Political regimes collapse when governments no longer command the people’s respect. So, when approximately 1.5m Catalonians, of a total population of 7.5m, take to the streets demanding independence, we should take note. Catalonia has disproportionately born the brunt of cuts, with public investment by the national government cut by 45 per cent in the region, compared to 25 per cent across Spain. Catalonia does not have autonomy over its tax affairs and annually spends €16bn (£12.7bn) less than it collects. Secession isn’t guaranteed. But Catalan President Artus Mas believes that dependence on Spain is “cutting the wings of social progress,” echoing the sentiment of many Catalans, who will vote in an independence referendum in November. For Spain, losing its wealthiest region, which accounts for one-fifth of GDP, would be devastating. But the Eurozone crisis has shown: take nothing for granted.
Yogesh Chandarana is business features writer at City A.M.
Catalan President Artur Mas means business when he says that Catalans should have their say on independence, with or without Madrid’s consent. However, several obstacles still stand in the way of an independent Catalonia. Firstly, nationalist parties need to secure a sufficient majority in the upcoming Catalan elections to push ahead with referendum plans. Secondly, assuming that the referendum takes place, a victory for the pro-independence front would be hard to ignore, but a unilateral breakaway would still be in breach of the Spanish constitution. Thirdly, much like Scotland and the UK, an independent Catalonia would need the green light from Madrid to join the EU – a major obstacle to Mas’s idea of making Catalonia “a normal nation in Europe.” Constitutional reform moving Spain towards federalism has been ruled out for the moment, but could well return as an alternative to a full-blown divorce.
Vincenzo Scarpetta is a researcher at Open Europe.