Madigan KingMs. DelafieldAP Human GeographyJanuary 2018CataloniaThere has been simmering political unrest in Catalonia, the northeasternmost region of Spain, for decades. Spain is a decentralized unified state that consists of 17 autonomous regions, each with a unique subculture.
Catalonia, however, has arguably one of the most distinct identities, including its own language, flag, customs and history. In the last couple of months, pro-independence residents of the region have made more visible expressions of their desire for secession. Even if Catalonia were to gain statehood, economists say they would not be able to fund their developing nation, because of current debts and immediate costs. Furthermore, a Catalonian republic would be able to join neither the EU nor NATO, both of which would be essential to a developing nation.Although the issue has not been widely televised until recently, the tensions between the regional government of Catalonia and the central government of the state have existed for a long time. Particularly important moments in their history of controversy include dictator Francisco Franco’s fascist rule between the years of 1939 and 1975. Franco eliminated democratic liberties, freedom of the press, and political opposition. He greatly suppressed Catalonia’s regional identity and culture under the pretense of bringing a single national identity to Spain.
After the restoration of democracy and the institution of a constitution, the region enjoyed renewed autonomy. However, when the law was rewritten in 2006, Catalans objected to changes made in the Spanish legislature. Contention followed Spain’s economic crisis in 2008. Catalonia is a donor region, meaning it redistributes wealth to other parts of the country. Citizens harbored grievances over the handling of the issue. A Catalonian referendum was held on October 1st, 2017, with a turnout of 43% and an overwhelming majority of a 92% “Yes” to the question “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” Madrid responded to the vote with a crackdown, violently shutting down polls and firing authorities. Nevertheless, on October 27, 2017, the Catalonian Parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain.
The Spanish Senate promptly declared the act illegal, and within a few hours approved actions to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, allowing Spain to impose direct rule in Catalonia.The first measure taken by Spanish Prime Minister was to fire the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his Cabinet, dissolving the Parliament of Catalonia and scheduling fresh Catalan elections onDecember 21, 2017. In response, everal secessionist leaders continued to campaign while in jail as political prisoners or from Belgium, in the case of Puigdemont, where he was seeking asylum. The result of the vote on December 21 meant the three separatist parties won a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament.
Independence parties insist they have won a mandate for a Catalan Republic, and are calling for negotiations and potentially a fresh referendum. Mr. Rajoy has expressed willingness to talk, but has also laid out a lot of red lines, so substantive dialogue will be difficult. Meanwhile, the threat of direct rule remains if the new government resumes the unilateral route to secession. At present, the prospects for breaking the standoff seem slim.
Independence would mean the region would become a republic and write a constitution. This would begin with a round of consultations with representatives of Catalan society, followed by the creation of an assembly to draw up a constitution and the constitution’s ratification via referendum. The judicial transition law also permits Catalans to hold double nationality, would ensure Catalonia controls its own frontiers, offers a legal amnesty on independence-related charges from Spanish courts, and adopts and applies the bulk of Spanish legislation. This procedure is lengthy and tedious by itself, but with Madrid pushing back, it may prove to be a particular challenge. In the history of Catalonia freedoms, there have been few progressive negotiations, to the point where Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has developed a reputation of side-stepping requests for conversation.Independence-seeking Catalans argue several main points, with the primary being that the region does not benefit from its current economic engagement with the rest of Spain. A popular propaganda phrase is “Madrid Nos Roba,” which translates to “Madrid Robs Us.
” An article from BBC News states: “There is a widespread feeling that the central government takes much more than it gives back to the region. But the complexity of budget transfers makes it hard to judge exactly how much more Catalans contribute in taxes than they get back from investment in services, such as schools and hospitals.”As previously stated, Catalonia is a donor region, accounting for roughly 16% of Spain’s population, but about 19% of the country’s GDP.
It is true that state investment into Catalonia has dropped (the 2015 draft national budget allocated 9.5% to Catalonia – compared with nearly 16% in 2003) and that the region is quite wealthy. Tourism and exports are two of Catalonia’s sources of revenue. 18 million of Spain’s 75 million tourists chose Catalonia as their primary destination last year, easily the most visited region. Tarragona has one of Europe’s largest chemical hubs. Barcelona is one of the EU’s top 20 ports by weight of goods handled.
