US Newspapers – Why catalonia does not deserve to be independent


Why catalonia does not deserve to be independent
A few years ago, when a major political science conference was held in Spain, I rented a country house with some American colleagues for a week in deep Catalonia – near Ripoll. It turned out to be a medieval castle, replete with a chapel that our hosts had lovingly restored. Over those days, a world soccer championship that Spain eventually won was unfolding and we duly congratulated our hosts, only to find them deeply offended. A success of Spain, they told us, meant the opposite to them, as Catalans. The Catalan soccer players in the national team were opportunists, if not traitors. Such deep nationalist resentment in a core EU member state presents the European Union with its next major challenge after Brexit. Catalonia is one of the regions that has profited most from EU cohesion programs during its development in 20072013 it still qualified for 1.4 billion, although it has meanwhile been raised to the status of ‘very developed’. Spain, one of the few successes of fiscal equilibration after the euro crisis finds herself entirely destabilized by the unilateral proclamation of Catalonia’s independence following a nonconstitutional referendum where less than the absolute majority voted in favor. The whole set of arguments of the Catalan nationalists for their independence could apply nearly everywhere else in Europe and if deemed acceptable for Catalonia the European ‘integration’ concept would become meaningless. A brief review of such claims from a scholar of nationalism might therefore be helpful. To start with, the Catalan claim rests on the separate history and identity of the Catalans which entitles them to a separate path from the rest of Spain. But Spain as a whole, as, indeed, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, United Kingdom this is why it’s called ‘united’, let alone Poland and Romania, are the products of different regions, states or a part of states opting in at some historical moment when borders have been put into question – 1918, 1945, 19891990 – in order to combine their destinies into modern multinational states. Some of them opted for unitary states, others for federal ones, but none of the European nation states are based on collective identities where the region is based on a specific ethnicity. Some EU states have been more respectful of the traditional, organically developed institutions of such regions as in Germany, others less as in Italy, but nobody was unwise enough to enshrine an ethnic character into EU regions, grounded in a feudal order predating the modern idea of the nation. Indeed, only the 1918 born Yugoslav kingdom was officially called the ‘Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes’ and despite the historical transformations it underwent, it was the persistence of this ethnic character which led to its tragic end. A threat to their survival? Therefore, the insistence of the Catalan Parliament on being allowed a unilateral right to secede is anything but democratic. There is no iron law of democracy allowing the right to unilaterally vote to leave a nation state that one has subscribed to before without coercion. Catalonia was no colony. Therefore, the citizens of the rest of a Spanish state based on the 1978 democratic Constitution have as much right to vote on the future of their joint project as do those who reside temporarily in the autonomous Catalonia of which many are Spanish. Of course, each region has its history and differences apply. For instance, the Communist Yugoslav constitution allowed the right of secession, as does Quebec’s. In the case of Scotland, the right was granted as a temporary power by Westminster to the Scottish Parliament to make it constitutional by a decision of David Cameron’s government. It was not unilateral. Of course, if there is a real threat to the identity or survival of the minority group in the seceding region, its right to selfdetermination becomes stronger. The international community respects existing borders, but has acknowledged secessions by endange…



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