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Catalonia's independence: Unachievable but expectable in Europe

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

11-19-2015 11:49 BJT

By Shi Yan, assistant research fellow, Department for European Studies, China Institute of International Studies

The Spain Constitutional Court voted to suspend Catalonia's independence process on November 11th, which means Catalonian efforts failed again. This decision reflects the stand of Spanish central government, three conservative parties, business and most Spanish.

Actually, not only Madrid and the rest of Spanish are strongly against Catalonia's independence, but the external world also shows no mercy on Catalan aspiration. For other European countries, especially countries like the UK who is also obsessed with local separatist movement, the success of Catalan separatist movement will inspire the separatism around Europe, even all over the world. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon already denied Catalonia's self-determination right, since it is not a non-self-governing territory.

The most important, like a messy divorce, separation from Spain is not in Catalonia's interests. Independence won't make Catalan economy easier than now. Under any independence agreement, Catalan has to assume a significant part of Spain’s debt. This challenge would be further complicated by the need to find a currency other than the Euro, as Spain would veto Catalonia membership in the monetary union. Diplomacy is another challenge. Spain definitely will not be happy to leave much international space to Catalonia. Even Catalan security will lose guarantee. Catalan President Artur Mas's independence agenda is viewed as a farce as the whole Europe was still in the political, financial and security turmoil. President Obama came out against Scottish independence, so he will not welcome an independent Catalonia either. Without support from the US, Catalan cannot get the NATO membership.
Nevertheless, the inside dynamics push Catalan to begin the dangerous game. Spain was assembled through the merger, mainly by marriage, of smaller kingdoms with long and distinct histories. Several of these regions have longstanding cultural practices, dialects, and even languages. Catalonia is one such region— its language, Catalan, is a Romance language that shares both Iberian and Gallo-Itallic linguistic roots. Catalan is mainly spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and an adjoining region in France. While most Spaniards have a sense of national identity, regional and local identities hold strong.

Besides culture and language, the Catalan economic situation and fiscal pressure in the post-financial crisis period triggered this independence wave. Facing serious financial deficit and government debt, Catalonians confidently believe fiscal independence from Madrid will make them better off. However, Catalan leaders, including President Artur Mas, have failed to honestly present the potential ultimate economic, political and security costs to Catalan voters. Political activities always initiated by political purposes. To a large extent, based on Catalonian national aspiration, Catalonia’s independence process was initiated by the local political calculation. Local leaders intend to use the independence process to distract voters’ attention from Catalan’s economic problems. Simultaneously, they can also gain bargain chips to Madrid for more fiscal appropriation by provoking such an independence movement.

Even if the separationist efforts are not a successful strategy to achieve the final independence, it probably will be a successful tactic to help Catalan gain a better position in Spain, and of course, help local leaders gain more votes.
Separatism is already an old topic in Europe. In the past decades, under the shining integration process, fragmentation is like the subterranean flow driving European countries to another direction—fragmentation. Recently, Europe is becoming the top one Separatism club in the world. François Alfonsi, chairman of the European Free Alliance constituted by 40 stateless parties, confessed the separation will bring Europe into chaos, but he emphasized chaos was just the reality of democracy.

No matter in European Union or its member states, unity is a more and more serious challenge. Most of European regions with an independence plan are developed areas. Their separatist intention is more or less selfish when Europe is struggling with debt crisis, refugee crisis, security dilemma with Russia and terrorism. On the other hand, actually, the "unity deficit" is the deeper problem over all the above crises for Europe.

This is not the first time Catalonian independence movement, and it won't be the last time or the only one in Europe. The relationships between central and local governments, EU decision and member states’ interests need to be balanced. Otherwise, separation inside states or EU will be the "New Normal" in Europe, let alone so many new immigrants flowing to Europe.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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