Catalan separatists argue their belief that the region can support itself, and that it would benefit from a separation from the Spain’s government. In addition, independence supporters bring up their right for self-determination. They claim their unique culture, language, and people are smothered living under the Spanish flag. It would only make sense for them to live separately from the country in order to prosper.Although these are valid arguments, one must move beyond the reasons Catalans desire independence, and examine whether or not is it logistically possible. Even if Catalonia were to gain statehood, economists say they would not be able to fund their developing nation, because of current debts and immediate costs. The state would not be recognized by the international population, stunting its trade and toppling the economy.
Furthermore, a Catalonian republic would be able to join neither the EU nor NATO, both of which would be essential to a developing nation.If the region of Catalonia were to become their own country, they would need to implement some fundamental services currently run by Spain: border control, customs, international relations, defence, a central bank, inland revenue, and air traffic control to name a few. The question arises, however, of whether or not the region’s current prosperity would be able to support such a burden, especially considering its current insolvency.CNBC states “Spain’s national public debt in 2016 was priced at roughly $1.18 trillion, according to central bank statistics. Meanwhile, Catalonia has amassed one of the largest public debts of Spain’s regions, at roughly 72.
2 billion euros ($86.9 billion) in 2016. Therefore, Catalonia accounts for 16.34 percent of Spain’s debt, which is not a small price tag. The success of Catalonia is determined heavily on whether or not they would assume a percentage of the Spanish debt and if they would be required to pay off their own debt. Either situation could prove to be detrimental to a new Catalan nation and would damage the potential for economic expansion.
“In addition to debt, the independence movement itself has caused a hit to the Catalan economy. BBC informs, “More than 3,100 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of the region, including major banks Caixabank and Banco de Sabadell.” “While tensions have eased somewhat… many businesses in Catalonia still feel the need to guard against uncertainty.” This trend has affected tourism as well. In October, The Guardian reported: “Tourism to Catalonia has slumped by 15% in the two weeks since the region’s controversial referendum, according to industry experts.”Additionally, a great deal of concern is due to complications regarding the EU. “If the new nation were to be denied entrance or have difficulty joining the union, the Catalan economy would face large transition costs, as the EU accounts for roughly 65.8 percent of Catalan exports.
The Catalan republic “would need to reapply to become a member if it seceded from Spain – it wouldn’t get in automatically or immediately. And it would require all EU members to agree – including Spain.” It is unlikely, with the current course of the independence movement, that the central government of Madrid would be eager to assist their rebelsome region in any way.Naturally, one must not assume every other member of the EU supports the Catalan independence movement either. Many members are contending with their own waves of nationalism.
If any one of those countries (France, Italy, Germany, Belgium or the UK) were to openly support the separatist cause in Spain, not only would they encourage divisions at home, but they could guarantee Spain would reciprocate if tensions flared up for them. These states must consider self-preservation before supporting a foreign cause. Yet another economic question regards currency.
“In 2015, the governor of the Bank of Spain warned Catalans independence would cause the region to drop out of the euro automatically, losing access to the European Central Bank.” This means, even if under some remarkable circumstances, the region of Catalonia were to gain independence and become a republic, and then be permitted to join EU, they would have to apply to enter the eurozone. New countries entering have to meet certain criteria, according to BCC, such as their debt not being too large a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP). This calls back the point on the region’s current financial bankruptcy. Furthermore, a qualified majority of eurozone countries has to approve a new one’s entry. In theory, that means even if Catalonia became a new EU member state, it may well take time to rejoin the eurozone – and Spain and its allies could block that. The odds are undoubtedly stacked against the continual financial success of the Catalonian independence movement. There are simply too many hurdles to jump, and too few ways around the issues presented.
Nevertheless, there is a consistent population that continues to fight for succession, and they don’t seem to be giving up any time soon. So instead, a third solution is conceived. Neither of the two extremes is the ideal. No, the perfect solution to Catalonia’s political unrest lies somewhere in negotiation, in compromise. Simon Doubleday from The Guardian writes: “Dialogue must go beyond the current binary debate.
It should explore a variety of potential relationships between Catalonia and the central state government, and embrace the possibility of constitutional reform.” One cannot be certain what the answer to Spain’s division is, but it is clear that both sides must cooperate, and relinquish some of their ____ in order to develop an agreement.