Catalonia – A Month After the “Civil War”

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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It has been nearly two months since the conflict between the Kingdom of Spain and the autonomous region of Catalonia, in which Catalonia demanded independence. Catalonia has since then held referendums, voted for independence, and even declared independence from Spain. The referendum meant to end all referendums were held on October 1, 2017, a day scarred by National Police violence, who attempted to terrorize voters, prevent the majority of them from voting, and destroy polling stations and confiscate the election materials (ballots, ballot boxes, etc.). Nevertheless, there was a 43% turnout where roughly 92% of the people voted to secede from Spain and the remainder voted to remain a part of the kingdom. This referendum was deemed illegal by the Spanish government. Independence was declared by the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. Therefore, today on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula now lies an “independent” unrecognized new democratic country which is officially called the Catalan Republic. Well, you would think this is true but this republic lasted solely four days, with a suspension of Catalan independence being issued on October 31st, 2017 and Puigdemont being exiled. So what is next for the Catalan region and its people.

Currently, Catalonia is under the direct rule of Spain, stripped of all its privileges as an autonomous region of Spain. Catalonia’s “president” and four of his close associates are exiled in Belgium because the Spanish government, more specifically one of Puigdemont’s biggest opponents, José Manuel Mazza, has charged him with sedition, rebellion, and embezzlement of public funds. The “criminals” found that the best place to exile themselves was Brussels. Puigdemont later publicly declared that they would not return to Spain until they were guaranteed a fair trial. Although most people agree that this is, in fact, a form of exile, Puigdemont justifies his “travels” by saying that he was in Brussels to present his idea for the independent Catalan Republic to the Institutions of the European Union. This “exile” is causing a lot of diplomatic tensions between Spain and Belgium. Some in Belgium support Puigdemont, while others want him to go home so that they could be taken out of this situation, in which they have no direct involvement. The Interior Minister of Belgium, Jan Jambon, a Flemish separatist, expressed his belief that the Spanish government had gone too far, showing sympathy to his fellow secessionists in Spain. You may be wondering why he would be concerned about a fair trial when he is being tried in a modern developed democratic country in the 21st century. Well, Spain’s judicial system is highly politicized. With a number of autonomous regions, the parliament is composed of a plethora of factions ranging from the People’s Party to the Canarian Coalition (nationalist movement for the Canary Islands) to the Party for Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, each supporting their own interests. The fear is that in court, those who are against Catalan independence (the leading parties in parliament) will bribe the judges who are appointed by the government and are, by nature, bias. Although European Arrest Warrants have been issued, up until now, no arrests have been made, and many doubt there will be arrests made given the fact that two of the three charges are not included in the EU’s agreed list of offenses. Meanwhile, the Catalan people are left to wait for the government to act. They are the ones who truly want independence, however, their voice is seldom heard in the midst of political talks. In my opinion, Catalonia deserves its independence. They are a culturally, linguistically, and geographically unique anomaly that lies within the modern borders of Spain. For much of their history, they belonged to the kingdom of Aragon and so have a rare connection to both Italian and French cultures. For Catalonia, their troubles would involve international recognition. Many nations would be extremely reluctant to recognize Catalonia as independent because, with it being an “ancient” country, Spain has an abundance of allies that would not risk threatening diplomatic ties to the Kingdom of Spain. In addition, the endorsement for the independence of Catalonia would, not only encourage other separatist groups to succeed, but it would also anger other rogue states that have been awaiting recognition for years, such as Taiwan and Somaliland. In addition, in the last 30 years, only 6 countries have gained independence from another country (excluding colonies). In the end, the biggest concern for the Spanish government is the aftermath of a hypothetical Catalan independence. Would other states such as Galicia and the Basque Country also demand independence, and would states in other countries such South Tyrol (Italy) and Scotland desire these same freedoms? Would their economy collapse, causing political upheaval? Would there be an increase in tensions between other nations in the European Union? These are all questions that the future will eventual answer, however, I don’t think Catalonia’s independence is in anyway near.

 

Photo Credits to Catalan News Monitors

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