CATALONIA / WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN
Everything you need to know on Europe's latest crisis.
How did we get to this ? Is Catalonia actually better off without Spain ? What about the European Union ?
You must have heard all about it on the news, but if you tried to understand what has been going just lately it must have been complicated. Therefore, I'm here to summarize everything for all of you out there who haven't been able to catch up with everything.
Sunday the 1st of October, the catalans were asked the question through a referendum: "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state of the form of a republic ? ". Boom: 90% of yes, and that's when people actually started thinking- Wow, this is getting serious. But here's the thing, out of more than 5 million catalans that were offered to vote, only 2 million did, making the participation of only 40% - And probably reminded something to our British fellows who had already seen something similar with brexit..
UPDATE: While I'm writing this, Madrid just suspended Catalonia's autonomy.. Things are getting spiced up.
So before getting further in the subject:
What are Catalonia's official status and rights ?
Forget about the future for a second, right now, and since 1978, Catalonia has an "autonomous" status; which basically means it holds more power than other "regular" regions and can take its own decisions on some subjects. For example, in addition to having its own language, Catalonia already has its own police, government, and parliament. The parliament is made of 135 seats with more than half of them held by deputies belonging to a pro independence political party. Most of these political parties belong to the alt-left.
The highest political function in Catalonia is the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia held by the separatist Carles Puigdemont who was elected by the catalan parliament and, ironically, the King of Spain.
As I'm writing this, Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked to the senate to use article 155 of the Spanish constitution. The deployment of this article, which has never been used, would force early new elections by dissolving the catalan parliament and remove all powers to Carles Puigdemont thus blocking any possible independence. Nevertheless, the possibility of Catalonia becoming independent still exists. Indeed, the senate still has to vote for this and will have to meet Catalonia's president who will there be able to defend himself. Furthermore, Puigdemont is still threatening to deploy Catalonia's independence and will express himself tonight at 9pm on this topic.
Of course, we'll keep you updated with everything and we'll be sure to regularly add information on this article on the subject.
Why does Catalonia want independence ?
Historically, Catalonia has its own culture. They speak their own language, Catalan, that's completely taught at school (castillan is considered a secondary language that is only taught as much as english), and Barcelona is a major touristic place in Spain, but Catalonia's also the most wealthy and industrialized region and has a pretty big population (more than 7 million people). Furthermore, during Franco's rule, Catalonia lost all of its autonomy it had previously acquired and, even though this autonomy was gained back after Franco's death, a wave of nationalist beliefs spread in the region which actually took form in 2010.
2010: Barcelona asks for more autonomy, their objective is to be able to manage more of their budget. However, Madrid completely objects to this, and this is where the feud actually starts.
One million catalans got out on the streets to protest to this and since then the celebration of Catalan's national day, the 11th of September, became a reunion for all the Catalan asking for independence.
You probably saw it on twitter too: videos of the Spanish police being very violent to the catalan voters. The catalan government declared the Spanish police made more than 800 wounded and that therefore explains the very little participation at this referendum. However, be careful to what you see online: a lot of those tweets with videos of the Spanish police being violent are completely fake.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="fr"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Spanish police attacking Catalan voters <a href="https://t.co/Df6XHuEuK4">pic.twitter.com/Df6XHuEuK4</a></p>— Persian Rose (@PersianRose1) <a
For example, the images here are from 2013.
Is Catalonia better off without Spain ?
One thing is sure: Catalonia is, by far, the wealthiest region of Spain and the one that therefore provides the most for the rest of Spain. But does that mean they could survive on its own ?
In principle, the fact that Catalonia could manage their own budget and not have to "share" some of their money with poorer regions should let Catalonia better off. Furthermore, all decisions would be made in Catalonia: no need to conform to public policy.
On the other hand, having a smaller domestic market has always been a disadvantage. We can't compare Catalonia to Switzerland or any other successful small countries since they are successful because of the financial stability and the safety they convey for investors. Indeed, on the other hand, hundreds of companies have moved from Barcelona to Madrid because of this instability and let's not forget Catalonia's debt is the highest of all Spanish regions. Furthermore, Catalonia's weight in international issues would be very diminished. Lastly, negotiating new trade deals and entrance in the E.U will cost a lot of money and time (once again, this could remind a lot to our fellow British readers).