Skip to comments.Spain fears break-up as Catalonia votes - "We're sick of being robbed...."
Posted on 11/24/2012 2:43:25 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
In Madrid, the central government of Mariano Rajoy has pledged to fight any move towards independence. There are fears that fellow separatists in the Basque region and even Galicia will follow suit, provoking a constitutional crisis. One association of retired and active members of the military even warned that war should be declared on Catalonia if the region broke away and others have suggested Mas [ Artur Mas, the incumbent regional president and leader of the centre-Right Convergence and Union Party (CIU)] should be tried for treason.
Something is missing at the top of the flagpole outside the town hall in Arenys de Munt. Despite a law requiring it, the red and yellow of la Rojigualda - Spain's national ensign - is nowhere to be seen. Something else is missing inside the building itself. On the walls of Josep Manuel Ximenis's office a blank space marks the spot where a portrait of King Juan Carlos would normally hang.
But both these absences are a badge of honour for Mayor Ximenis. Instead he proudly displays a certificate declaring his town to be a "free and sovereign territory of Catalonia", independent of the Bourbon crown and the symbols of the Spanish state.
It may not be legally binding or even recognised outside of the municipal limits but it represents the strength of the desire for nationhood that is growing across Catalonia and has set the wealthy region on a collision course with Madrid this weekend.
Three years ago last September, Arenys de Munt, a picturesque town of 8,500 people 28 miles north of Barcelona, held an informal referendum on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain. Forty-one per cent of residents turned out to vote and an overwhelming 96 per cent of them said yes.
"At the time we simply wanted to start the debate, to show it wasn't just a minority of extremists calling for the impossible," explains Mr Ximenis. The plebiscite - emblematic, partial and unofficial - was repeated in the months that followed in 553 towns and villages across Catalonia. Although marked by a low turnout, it showed overwhelmingly the appetite for independence.
"We started the ball rolling, it gained momentum, and just look at where we are now. An independent Catalonia isn't just an impossible dream, it's going to happen and it's going to happen soon."
On Saturday, Catalans goes to the polls to choose a new parliament, but with the expectation that a referendum on independence for the region will be swift to follow. Artur Mas, the incumbent regional president and leader of the centre-Right Convergence and Union Party (CIU), called the snap elections with the promise that if re-elected, he would see it as a mandate to hold a vote on secession within his term of office.
Emboldened by a pro-independence demonstration that saw 1.5?million people take to the streets on Catalonia's national day on September 11, Mas shifted his party's official position on independence and said, "Let the people decide".
His speeches at campaign rallies across the region in the lead-up to the vote have been greeted by supporters with feverish choruses of "Independence! Independence!" It is music to the ears of Ximenis, who says such separatist sentiment has been simmering in the hearts of Catalans for centuries.
"Catalonia is a nation, we have our own language, our own culture, our own history," said the 50-year-old as a preamble to a brief precis of the repression of the Catalan people from the 1714 War of Succession to the years under Francisco Franco, when just speaking Catalan could result in a jail term. "Yet still we are treated as an occupied colony by Madrid and our resources exploited," he said.
Indeed, it is the current economic climate that has fuelled the independence movement and the conviction that Catalonia would fare better on its own. The long-held bone of contention is that Catalonia, the wealthiest of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions, whose industry accounts for a fifth of Spain's GDP, is taxed unfairly by Madrid.
The Generalitat, as Catalonia's government is known, calculates that it pays about euros 15billion more than it gets back from the national treasury every year. Catalonia wants to collect its own taxes, to control how they are spent and it seems prepared to break away from Spain to do so.
But with a clear road map yet to be outlined, the process of separating from Spain promises to be burdened with hurdles. While Catalans prize their role as citizens of Europe, EU officials have warned that membership of the union would not be automatic.
Instead, Catalonia would have to gain admission, joining the queue of a list of new European nations seeking membership, and the process would likely be blocked by a vengeful Spain.
There are also fears that big businesses and multinationals within the region could relocate, unprepared to risk a change in trade terms. Critics warn of a damaging boycott of Catalan goods by Spain if independence were to go ahead. For the Catalans, like the Scots, who will vote on independence in 2014, it's unchartered territory.
