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Why Spain needs to Show a United Front

Independence for Catalonia would come at a high price. As the European Union celebrates its 60th anniversary, the maxim ‘stronger together’ has never been more relevant for Spain.

First of all, there is a need to address the elephant in the room. No-one likes to see the news filled with scenes of civil unrest.  For the majority of people, previously unaware of the increasing tension between Catalonia and the Spanish government, it is this news coverage that has shaped opinion.

The point of this article is, therefore, to shed light on the implications for an independent Catalonia and look at just why the Spanish government wants to keep the country whole.

Catalonia, with its language and customs, has been an independent region since before the Middle Ages. The various clashes of power and changes in monarchy have, over the centuries, either granted autonomy or seized it back.

As a result of the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s dictatorship sought to violently crush left-wing opposition in the region, and subsequently withdrew its democratic liberties.

With the resulting civil opposition crushed, it took until 1975 and the death of Franco, before democracy returned and Catalonia’s autonomy was re-instated. This move allowed it to decide on its education, healthcare system, and police force.

As autonomous as the region was, however, it is important to note that the Catalan people unanimously voted to uphold the Spanish constitution and the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.’

The patriotism of the Catalan people and their willingness to preserve their culture has never been in question.

The decision by president Puigdemont to encourage an illegal vote, in complete defiance of the Spanish constitution, has the potential to cause a rift in the entire country.

This fact is particularly relevant as the 2.034m yes votes cannot truly be said to represent the 5.3 million voters in the region. The significance of the vote is a clear indicator that Catalonia and Spain need to sit around a table as a matter of some urgency, but it cannot be seen as a mandate from the people for moving ahead with an illegal agenda.

The timing of Catalan’s unrest also comes at a very poignant time, with 2017 marking the 60th anniversary of the historic Treaty of Rome, when six founding member states laid the foundation stones for the European Union.

This Union has never been more relevant or needed, as inflation, a slow down of GDP and economic pressure from the rising economies of the Far East and Asia, require a united front.

Just as the European Union has worked together for the greater good of all its members, so the people of Spain have worked as one, to raise the country up from recession.

From a negative annual GDP of 2013 (-1.7%) Spain has managed to reverse the position. Going on to show a positive increase in 2014 (1.4%), doubling it by 2015 (3.2%), and sustaining that remarkable reversal of fortunes into 2016.

Yes, the industrially prosperous region of Catalonia may well have contributed significantly to that turnaround, but the victory belongs to Spain as whole.


Pro-Spain rally in Barcelona. Unionists moved from all over Spain to Barcelona to protest against the referendum for independence on 8 October 2017. Copyright: MaryG123 / Shutterstock.com

In times of a recession, it is the co-joined efforts of the entire country that push towards the greater good. Unfortunately, after four hard years, the light at the end of the tunnel should not be dimmed by the specter of civil unrest.

There is no doubt that the region as a whole is not as blanketly committed to the idea of an independent republic as its leaders make out, says Recortes Cero. The Catalan based political association opposes what they see as Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont’s railroading of the Catalan people, going as far as calling the October election an ‘undemocratic scam.’

Even if one sets aside the political wrangling of Catalan’s proposed independence, the fiscal and logistical ramifications are enormous. Everything from a central bank to a military presence and border controls would be needed

All the major utility services, not to mention transportation hubs, which currently emanate from Madrid, would need unraveling, and with the state ownership of airports running at 51% this alone would be a monumental task.

On the monetary side of things, yes, Catalan contributes over 20% to the country’s tax revenue, but relies on Spain to take over 30% of its exported goods. Independence would also put it outside of the EU, and the implementation of border controls and customs would only hamper the movement of goods.

Re-joining the European Economic Community (EEC) would not be straightforward either; voting in a new member has to be unanimous, Catalonia would, therefore, be reliant on Spain’s vote!

The ramifications of Catalan’s split from Spain are for some unthinkable.  The divide, having the potential to derail the country’s hard-fought battle with recession.  Coming at a time when the ideals of the European Community also need to be embraced by individual countries.

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Malcom Lee

Malcom is a well-travelled, master’s degree journalist and news editor from the UK. He currently works and enjoys life with his family in Greece.

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