Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beneath the paving stones, Europe (not Catalonia), or why the secession drive fails to ignite foreign support

The supporters of the secession drive in Catalonia spend enormous efforts and resources in trying to gather international support for their cause. There are at least two books in English in the bookstores explaining the arguments in favor of independence, written by local supporters (apparently they failed to find foreign prestigious experts, which would have increased the credibility of the endevour). The Catalan autonomous government is itself spending public resources in this international campaign, for example by deploying an organization of international supporters (of Catalan origin) called “Diplocat”. Letters to President Obama have been sent (and received a cold shoulder).
The results of all these efforts have been very meager. Basically, there is no relevant foreign support for Catalan independence. European Union officials have repeatedly stated that an independent Catalonia would start its life out of the EU, and prestigious news organizations such as The Economist or the Financial Times have expressed their support for a better, federal integration of Catalonia in Spain in a united Europe. The promoters of independence should reflect about the reasons of their failure. Perhaps the distributive implications of the drive and of the actual independence (if it ever happens) of a relatively rich region where human and identity rights are fully respected, are not the ones that usually ignite international solidarity campaigns. We are talking about XXI Century Catalonia, not India, South Africa or Tibet in the XXth Century. No peace minded international activist would desire instability in Europe, especially southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Federalism is as a more ambitious and at the same time realistic alternative. Secessionists often argue that federalists do not have supporters outside Catalonia (disregarding the opinions of 40% of Spaniards according to a recent survey and the above mentioned international supporters), as if implying that external support is not needed for independence. But new frontiers are an international issue. Climate change, financial instability, or global poverty cannot be fixed from any of the current national states in Europe (as Daniel Cohn-Bendit often says), much less from a new, small nation-state (especially if it is not accepted as a member of the European Union).
In a very revealing piece today in the New York Times (NYT), several Catalan business executives express their discrepancy with the secessionist drive. The reporter only collects the opinion of one executive in favor of independence. This is Jordi Bagó i Mons, chief executive of Serhs, a provider of hotel catering and other tourism services, who is a member of a business association that supports secession. Mr. Bagó argues that with independence “we can construct a much better economic model for Catalonia”. One wonders whether Serhs itself should be an inspiration for this model, since the President of the company and former politician, Mr Ramon Bagó i Agulló, has been investigated for fraud by the official Catalan Anti-Fraud Office (see El Pais, January 29th, 2013). Very appropriately, the NYT report explains how the Catalan government that promotes the secessionist drive has itself been weakened by corruption scandals. It is then not surprising that this movement fails to inspire foreign supporters, as previous Catalan freedom fighters inspired the support of people like George Orwell.

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