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Catalonian independence: an outsider’s view

A look at both sides of the question as October 1 approaches

David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain from 2010 to 2016, became popular in Scotland for allowing the Scots to have an independence referendum in 2014. The Scots voted ‘no’. End of story, at least for now.

Many regions or states have tried and failed to break away from the country they ‘belong’ to. But, unlike Britain, their constitutions make referendums on the 1issue illegal. Texas wanted to be separate from the US in 1869. More recently, Veneto wanted free of Italy and Bavaria of Germany – their demands for a referendum were refused in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

The same is the case, of course, for Catalonia. The difference is that the Catalans and their President Carles Puigdemont will not take ‘no’ for an answer.

2Accounting for a fifth of Spain’s GDP, Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest regions. 3As such it was ordered to pay €17 billion to central government to help the rest of the country following the economic crisis. Resentment 4ensued. Why should they pay?

Seen by some as 5a lack of solidarity, Catalonia’s 6bid for independence has failed to capture the imagination, the way Scotland’s did. Despite the protests against Spanish repression, Catalonia is not the 7underdog. In fact, former Catalan leader Artur Mas claimed that Spain’s development from a poor isolated country to a 8fully functioning member of the European Union is mostly thanks to Catalonia’s powerful economy. “We would like to be one more player taking part in the construction of this shared project,” he told a Friends of Europe conference.

Anti-independence_graffiti_in_Badalona
Anti-independence_graffiti_in_Badalona

Scared that independence would be the last 9nail in its 10coffin, Mariano Rajoy’s government has ordered a 11crackdown on the October 1 referendum. The accusations of repression are now being substantiated, thanks to the arrests of 14 senior Catalan officials and operations to 12seize 13ballot papers and election materials. It is possible that when voters go to the 14polls on October 1, they will be prevented from voting.

So what are the arguments for and against Catalonian independence?

Catalonia is culturally different. They have 15banned bullfighting and don’t dance flamenco. They have their own language and flag. On the other hand, many regions of Spain are culturally different. Andalusia and Galicia. If every culturally different region got independence, Europe would be 16splintered, and there would be greater potential for conflict.

It is true that Catalonia has had to support less prosperous regions of Spain after the economic crisis, which has left them seriously in debt. On the other hand, if Catalonia is not prepared to help the rest of Spain, why should the EU help Catalonia?

The cost of going it alone

As Brexit has illustrated – independence is expensive. Catalonia would have to 17reapply for EU membership and 18lure back investors. It would also have the expense of setting up institutions that are currently shared.

Those in favor of independence may feel Spain is a 19drain on Catalonia’s finances while those against it may feel Spain’s colorful influence adds character to the region.

At the end of the day, opinion polls predict that the majority of the Catalans would vote ‘no’ in a referendum. But it is like the story The Wind and the Sun and their competition to remove a man’s coat. A lighter touch usually wins the day.

 

AUDIO

TRANSLATIONS

1issue: cuestión

2to account for: representar

3As such: como tal

4to ensue: resultar

5lack of: falta de

6bid: intento

7underdog: desamparado

8fully: plenamente

9nail: clavo

10coffin: tumba

11crackdown: mano dura

12to seize: incautar

13ballot papers: papeletas electorales

14polls: urnas

15banned: prohibido

16splintered: fragmentada

17to reapply: volver a solicitar

18to lure back: atraer

19drain: pérdida

 

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