Friday, September 13, 2013
A better idea for Catalonia
Mr. Artur Mas, the right-wing president of Catalonia and leader of a party tainted by corruption scandals, wrote an article in the New York Times on Tuesday supporting Catalan independence. He argued that the issue should be left to Catalans to be decided in a democratic referendum, for which he has not clarified what would the exact question be. It would be good to discuss and decide the issue democratically and within the law, which now is difficult given the strict control and manipulation of public media by Mr. Mas and his supporters, who have at this stage lost control of a nationalist movement that they decided to support with the objective of making the citizens forget about budget cuts and corruption scandals. He argued that at the same time Catalonia wants to be a member of the European Union. However, for an independent Catalonia to be a member state of the European Union it would need the unanimous approval of the current 28 member states. So far, not a single one of them has declared its support (Latvia’s leader has said that it would consider the possibility). And it is hard to see how a single member state would accept the precedent of a relatively rich part of a member state breaking it up. To convince other countries that Catalan independence is a good idea, the supporters of the idea should show evidence that the project improves welfare not only in Catalonia (something that is very questionable given that Spain is Catalonia’s main trading partner) but also elsewhere. They should answer the question: Will Europe be a better place if Spain breaks up? The chauvinist Italian Northern League has expressed its support to Catalan independence. With such supporters, it is hard to see how serious Europeans will ever express their support. A federal Spain in the transition towards a truly integrated Europe, where the member states progressively lose importance, is a much more intelligent way to solve forever the lack of recognition of Catalan identity. The Economist also supports a new understanding between Catalonia and Spain. The Financial Times explicitly argues in favour of an asymmetric federalism. It seems that, although federalists are treated like psychotics in some Catalan circles, federalism has much more and more qualified international support than independence.