Catalonia’s a tricky path to nationhood
Spain’s Catalonia region can declare independence despite warnings from the central government in Madrid, but that is the easy part. Nationhood without recognition is empty. The country will have no seat at the United Nations and regionally, joining the European Union would be a pipe dream.
Ask Kosovo, Somaliland, Abkhazia and Taiwan. Declaring independence is one thing and recognition is another issue.
Whose passports will the Catalans use? They will also need a new currency. The EU has declared it an “internal Spanish matter”. Many other European nations are facing their own separatist movement problems, including Britain’s Scottish independence drive. Others are Romania, Greece and Belgium.
As a sign of the anxiety, among the first European leaders to call Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was French President Emmanuel Macron, who swore that he would always support a united Spain. Mr Macron’s concern arises from an ailment that afflicts the two nations in the form of the Basque National Liberation Movement that has for decades fought to break away from Spain and France, a battle that has claimed nearly 1,000 lives. While the Basque separatists went the path of bombs and bullets, the Catalans have opted for crowd power, a force that will surely overwhelm the Spanish Government. With the gaze of the world’s media firmly on Spain, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens. Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont said after a referendum that saw less than half the 5.3 million registered voters cast their ballots: “We are going to declare independence after all the official results are counted.’’ But a week later, he opted for dialogue.
Prime Minister Rajoy has vowed to prevent Catalonia’s independence and refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region that borders France.
Earlier, Spain’s King Felipe VI ratcheted up tensions by urging the authorities to defend “constitutional order”, setting in motion actions to stem the Catalan independence drive.
Under Spain’s 1978 Constitution, if a region’s government breaches its constitutional obligations or “acts in a way that seriously threatens the general interest of Spain”, Madrid can “take necessary measures to oblige it forcibly to comply or to protect said general interest”. This could include taking control of political and administrative institutions. The purge appears to have started last week with the Catalonia regional police chief being charged with failing to rein in pro-independence protesters. A court in Madrid summoned Mr Josep Luis Trapero to a hearing in Barcelona on September 20 and 21 after national security forces raided regional government offices. It is only a matter of time before Mr Puigdemont gets his summons. With a population of 7.5 million and a GDP of $255.204 billion, which is a fifth of Spain’s $1.2 trillion, Catalonia is wealthy, with a per capita GDP of $33,580. It is the wealthiest of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
However, most of Catalonia’s wealth could be due to its being part of Spain, which allows it to enjoy European Union subsidies. The tension over the independence drive in Catalonia is expected to drive away business. Last week, 92 people were injured in clashes with Spanish security forces. In Brussels, the door has been shut firmly in the face of a Catalan state. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said “an independent Catalonia would not be part of the EU if it did vote for independence in a legal referendum and would have to apply if it wanted to join.’’
HENRY OWUOR Many other European nations are facing their own separatist movement problems, including Britain’s Scottish independence drive.”
Mr Owuor is foreign editor, Daily Nation. email@example.com ia.com