Cat­alo­nia’s a tricky path to na­tion­hood

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

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. howuor@ke.na­tion­med ia.com

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