“Every time I am less and less surprised about the news in Catalonia”. The vice president of Spain, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, talks about the information that comes from that autonomous community with a certain kind of irony. For the last few years, an independence movement has arisen in this community and the election on the 27th of September only stirred debates about the subject.
Why do some Catalans ask for independence?
We need to go over the history and language of Catalonia, in order to achieve a better understanding of the independence movement of this community.
In the territories of present-day Catalonia, Christians created some “counties” – satellites to the Carolingian Empire, of which France was a part of until well into the seventh century. This was a key moment as the Carolingian Empire recognized the sovereignty of the Catalan counties, despite their not having their own monarch – akin to the current situation in Canada, Australia and New Zealand with the British monarchy. From that moment on, Catalonia became a sovereign country.
Two centuries later, in the twelfth century, the dynastic union of Catalonia with the Crown of Aragon occurred. This union did not affect the sovereignty of both territories, which remained different countries with different institutions, taxes and laws.
It was in 1714 when Catalonia became a province that the territory finally lost its sovereignty as Barcelona fell into the hands of the Bourbon troops during the War of Succession. This war was an international conflict caused by a dispute over the Spanish throne – Felipe V defeated the candidate of the House of Austria, Archduke Carlos, mainly supported by the Crown of Aragon (which included Catalonia). The victory of the Bourbons is a landmark in the Catalan history because it meant the abolition of civil liberties and Catalan institutions.
Catalonia ceased to be a sovereign state.
Catalan is a Romance language – a language originating from Latin. The greatest influence on Catalan was another Romance language, the language of the poets of the Middle Ages: the Occitan language. The oldest texts written entirely in Catalan date back to the eleventh century.
Today, this language is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands and the city of Alghero in Sardinia. It is the official language of the first three regions.
Catalan is a language that has suffered throughout the centuries, from the castellanización of the nobility (wherein they gradually made Spanish the language of the administration and the high classes), the prohibition of the use of Catalan in public and official spheres by Felipe V in the eighteenth century to the prohibition, and oppression of any example of Catalan during the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975).
Despite multiple attempts to suppress this language, Catalan is continuously reborn from the ashes thanks to the will of the people to maintain their culture and language.
The Independence Movement in the present day
|Arguments made for the movement||Arguments made against the movement|
|Economic arguments||A Catalan independent government could implement economic policy in Catalan interests and therefore, citizens could demand more tangible results.
Large investments (e.g. in infrastructure), that currently are not be carried out would be done. Policies of domestic uniformity imposed by the Spanish government proves to be economically detrimental to the regions that produce the most, including Catalonia.
Education and health services would improve.
|Catalonia would have to take on a debt of 142.754 million euros and face problems in financing both amounts and interest rates.
It would see its rating reduced to junk bonds.
It would no longer be a part of the EU and therefore have to apply for membership, which would require unanimous support to be approved.
They would have to negotiate the EU trade rules and be subject to tariffs.
Many multinationals would relocate their offices to the Eurozone for reliance and security. This would seriously increase unemployment. Meanwhile, financial institutions would likewise move their registered offices, to not be left out of the Eurozone and lose revenues.
The new Catalan state would have to create sectors such as defense (it would have to leave NATO), security and diplomacy.
|Political arguments||It would facilitate the exercise of popular will.
It would create a nation with its own language and unique features that must be preserved, which would thrive with institutions of its own.
The government of Spain rejects and opposes dialogue with the Catalan residents.
Identity and belonging: an important part of the Catalans do not feel Spanish, and would find themselves more at ease in an independent Catalonia. Catalonia could recover an identity that was established centuries ago and subsequently diluted in the more expansive Spanish state.
|Catalonia has been part of Spain for centuries, so their seceding would not be in accordance with modern history.|
Despite the independence movement being a strong one in Catalonia, not everyone is in favour of it. It may not be as pressing as it seems from afar; the debate is dominated by those with the loudest voices in society. Politicians take advantage of the moment and the influence they hold to win votes. Catalonia is similar to Scotland in that there is no clear consensus on the issue of independence for the country.
Throughout Spain, there are three widely held views: one that Catalonia is a part of Spain and always will be; one that this avoidable conflict should be ended by granting Catalonia independence; and a more neutral one that Catalonia should be left to decide its own fate.
Unfortunately, in Spain, the proponents of the first anti-independence view are the most vocal and the fight between “Spain” and “Catalonia” is a never-ending verbal one. As we saw at the beginning of this article: “Every time I am less and less surprised about the news in Catalonia.”