Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, received Artur Mas, President of the Generalitat de Catalunya. This handshake that happened exactly one year ago probably made most Catalans believe that they can make ends meet on their own (EC Audiovisual Services, 30/09/2013)

Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, received Artur Mas, President of the Generalitat de Catalunya. This handshake that happened exactly one year ago probably made most Catalans believe that they can make ends meet on their own (EC Audiovisual Services, 30/09/2013)

The fact that Scotland’s vote for independence was a milestone in the separatist movements’ history within the European Union was already clear. In the last weeks everybody was looking northwards as it was evident that any decision by the Scots would have changed the path and probably the weight of the regionalist parties inside the parliament houses of the European countries. According to this idea I guess it would be normal to say that Scotland’s rejection of independence is a real setback for those movements’ cause, right? Maybe, but this is far from the reality. Unexpectedly Scotland’s referendum has boosted separatist movements anyway. And now Catalonia’s case is the proof.

What many were afraid of happened anyway in the wealthy North-Eastern region of Spain: last Friday Catalonia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving its regional President the right to call a vote on independence from Spain. The move came just a day after Scotland voted against independence from the United Kingdom, surprising all those people who were thinking “straight”, as I said a few lines ago. But Catalan President Artur Mas’ declaration explains it all: “Scotland’s referendum had ‘shown the way’ for Catalonian independence”, he stated to the BBC. And this is exactly how separatist movements in Europe will behave and re-organise their own strategy: to go beyond Scotland’s “Yes” front’s defeat, asking for the same right that Scotland was given. The right to vote.

That’s why Mr Mas earlier said that Scotland’s rejection of independence was “not a setback” and that having the chance to vote was “the key point”. “This is a powerful and strong message that the UK is sending to the entire world” the head of Catalonia’s regional movement declared at a news conference. “Scotland’s referendum opens the way for us, because what happened there is that they voted […] and what we really want in Catalonia is to have […] the same possibility”, he added. The takeaway message was that a referendum had taken place, and this way the regional Parliament in Barcelona voted (106 to 28) to give to its leader the power to call a vote on independence which is planned for November 9 2014.

The Spanish government has repeatedly said that such vote would be illegal and would violate Spain’s constitution. Unlike London, Madrid has never allowed Catalonia or any other region to organize a referendum for independence, and therefore any attempt should be considered as “not official” and not leading to immediate secession anyway. Of course Mr Mas counts on the fact that an overwhelming “Yes” majority would give him a political mandate to negotiate a path towards independence with Madrid. The main issue for the Catalans would “only” be that Spain’s constitution doesn’t allow referendums that don’t include all Spaniards. Santi Rodriguez, a member of the Catalan regional parliament who represents Prime Minister Rajoy’s centre-right Popular Party, said it wouldn’t be possible for only Catalonians to vote, claiming that “there are not just seven million of us who would be affected by this – there are forty-seven million.”

Spain’s Premier didn’t mention Catalonia in his statement about Scotland’s referendum on Friday. “With their decision, Scots have avoided the large economic, social, institutional and political consequences that separation would have brought”, he said. And even with no direct citation to the turmoil inside his own country, he was harsh on any consequence led by separatist desires: “[The Scots] chose between integration and segregation, between isolation and openness, between stability and uncertainty, between security and a real risk, and they have chosen the most favourable option for everyone”.

Scotland’s question first and now Catalonia’s one have brought back attention to those various separatist movements across Europe. Italy’s Veneto and Sardinia as well as Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders are quoted as the next areas in Europe which would get some key takeaways from this situation. Separatist and regional movement may flourish in the next months following Scotland’s and, most of all, Catalonia’s examples. For sure this is no golden era for those like me who believe in a Europe of fewer rather than more borders, and differences enforcing unity, still being in favour of giving to the people the right to express themselves.

Earlier this month hundreds of thousands of Catalans formed a “V” for “vote” in Barcelona’s main roads calling for their right to vote. What I think should be analysed carefully is whether the “V” for vote corresponds to “V” for victory all the times.

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Comments

  1. Catalonia is Spain says:

    Nice way to hide corruption. Go Mas Go!

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