In Madrid, the central government of Mariano Rajoy has pledged to fight any move towards independence. There are fears that fellow separatists in the Basque region and even Galicia will follow suit, provoking a constitutional crisis. One association of retired and active members of the military even warned that war should be declared on Catalonia if the region broke away and others have suggested Mas should be tried for treason.
Sunday's vote comes at a time when Rajoy is trying to show stability and fiscal responsibility in his fight to keep Spain in the euro currency zone and avoid an international bail-out, while the nation suffers a double-dip recession and a 25% unemployment rate. But the trials of central government are its own problem according to many in Arenys de Munt, where scarlet and gold striped flags of Catalonia flutter from balconies.
Sonia, a 35-year-old meeting a group of other mothers for a coffee before picking up their children at the school gates, summed it up. "We're sick of being robbed. We'll be better off on our own."
There is some dissent. One middle aged man would not allow his name to be used when interviewed. "The independence issue is a nonsense and a distraction," he said. "We should be discussing how we are going to stop the flood of unemployment, survive deep spending cuts and promote economic growth."
But his is not a popular voice here. That of Jeroni Mayne, 63, a retired financial consultant pushing his nine-month-old twin granddaughters, is. "In my heart I've always felt Catalan, never ever Spanish," he said. "We are on the verge of an important and proud moment in our history." Nodding towards the sleeping girls he added: "They will grow up in Catalonia, an independent country recognised across the world, and it will be great."
A country is in big trouble when cities or states it thought prosperous start clamoring for bailouts. Think back to the New York headlines of the 1970s (Ford to City: Drop Dead) or consider the states now careening towards bankruptcy (Illinois and California tops among them). But Spain has a bigger problem. It is a complicated constitutional federation that relies on the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia to pay a lot of its bills, and Catalonia is now saying to Madrid what Ford said to New York. The Catalan president, Artur Mas, has called elections for November 25, promising to interpret a big victory as a green light for a referendum on full independence. Spains government has declared, Spains Supreme Court has opined, and Spains national assembly has voted that such a referendum would be illegal.
All of Europe is broke, but Spain is broker, and for a long time Catalonia appeared to be even broker still. For years its public finances have been in disorder and its banks on the verge of collapse. But Catalonia remains the economic, research, and financial powerhouse of Spain. Many of its woes come from the need to carry the rest of Spainwith its bubbles and its scandals and its elaborate patronage systemson its back. Catalonia has a trade surplus of almost $30 billion with the rest of the country, and loses 10 percent of its gross domestic product to the other regions through transfer programs. When a nationalist march in Barcelona, the capital, on September 11 drew huge crowds, Mas seized the moment to demand a less onerous fiscal compact from Madrid. Since that could have imperiled 1 or 2 percent of the Spanish budget, conservative premier Mariano Rajoy, already facing budgetary pressure from Euroean authorities, said no. Mas dissolved the Catalan parliament and asked the public for an indestructible majority to hold an independence referendum within four years.
Catalan nationalism is ancient, but the movement as we now know it dates from the 19th century, when the regions industrial development turned the area around Barcelona into something dramatically more modern than the rest of Spain. Mass voters are not the ignorant, vindictive, and folkloric nationalists of caricature. His mentor Jordi Pujol always strove to distinguish his movement from nationalisms that were exclusive, uncooperative, and often disrespectful.
The movement has much in common with other breakaway movements gaining steam in Europe now. Scottish nationalists will hold a referendum on independence in 2014, and the new Flemish nationalists have just captured the mayoralty of Antwerp. The Catalan website In Transit has described all these movements as cosmopolitan nationalism. Pujol built the nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) party around gentle, cultured, center-right businessmen. He encouraged immigration, on the grounds that North Africans (or whoever) would have to learn the Catalan language, while internal migrants from Andalusia would be content to stick with Spanish. (He has only been half-right. The Achilles heel of the CiU in the Mas era is that the Catalan language on which the national identity rests is now spoken as a first language by only a minority in Barcelona.)
