With a little luck and patience the independent Republic of Catalonia could succeed
Well, Catalonia did it and declared independence from Spain at 4.26 pm yesterday afternoon. The declaration was the culmination of three hours or so of debate and a vote, which resulted in 70 votes in favour, 10 votes against and two blank votes. The figures were so clear because the 52 members of Ciudadanos, Partido Popular and PSC all left Parliament in protest prior to the vote taking place.
Two Different Realities
There were celebrations across Catalonia, amongst independence supporters at least, but a few hours later Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and that he was removing the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and all his ministers from office and calling autonomous elections in Catalonia for December 21st.
So Catalonia and Spain seem to be living under two completely different versions of reality. As I’ve often said my purpose here is to describe what’s happening from a Catalan point of view. As my wife often points out, I don’t experience this emotionally in the same way as she does. I believe that Catalonia has the right to be a sovereign state if it wants to and given how badly its been treated by Spain over the centuries, it could probably do a better job of governing itself. However, I am not unaware of the potential dangers from Islam, the left and globalists that an unstable situation, such as a unilateral declaration of independence, leaves Catalonia open to.
The current sensation I have is a bit like on the cartoons where Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote runs out over a cliff edge and finds himself in mid air. If he keeps on running he might reach the other side of the canyon or alternatively fall to his death in the valley below. Once again my wife wasn’t too impressed by the metaphor but for me at least, it captures the win-lose nature of the situation as well as its almost comic surrealism.
Given that I see things from a Catalan point of view, my main question is that I don’t know how the Spanish government can impose Article 155 on the Catalans if they choose to resist it. Donald Tusk has said that the EU wouldn’t be recognising Catalonia but also warned Mariano Rajoy against the use of force.
Role of the Police
It seems to me that the first indications of the immediate chances of success or failure are going to depend on the position the Mossos d’Esquadra take. I just can’t see them positioning themselves either against the Catalan government or against the people, especially if the demonstrations and rallies remain peaceful, which I’m pretty certain they will.
The only violent outbursts so far have been associated with the Spanish-speaking unionist demonstrations. A few people were beaten up on the unionist rally a few weeks ago and there was a big fight outside Café Zurich on Spain National Day on October 12th. Last night a unionist march, which began in Sarrià, ended up outside the Catalunya Radio and apparently there was some violence and breakages as the demonstrators complained at the journalists and presenters for their biased anti-Spanish reporting.
None of the incidents have been particularly serious but they contrast starkly with the complete absence of violence on the pro-independence side, obviously apart from when voters were attacked by Spanish National Police and Civil Guard on referendum day. So although the Mossos have officially been taken over by the Spanish government, it’s hard to see them acting proactively against Catalan demonstrators who are protecting government offices or stopping Catalan politicians from getting arrested.
Once again, the strong arm tactics are most likely to be perpetrated by National Police and Civil Guard and given their behaviour on referendum day and warnings from Donald Tusk and others, they need to be very careful that they don’t overstep the mark. So if the pro-independence activists are well-organised and the police aren’t able to use force, I don’t understand how the immediate functioning of the Catalan government can be stopped.
Economic and Financial Restrictions
The next option seems to be to starve Catalonia out both financially and economically. Perhaps it is because I’ve never had to live through real hardship but the idea of this happening in Western Europe at the beginning of the 21st century seems highly unlikely to me. This kind of breakdown might be possible but it would have to be due to a much larger crisis such as a financial collapse or the break up of the EU.
The Catalan economy might be adversely effected for a while and Spain might even restrict the flow of goods into the country but in the unlikely event that this happened, the various ports and airports in Catalonia will continue to remain open as will the land border with France. Furthermore, although a lot has been made of companies moving their head offices to Spain, at the time of writing they’re all still trading here as are the majority of companies that haven’t moved, many of which are international companies.
Apparently, the Spanish government is going to cut off finances to the Catalan administration, which it’s been doing to a greater or lesser extent for some time. At the moment, the Generalitat is able to pay bills and salaries for this month at least and I can’t help but suspect that they have some kind of credit arrangement organised.
The Catalans are not stupid and being a mercantile nation are unlikely to be willing to allow their economy to fall apart. Given the strategic position and potential prosperity of an independent Catalonia, I’m sure there are many foreign actors, who while not willing to do so publicly, will be more than happy to gamble largescale loans in return for a future piece of the pie. Israel, Russia and China all immediately spring to mind.
Finally, I know for a fact that the Generalitat has been preparing their Treasury and Social Security system for some time. In fact, the government has made statements telling Catalans not to worry about taxes. Any changeovers will be made automatically and whatever happens the Spanish government won’t hold individuals responsible for paying their taxes to Catalonia rather than Spain.
So it looks likely to me that the Catalan government should be financially self-sufficient reasonably soon. Similarly, after a few teething problems, it seems likely that Catalan economy should be able to recover and prosper in a relatively short space of time.
At this point in time, all countries and international organisations that have made any kind of statement have said that they only recognise the sovereignty of Spain. Even our Catalan-speaking neighbour, Andorra, has refused to recognise Catalonia. However, slowly this will begin to change.
There’s obviously a lot of public support internationally and this is now being reflected at a parliamentary level. I’ve heard it rumoured the motions have been tabled in a number of Scandinavian countries to debate Catalonia, the opposition in Slovenia have expressed their support and I saw a tweet early from Argentinian MP Juan Carlos Gordiano saying he was presenting a bill in Parliament today. If we add to this the various groups and parties behind secessionist movements around the world, including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Flanders, Northern Italy, Quebec and even California, Catalonia is likely to receive a great deal of support.
Similarly, the fact that there are so many international companies doing business here means that there’ll be lobbies in various countries if not pushing for formal recognition, at least with a vested interested in making trade more fluid and encouraging informal diplomatic agreements.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Catalonia doesn’t need to be part of the EU in order to continue using the Euro. Furthermore, for the time being at least, all Catalan citizens are also Spanish citizens and have Spanish passports, which means they can travel without any problems. In fact, the Spanish Constitution states that it is impossible for a Spaniard to lose his Spanish citizenship so Catalans are also EU citizens and this can only change if Catalonia is formally recognised by either Spain or the EU.
As I said earlier, I present a very Catalan perspective on things, which may be overly optimistic. I think it’s important not to underestimate the Spanish authorities because I’m sure they will do everything they can to bring Catalonia back under control.
If anything happens, I imagine it will be over the next couple of days. I expect to see resignations of people in positions of responsibility in order to avoid potential legal action. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of arrests being made and some short sharp police actions against key Generalitat departments and offices.
It really is a question of getting through the first few days because once that happens and people see the world hasn’t ended, the Republic of Catalonia will slowly become a reality and Roadrunner will have made it to the other side of the canyon.
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