Cat­alo­nia closely watched

Span­ish cri­sis catch­ing in­ter­est of in­de­pen­dence move­ments around the world

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - NATIONAL NEWS - GRE­GORY KATZ Del­e­gates from Scot­land’s pro-in­de­pen­dence Scot­tish National Party hold a Cat­alo­nia flag in sol­i­dar­ity with the Span­ish re­gion dur­ing the party’s National Con­fer­ence in Glas­gow, Scot­land on Tues­day. The Cat­alo­nian push for in­de­pen­dence is bei

LON­DON — When Cat­alo­ni­ans voted for in­de­pen­dence 10 days ago, Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist Math Camp­bell-Sturgess trav­elled to Spain to ob­serve the vot­ing process, which was marred by thug­gish at­tacks by po­lice try­ing to shut down the dis­puted ref­er­en­dum.

Camp­bell-Sturgess said the strug­gle in Cat­alo­nia may heighten in­ter­est in in­de­pen­dence for Scot­land, where a move­ment to split from Bri­tain nar­rowly lost in a 2014 ref­er­en­dum.

“I do think it will push the idea of in­de­pen­dence for Scot­land fur­ther up the agenda a lit­tle more and put it in the fore­front of more peo­ple’s minds,” he said. “Peo­ple in Scot­land are watch­ing what is hap­pen­ing in Cat­alo­nia with in­ter­est.”

The un­pre­dictable events in Cat­alo­nia — where in­de­pen­dence from Spain has been de­clared but put on hold — are watched closely in other parts of the world where se­ces­sion­ist move­ments seek to chal­lenge long-es­tab­lished national bound­aries.

A look at some in­de­pen­dence move­ments world­wide: elec­tion.

Gor­don McIn­tyre Kemp, leader of the pro-in­de­pen­dence group Busi­ness for Scot­land, said events in Cat­alo­nia and Scot­land are part of a global move­ment to­ward the de­cen­tral­iza­tion of power.

He be­lieves the rapid growth of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy has spurred the trend, mak­ing it much eas­ier for peo­ple to ex­change views and in­flu­ence the demo­cratic process.

“There’s about 100 in­de­pen­dence move­ments around the world,” he said. “It’s part of an over­all global trend of peo­ple want­ing to take con­trol of their com­mu­ni­ties and their lives at a more lo­cal level. Scot­land and Cat­alo­nia are ahead of the curve.” who have long wanted to cut ties be­tween their Mediter­ranean is­land and main­land France.

But Jean-Guy Tala­m­oni, head of Cor­sica’s lo­cal assem­bly, said the is­land is far be­hind Cat­alo­nia on the road to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. Cor­sica doesn’t en­joy the high de­gree of au­ton­omy or flour­ish­ing econ­omy that Cat­alo­nia al­ready boasts, he said. He be­lieved Cor­si­can in­de­pen­dence will not be on the agenda for at least an­other decade.

For the French gov­ern­ment, the more press­ing sep­a­ratist dan­ger comes from the Pa­cific is­land of New Cale­do­nia, a French ter­ri­tory set to take part in an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum by the end of 2018, de­spite fears that the vote could strengthen di­vi­sions be­tween the in­dige­nous “Kanaks” and the “Cal­doches,” the de­scen­dants of French set­tlers.

The ter­ri­tory east of Aus­tralia has been listed for de­col­o­niza­tion by the United Na­tions and has en­joyed strong au­ton­omy for many years, with a leg­isla­tive assem­bly and a lo­cal gov­ern­ment with ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said be­fore he won the re­cent elec­tion that he would pre­fer the is­land to re­main “within the national com­mu­nity” but that France would re­spect the vot­ers’ de­ci­sion — giv­ing the planned ref­er­en­dum the le­git­i­macy that Cata­lans have sought in vain.

The stand­off in Cat­alo­nia bears some re­sem­blance to the un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion in Iraq’s Kur­dish re­gion, which voted for in­de­pen­dence in a non-bind­ing ref­er­en­dum one week ear­lier. The re­sult, while hardly sur­pris­ing, jolted Iraqi pol­i­tics, and the af­ter­shocks are still be­ing felt in Baghdad, the Kur­dish cap­i­tal Ir­bil and in neigh­bour­ing Turkey and Iran.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Baghdad im­me­di­ately de­manded the Kur­dish regional gov­ern­ment dis­avow the re­sults.

It has so far re­fused, while Baghdad is steadily es­ca­lat­ing the cost of in­tran­si­gence. First the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­hib­ited in­ter­na­tional flights to and from Kur­dish air­ports. Then it de­manded Kur­dish-based net­work providers re­lo­cate their head­quar­ters to Baghdad. And on Tues­day it or­dered the restora­tion of an of­fline oil pipe­line to ship oil from the dis­puted city of Kirkuk di­rectly to Turkey, by­pass­ing the Kur­dish re­gion.

Turkey and Iran, nor­mally boast­ing of their friendly ties with Iraq’s Kur­dish re­gion, have both threat­ened to in­vade if the Kurds de­clare in­de­pen­dence. They are clearly afraid in­de­pen­dence will fuel Kur­dish sep­a­ratist move­ments inside their own bor­ders.

Turkey has threat­ened to halt its oil im­ports, a form of eco­nomic re­tal­i­a­tion that could jeop­ar­dize a key source of rev­enue for the landlocked Kur­dish re­gion.

The Kur­dish re­gion’s po­si­tion is ten­u­ous. Its neigh­bours are aligned against it, and Kur­dish Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani has yet to in­di­cate he will de­clare in­de­pen­dence — he seems in­tent on tak­ing the re­sult to Baghdad to de­mand a bet­ter deal for his re­gion. But he may not have an­tic­i­pated the scope of the back­lash the move­ment has pro­voked.

In South­east Asia, no­table sep­a­ratist move­ments have been able to force gov­ern­ments to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble and se­cure sig­nif­i­cant au­ton­omy for their re­gions by wag­ing re­lent­less armed in­sur­gen­cies.

The Acehnese in In­done­sia bat­tled state se­cu­rity forces for decades — for­mer fight­ers now oc­cupy lead­ing po­si­tions in their re­gion’s gov­ern­ment, hold­ing sway over all ar­eas ex­cept de­fence and for­eign af­fairs.

MARK RUNNACLES/GETTY IM­AGES

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