This kind of nationalism is not as unsettling as its predecessors. For much the same reason, it is not as logical, either. Catalans, like Scots and Flemings, do not seek a country for ourselves alone. They explicitly seek to submit themselves to the European Unions system of shared sovereignty. Mas reportedly wants the wording of the referendum question to read: Do you want Catalonia to become a new state within the European Union? The legal scholar Antoni Abat Ninet has written that Catalonia must make clear right off the bat that it assumes the supremacy of community law and intends to maintain stability in international relations and respect for fundamental rights. The foundation Catalunya Estat is optimistic that, under international lawspecifically the Vienna Convention of 1978Catalunya could glide right into EU membership.
Scottish experts, too, have devoted a good deal of thought to whether their country can automatically maintain its membership in the EU. They are a bit less sanguine. In an opinion prepared for the British parliament, Graham Avery of the European Policy Centre in Brussels wrote that Scotlands EU membership would need to be in place simultaneously with Scottish independence. But why? What if it werent? Would Scotland still want independence? Would Catalonia? These nationalists sound less like Garibaldi fighting for the unification of Italy than Eleanor Holmes Norton debating statehood for the District of Columbia.
Since parliament has already approved a referendum, Mass CiU is set to benefit no matter what happens. In ordinary circumstances, a lukewarm plurality wants independence. But as in similar votes in Quebec, big referenda fire people up. Earlier this year, a poll in the Barcelona paper El Periódico had 53.6 percent saying they would vote Yes, versus 32 percent on the No side. Mas is now six seats short of an absolute majority. If he gets one, he will have a lot of freedom of action. If he doesnt, his republican right will have to make a coalition with the party known as the Republican Left (ERC). That would be fine, too. It would isolate the non-nationalists on the left, further damaging an imploding Catalan socialist party that has been the CiUs main rival, and which has benefited from a cozy relationship with the Socialists in Madrid.
Madrid is resisting. Under the Spanish constitution, Spain must approve any secession. Lest the message be seen as ambiguous, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly (276 votes to 42) in October to disallow the Catalan referendum. The conservative Euro-parliament member Alejo Vidal Quadras opined that an independent Catalonia would have to undertake the long process of reapplying for EU membership. The move towards independence shows no sign of stopping. Catalans, despite their recent history, may underestimate the grim resolve of their fellow Iberians. Spaniards, meanwhile, think Mas is playing some kind of game, and hope he might be willing to negotiate the referendum away in exchange for a generously amended fiscal compact. Tragedies often result when two sides each wrongly think the other is bluffing.
Catalan independence is a wish that has been harbored for centuries. There are cultural, economic, and moral arguments for it. But one must ask why it is happening the way it is happening, and why now. The answer lies in the EU, which is a project for dissolving the continents nation-states. The EUs leaders might not say it, they might not even think it, but the logic is inexorable. It is natural for minorities within the traditional nation-states to profit from this dissolution. But eventually majorities will see it as a trick that has been played on them. There is nothing more dangerous in politics than a majority convinced it has been tricked.
That quote has applicability in the US as well. Will the US wake up before the collapse or will the Obama Soma work until the end.
We need to look around us — beyond what has happened in this election, and what is happening in the Middle East — and think about if there is a pattern developing, why and the possible outcomes (not only for these countries but as how this relates to us) from these breakdowns and breakups of nations due to actions by the productive factions within countries. And why is the Obama administration driving us toward this same end?
If the United States political split was more geographically represented, we would have already split up.
They occupy the coastal areas east and west, the upper midwest, again around water, and the major urban areas. Mass transit, mass brainwashing and mass victim thinking.
In the end, they will be the first victims of their own concentrated infestation. Their support structures are no more than 4-5 days deep as we saw in Katrina and ongoing in Sandy’s aftermath. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think they can count on any charity on my part. Let them go tell Obama.
Wouldn’t it be nice for the Red Counties to become independent form the Blue Counties in the USA, basically the urban areas separating from the rural areas in how taxes are collected and spent?
One size fits all government solutions don’t work for either side. Currently it is urban area votes now imposing their will on rural America.
We are a split country ideologically with few solutions being offered to end the disagreement from either side.
Issues of transportation, repairs to infrastructure, agriculture, education, social norms, law enforcement, management of resources or almost any way to look at responsible management in governance are not effective with “one size fits all governance”.
Problems and solutions are different in cities than in rural areas, period.
