Ok, first off, it’s not my place to have a view on whether Catalan independence is a good idea or not. Spain (including Catalunya) has a long, complex and often painful history and while I know a reasonable amount about it I hesitate to make judgements on such emotional and historical matters.
That being said, the recent events in Spain and Catalunya seem likely to result in a degradation of respect for the principles of democracy and human rights, and all in favour of mere administrative and bureaucratic convenience.
Mostly it seems to me that the PP in Madrid is the prime mover behind the sudden increase in desire for Catalan independence. Yes, there’s an element in Catalunya that has continuously pushed for independence, but their support was very low until the PP got going.
What’s hugely disappointing is that the Spanish govt, under PP leadership, has taken every possible step to make the situation worse, apparently playing to its own voter base, and that the EU has essentially preferred institutional and administrative convenience to supporting human rights and democracy.
A recent column by Joschka Fischer (https://goo.gl/QmbbpC) summarizes many of the views I see as being so backways.
Maybe worth reading the article first.
Here’s my response;
The article if full of contradictions and unsupported assertions.
Yes, the UK wanting to leave the EU is historically daft, but as a nation state it’s perfectly entitled to do so. What’s sad is that several regions (all but one, actually) of the UK do want to stay in the EU and currently cannot.
And as for the EU, I fully agree that the aim should be to transcend the nation state and have a shared European polity. But in that event, whether the EU consists of 27 nations or 34 nations is largely irrelevant on any historical timeframe. Plus, the long forgotten principle of subsidiarity would imply that the nation state should be less powerful and the regions more powerful, unless we’re trying to have a powerful centralized European state – which I fear is wildly politically dangerous. There can be a standard set of rules for all Europe at a high level and locally adapted rules at a local level and the nation state becomes trapped in between and eventually less relevant.
Now, on Catalunya, whether or not you agree with the benefits of Catalan independence, there’s obviously a major issue which has been peacefully expressed in massive scale for years now (and ignored by the Spanish govt). Currently the Spanish government is holding leaders of huge peaceful organisations on charges of sedition, which is hardly compatible with an idea of Spain as a modern democracy. The referendum was illegal under Spanish law, but that merely needed to mean that any result had no legal validity. The Spanish govt beat the crap out of people trying to vote. Why? Almost certainly because they were afraid to let an accurate measure of voter intentions take place. That was a conscious choice, hardly a demonstration of democratic principles. Talks could have taken place before, or after, but there was no need to beat people.
Then, there’s this repeated claim that an independent Catalunya would be excluded from the EU. This is a bureaucratic claim only and is both historically and geographically idiotic. Yes, Catalunya would not immediately be a signatory state to the treaties. But the territory of Catalunya is already in the EU and the citizens of Catalunya would remain citizens of the EU through their (remaining) Spanish citizenship. Plus, fast forward 10 years and Catalunya would be in the EU so there’s absolutely no point keeping Catalunya out in the first place. Plus, geographically, Catalunya blocks the main road and the trainline between France and Spain. Erecting customs posts on the borders would be economic idiocy. And Barcelona is the main port on that whole coast, for Spain as well as Catalunya. Madness to suggest “Oh yeah, we’ll keep Catalunya out of the EU”. It can only be asserted as a threat.
As for the breakup of Yugoslavia, or the history of Ireland, they give us great hints how the breakup of a state could be managed better. Instead of “f*ck you” being the main approach, we could try “Hmm. I guess we could be best of friends that way too.” If Germany broke up into regions then the discussions of inter-region transfers could and would take place at an EU level, rather than within Germany. Just as difficult, probably, but essentially exactly the same.
Catalan independence may indeed not have majority support among the voters of Catalunya, but to put administrative preference or bureaucratic preference above democratic principles is a betrayal of the most important idea behind the EU – which is that Europeans can live together peacefully with democratic institutions. Denying democracy because it doesn’t suit what the administrative functions find most convenient is both morally obnoxious and politically dangerous.