There’s not a wall in the centre of Barcelona without a poster, flyer or graffiti message urging independence. The newspapers, TV stations, radio and general banter are dominated by this topic. This is big news that dominates public opinion across the region and ‘nationally’- by that I mean across other neighbouring, semi-autonomous and bankrupt regions that the rest of the world knows as Spain.
This obsessive, idealised and ultimately romantic notion of independence is BAD for Cataluña.
As a staunch Irish republican, pro-Palestinian and general supporter of the right to self-determination, I really want to clap and cheer the Catalan independence movement, but I can’t. Catalunya, if it secured independence, would have to function outside of the EU, outside of the Euro and the so-called big businesses that are generating all this Catalan GDP would up sticks and leave if independence were ever achieved. A large proportion of the European exports the region currently enjoys would cease, because it’s a lot harder to do business with countries outside of the EU and in a different currency – current buyers wouldn’t buy anymore. Currently 50% of Cataluña’s trade is with the other regions of Spain – this would be hurt too – for the same reasons; it would be too difficult to trade with Cataluña and much easier to ‘shop’ elsewhere. Nothing to do with petty-mindedness from Madrid as is being bandied around in the regional press, simple fact – it’s easier for an EU country to do business with another EU country than say with Brazil or Morocco; an independent Catalunya would have to spend a few years in the wilderness until they can join the EU, Catalunya would be on the trade periphery, a last choice not a first choice.
The Catalan regional government, which is as close to self-governing as you can get, (trumped only by the Basque region which, through ETA, waged a bloody and violent independence campaign) has proven to be spectacularly bad at managing finances, controlling corruption and nepotism or making the drastic cuts required to the swollen civil service to balance the books – the same ministers can’t and won’t suddenly become better at their jobs the moment Catalunya is declared a country.
On September 11th 2012 there really were 1.5 million on the streets, these protesters weren’t just angry trade unionists, disenchanted students or ne’er do wells banding together under the independence banner for a chance to smash the windows of Citibank (again) and throw rocks at the Mossos d’Esquadra – this was a demonstration by the very broadest cross-section of the socio-economic mix with families of three generations marching; a large proportion of the demonstrators were the well-heeled middle-class who’d driven in specially from Sant Cugat et al in their Porsche Cayennes and X5s to genuinely vote with their feet.
The election on the 25th will most probably give Artur Mas the majority he needs to rule the roost and push through a pan-Iberian fiefdom referendum, but I’d be surprised if he pushes for a referendum too soon – why bother when a/ there’s a gigantic possibility it won’t get the majority vote given that the rest of Spain has a say and b/he can continue to play Comte d’Catalunya and blame Madrid when things go wrong. An independent Catalunya would mean accountability, international/sovereign compliance and would require a massive learning curve in governance – better to secure a majority rule, get the €5 Billion out of Madrid to pay off the debt and play King of an oppressed and occupied people… when the voting public become completely disillusioned in about 3 years, and re-election is looking a bit risky, push for the referendum then, stir up the anti-Madrid sentiment again and blag your way to another term in office.
PP, who let’s face it, are as despicable and incompetent as the rest of them are mounting a counter-campaign, the posters say Cataluña Sí, España También (Cataluña yes, Spain too), it pains me to say it, but they’re right – it’s the only way to secure the financial security of Cataluña and to keep the ideals of Catalunya and the Catalan culture alive, with functioning schools, public services, jobs, industry, arts and… hope.