I’m sick of San Francisco / L.A. politics telling me what to do here in rural California. I love where I live just want to be allowed to be independent from the nauseating decisions imposed on us from the City Slicker intelligentsia.
The Basques have been fighting for independence for centuries as well.
The Euro project may well have exactly the opposite result of its globalist founders—balkanization of Europe.
Check out this map of the Holy Roman Empire in 1789 in this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Roman_Empire
Can you count all the mini-states? (That might be a fun children’s game. :-) )
Its the same situation here in rural PA
This is how islamics live, they live in fractured warring states. Islam is about WAR, Conquest and Domination. Those who say it means Peace do not understand that there are many kinds of Peace. They think there is only mutual, beneficial respect which leads to peace. But surrender to domination by a violent, aggressive, bullying, tormenting and warring faction is another form of peace. And the latter is the type of peace that is promised by islam. This type of peace is surrender to Allah’s minions so they can follow his will by abusing, dominating and destroying you, your people and your culture and make it over into their own warring backward culture of fight fight fight.
Victory is decided by those who can build a power base while keeping opposition fractured and at odds, incapable of joining forces to oppose them.
In fact, one of the EU's positive effects has been to ENCOURAGE more ancient states to come out! Almost any history fan can tell you the names of dozens of culturally and linguistically different nations states still lurking there in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain.
Before the 1600s ~ and the 30 Years War and the Peace of Westphalia ~ it had been somewhat common for the smaller nation states to play off one large state against another large state for the purpose of enriching itself (and its ruling noble classes).
Brittany, for example, very successfully played off England against Burgundy against France, and all of them against Spain! After the 30 years war Brittany was neatly tied into France ~ but they still have their own language, and now their own flag, and most of them live in America anyway, but the EU offers them the chance of being a full nation state again.
Within Burgundy and France there's an older Gallo speaking region centered roughly on Anjou that peeks out every now and then. They used to rule France and England ~ but today they're just a bunch of French counties. They could easily become a state!
Germany is another area much better off defederated as Germany, and refederated as states within an EU structure. Same with PIedmont ~ oh, noes, they call that Italia these days!!!!
Spain is a tad different. It was created by the efforts of Castile, Leon and Carvajal ~ Carvajal? What's that? Well, when King San Cho Noe I initiated the Reconquista to create Spain, he set up three kingdoms working in concert. Each would take up the task of war in turn, while the other two rested and recovered. In the end Castile and Leon absorbed the third state and did most of job over the next 500 years. People tend to forget that part of Spain's history ~ that the country was conceived of, then created. This is not simply a revival of Roman or Carthaginian Spain ~ it's a new creation.
Catalonia has it's feelings of being different, but that doesn't mean it is.
Still, Spain could be easily unbundled ~ Portugual, long a part of Spain, is fully independent for example. As long as there are uniform tariffs, free flows of people and goods, and joint citizenship, there should be no real problems in drawing more lines.
The EU has a vested interest in dissolving the European nation-states into a myriad of tiny little districts, each directly governed from Brussels. Once that is done, breaking up the EU will be impossible.
Europeans broke the Ottoman Empire up into many states ~ to a degree the claims of people like Osama Bin Laden regarding the Islamic Caliphate are really no more than an argument to bring back that which was, not that which someone thinks ought to be on account of religion. These guys are irredentists!
For a considerable period of time the United States could always be counted on to champion Ottoman claims. WWI ended that ~ the Ottomans foolishly allied themselves with the Kaiser's Germany ~ then Germany lost the war.
Spain going Galt. Surprise, surprise.
We know the Leftists won’t fight for God and country, but for the “right” to steal other people’s stuff? You betcha.
“The Basques have been fighting for independence for centuries as well.”
They’ll have a tougher time, because progressive, liberal France is determined to stop that as well (a part of the envisioned Basque Country lies in France). Like the Kurds, who may have had a chance if it was just breaking away from Iraq - Turkey, Iran, and Syria aren’t about to give up territory as well.
“The EU has a vested interest in dissolving the European nation-states into a myriad of tiny little districts, each directly governed from Brussels.”
I think the past year has shown that Germany will dictate the path of the European Union; they got what they fought WWII for. As happened 70 years ago, plenty of Europeans seem quite willing to have Germans make the hard decisions for them. Very creepy...
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