By Satyajit Mohanan
The day will be remembered in history. On Friday, 27th of October 2017, the President of the Catalan government prompted one of Europe’s worst Constitutional crises by declaring the independence of Catalonia from the Republic of Spain. The 2014 referendum failed to create an impact, with the Spanish Constitutional Court and the government coming down heavily on the referendum. However, the 2017 Referendum has been very different from previous attempts at independence.
The Pro-Independence leaders capitalized the situation effectively and transformed it to an international issue. Though there are a number of different perspectives and arguments to this issue, I believe the impacts of the independence could be disastrous. Only a united Spain can avoid such impacts. If Catalonia becomes an independent state, there would be two adverse impacts which would cause a great magnitude of instability in the world. The first impact being, the political impact which would give rise to referendums in various other countries causing a turmoil globally. The second impact is the inevitable economic uncertainty and instability. Among the European countries, Spain is considered to be one of the most de-centralized and diverse member-states. The country has been tolerant towards immigration, tourist friendly and is one of the few countries where anti-elitism has been candidly visible. However, Catalonia, one of Spain’s seventeen ‘autonomous communities’, has expressed that the Republic of Spain is not only authoritative and centrist, but also disrespectful towards the state.
The recent police crackdown on the peaceful protestors of the independence referendum was horrendous and did raise some serious doubts on the existence of democracy in the country. The claims of the Catalan people are indeed serious and in a democracy, they have the right to protest and showcase resent. It is the duty of the government to make sure their rights are respected and their concerns are acted upon. However, Independence is not the answer for the grievances of a state.
A successful independence would encourage similar movements across the globe, leading to political instability. Nationalists in Scotland, Bavaria, Scania, Flanders, Padania and many more countries would revolt. The most important reason for such referendums is the ‘Identity Factor’. In Catalonia, the identity factor arises as the Catalonians have their own language, culture and flag and do not consider themselves as Spanish. The Catalonians don’t dance flamenco nor do they encourage the bull fight. The people have also not forgotten the ruthless ban on Catalonian culture and language by the country’s late dictator Francisco Franco.
The Independence would also have a two-fold impact on the economies of Spain as well as Catalonia, which in return, would have an adverse impact on the EU’s economy. This constitutional crisis would further give rise to yet another economic crisis in Europe. Spain’s economy to a great extent depends upon Catalonia’s economy. Catalonia contributes to about 19% of Spain’s GDP. Nearly 70% of the net exports come from the Catalonian region. Catalonia contributes immensely to the tourism industry of Spain which is one of the major industries which adds up to Spain’s GDP. On the other hand, Catalonia’s economy would also suffer heavy damage if it becomes a separate nation. Catalonia will not be internationally recogonised as a majority of the nations support Spain. For instance, certain nations like the UK will be forced to support Spain fearing referendums in its own country.
On the other hand, the European Union stands solidly behind Spain. In this scenario, Catalonia will not be able to join the EU as countries would block the entry and as a result, the newly formed nation will not be able to use the EU currency. As mentioned earlier, exports remain a strong sector in Catalonia’s economy. Thus the countries which import the goods would naturally align with Spain and new borders and export regulations will have a negative impact on exports which would inflict heavy damage to Catalonia’s economy. The regional government is in debt accounting to 42 billion Euros and it would nearly be an impossible task for a newly formed nation to get rid of it.
A unified Spain with more political and economic devolution is the only way forward. By this, the people of Catalonia will be satisfied and unification would be able to prevent one of Europe’s worst political and economic crises. I don’t mean to disrespect the Catalan sentiments nor do I believe that the Catalonian people should sacrifice their demands and rights to safeguard global interests. I am a firm believer in the rights and the interests of the people. Spain must conclusively meet the demands and the interests of the Catalonian people by giving them greater financial and political autonomy. The State must also revise the unscrupulous taxes and regulations that are imposed on Catalonia. Unity is strength and is one of the most important factors for progressiveness in today’s world.
The present scenario in Spain displays an authoritative environment that is not open to dissent and there seems to be a great degree of disunity. Let us hope that in the coming days, Europe’s fourth largest state would yet again see unity and progressiveness. Let me conclude with a famous quote, which explicitly sums up the whole argument: ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’