonia. Meanwhile, those regions are realizing how difficult it would be to survive should independence actually be achieved. They do not want to cut off all means of retreat. Neither do they want to be pushed out by the EU. This explains the source of their anxieties.

These newly formed and sensationalistic independence movements that are sprouting up in parts of Europe all signal a shift in public opinion. The movements are the combined results of a rapidly declining European economy, a loss of public confidence and the erosion of national cohesion. The EU is losing the authoritative influence it once maintained over its member nations. It is clear that the increase in populism and separatism is directly linked to the aforementioned conditions.

To begin with, most European countries are not very big. These so-called independence movements reflect the fragmented interests of today's Western world. The divergent goals of each group can become impossible to unify. In all actuality, these movements appear to be challenges unique to each country. And yet they have become a combined crisis for the entire EU. 

Catalonia's move to postpone a formal declaration of independence reveals a level of uncertainty, and serves as a micro-example reflecting the true condition of Europe. Despite its affluence, Catalonia lacks confidence over its future. For Catalonia, remaining with Spain is not good and yet it hesitates to confront the risks involved with bluntly confronting the entire EU. As a result, Catalonia has utilized a delaying tactic while waiting to see what happens next.

When separatism becomes uncontrollable, it can generate a tremendous, unpredictable turbulence. Europe is kindling many small flames at the moment. Once they burn out, a profound impact will have been made on the political and social outlook of Europe, leaving an imprint on its future. 

The EU and Spain both need to increase the pressure they are exerting on Catalonia, which will more or less work. Catalonia will not come out of all this empty-handed even if it remains within Spain in some form or fashion. Their independence movement will not easily diminish but it will definitely deliver long-lasting pain and suffering. Meanwhile Western countries will quietly change their opinions on separatism as it applies to the rest of the world.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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