What the com­men­ta­tors said

The Week - - …and How They Were Covered -

“Civil war” is a phrase used spar­ingly in Spain, said Robert Hard­man in the Daily Mail: it still stirs mem­o­ries of the con­flict in the 1930s that led to half a mil­lion deaths and four decades of fas­cist rule. But in Cat­alo­nia, the “grim un­men­tion­able is now part of daily con­ver­sa­tion”. Madrid’s bru­tal at­tempt to halt last week’s banned ref­er­en­dum has fos­tered a “mood of pop­u­lar re­volt” in “one of the most civilised parts of an EU mem­ber state”. Cer­tainly, the au­thor­i­ties are pre­par­ing for the worst. Two cruise lin­ers now moored off Barcelona hold thou­sands of re­in­force­ments from the na­tional po­lice and the Guardia Civil await­ing or­ders in the event of trou­ble. Par­al­lels with the past are un­mis­take­able, said Omar En­car­na­cion in For­eign Pol­icy. “The drive to­wards re­gional au­ton­omy” was one of the main trig­gers of the civil war; af­ter his vic­tory, Gen­eral Franco tried to im­pose “cul­tural ho­mo­gene­ity” – ban­ning Cat­alo­nia’s flag, lan­guage and na­tional hol­i­day. This helps ex­plain the Cata­lans’ hos­til­ity to right-wing gov­ern­ments in Madrid. We must hope that Ra­joy re­frains from us­ing “the vi­o­lent meth­ods” rem­i­nis­cent of his Pop­u­lar Party’s “au­thor­i­tar­ian pre­de­ces­sors”.

It’s no won­der Spain won’t lightly sur­ren­der con­trol of its rich­est re­gion, said Matthew Camp­bell in The Sun­day Times. With a pop­u­la­tion of 7.5 mil­lion, Cat­alo­nia has 16% of Spain’s pop­u­la­tion, yet it ac­counts for al­most a fifth of the Span­ish econ­omy and more than a quar­ter of its for­eign ex­ports. Brus­sels too is des­per­ately keen to avoid se­ces­sion, said Tony Bar­ber in the Fi­nan­cial Times. The EU fears that Spain’s break-up would give heart to other sep­a­ratist move­ments across Europe, from French-ruled Cor­sica, to Flan­ders in Bel­gium and Italy’s Alto Adige prov­ince, home to a Ger­man-speak­ing ma­jor­ity. The worry is that “con­tro­ver­sies about na­tional bor­ders, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and mi­nor­ity rights that were once the cause of many a Euro­pean war will come to haunt the con­ti­nent again”.

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