Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Spain vs. Catalonia: an issue that is far from over

Identity versus economic disaster

(Flickr Creative Commons: Andriy Tkachenko)

(Flickr Creative Commons: Andriy Tkachenko)

(Flickr Creative Commons: Andriy Tkachenko)

By Morgan Reppert, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

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It’s an episode we’ve all watched on repeat: A group of established citizens fighting to be recognized as an autonomous territory, attempting to gain both political and economic freedom from a federal government refusing to release its grasp. And in this rerun, Spain is not enabling the secession of Catalonia whatsoever.

On March 25, Catalonia’s former leader, Carles Puigdemont, was arrested in Germany on a weekend trip as he was seeking refuge in Belgium—Puigdemont fled Spain following his failed attempt to conduct a referendum on independence for Catalonia, after it was put on suspension by Spain’s constitutional court. The referendum resulted in a heavy-handed riot police presence in Madrid in an attempt to shut down the vote at all costs necessary. But before demoting the Spanish government as a tyrannical body that is relentless in releasing its control of Catalonia, there are a few decisive factors to consider.

Catalonia was granted a degree of autonomy in 1977 for the second time following the downfall of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. But given that their degree of autonomy was deemed insufficient, the citizens of Catalonia continued to call for complete independence steadily until July 2010.  At that point, the Constitutional Court in Madrid overruled part of the 2006 autonomy statute, stating that there is no legal basis for recognizing Catalonia as a nation within Spain.

The hearts and minds of the Catalans remain hopeful even after Pudigdemont’s arrest. Although European states have the full right to give the Catalan secessionists no support, they simply cannot ignore the stark differences between Catalonia and Spain. First off, 73.2 percent of Catalonians speak Catalan. Throughout Catalonia, the street signs are written in Catalan and Catalonia flags decorate Barcelona, the capital. Even in schools, the language of instruction is Catalan—not Spanish.

The issue at hand is even more magnified given the condition of Spain’s economy in contrast to the economy of Catalonia, which is the industrial heartland of the country. Catalans only account for 16 percent of the Spanish population but make a substantial contribution to the overall Spanish economy, making 223.6 billion Euros ($275.32 billion United States dollars) a year according to the regional government.

At the same time, if Catalonia was to succeed in gaining complete economic independence, they would face sizable damage to their economy, as about 35.5 percent of Catalan exports go to Spanish markets that cater to both household and industrial consumers. Catalonia would also have to bear the financial burden of creating new governmental structures such as central banks, foreign embassies and much more.

Ensuing the failed referendum, then Minister of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness of Spain Luis de Guindos claimed that, if Catalonia was to secede, they should anticipate an economic decrease of 25 to 30 percent. Aside from the shrinkage of their economy, it’s important to consider the new tariffs they will face, the costs of establishing a new currency and even the financial ramifications they will incur from leaving the European Union.

Yet, Catalonia’s economic reality post-split is not consistently spoken about in their campaign for independence. In addition to potential boycotts, the state of Catalonia and Spain post-separation would result in both states facing significant hardship resulting in a loss of jobs, investments and commercial operations. Regardless, the fate of both nations would ultimately boil down to hypothetical compromises on debt and the EU that are made in post-separation negotiations.

Ultimately though, Catalan nationals will face any confrontation and pay any sum for independence, regardless of their economic losses. If Catalonia was to successfully split from Spain, there will be great unrest and unrecoverable financial losses. However, the economic arguments will not be the ones that prevail in the continuous debate over Catalonia’s independence. It will be the one that cannot be compromised: identity.

Editor’s Note: The colors of the FC Barcelona football team are not from the Catalan flag. The Collegian regrets the error.

Morgan Reppert is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]


5 Responses to “Spain vs. Catalonia: an issue that is far from over”

  1. John aimo on April 11th, 2018 1:20 am

    This conflict has nothing to do with identity, it is an asinine interpretation. Is this what you learned from a polysci class?

    Catalonia has already declared it’s independence however a court in Spain ruled it illegal. Catalonia should do whatever is necessary to secure it’s independence including going to war

    Also everything is not about money as you suggest, perhaps Catalonia values it’s freedom and autonomy over a slightly richer economy.

    Also there are other issues like terrorism in Barcelona. Why would they want their beautiful city to be ruined by terrorism? Also concerns about the EU and third world refugees who cause,violence, crime and negatively impact tourism. Both of these issues relate to Spain’s membership in the EU.

    I think Catalonia should secure it’s already declared freedom because it should be respected and because it will undermine the European Union. Also Catalonia should pay the EU nothing regardless of any agreement or contract, which should be nulled or voided. This is just a tactic by the EU to hold power over its members and dissuade exit. A sovereign state which Catalonia can be has no obligation to pay foreign entities anything.

    Europe is a beautiful Continent, despite its current problems it remains the center of civilization in our world and virtually all advancements over the past 2,000 years have come from europe as well as the fact most of our ancestors are from europe.

    It’s too good to be ruined by a neo-soclaist liberal agenda to lower standard of living, import third world people and allow to almost literally suck the sustenance out of Europe while standing by idle to regular terrorism.

    I think as Americans we should support Catalonia’s independence and do whatever we can to help Europe to fight against terrorism and the third world invasion.

  2. Matt on April 11th, 2018 6:29 am

    There are so many inaccuracies in this piece it’s difficult to know where to start. The simplest example is SOME Catalans want independence, not “Catalans want independence. ” There’s a huge difference. Puigdemont has never had a mandate from the majority of Catalans, never!! He is judged by the majority of Spanish as a criminal who needs to bear the consequences of his unlawful actions. Not only has he acted against the Spanish constitution, but also against the Catalan constitution. Rajoy may well be an imbecile, but that’s not illegal. Dialogue is the answer, but Puigdemont is only intent on self aggrandizement.

  3. Marc on April 11th, 2018 7:58 am

    I’m afraid it is not an economic question, nor identity. It is a question of Democracy and dignity.

  4. Sitting Bull on April 12th, 2018 10:13 am

    Amazing….the author argues in favor of Catalonia’s independence based on the factor of identity alone to justify all Catalonia stands to lose. But in America – the American identity (see: white, European Judeo-Christian descent) is a dirty word. Somehow, the people and values and identity that made America great are no longer in favor, no longer legitimate in the eyes of many who have wandered in here over the years. It’s fine all over the world to fight for your culture, but in America the Trumpian white middle class that built this nation is supposed to just hand it over and ride into the sunset as the civilization crumbles. Why?

  5. Medicci on April 13th, 2018 8:59 pm

    1. Spain was built stealing gold from South America.
    2. Catalonia more than benefited the Spanish economy with sports revenue for several years.
    3. Catalonia needs to be its own nation.
    4. Spain needs to realize that fragmentation is eminent now and in the future.
    It’s time to welcome Catalonia as a new nation.
    Spanish courts should begin process to restore stolen gold to South American nations.
    This is the beginning of the dismantling of a Spain that never really was.

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