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The Catalonian parliament’s vote for independence defies history

spanishflagSo they’ve gone ahead and done it! I’m referring of course to today’s vote by the Catalonian parliament to declare Catalonia’s independence from Spain. This vote, besides ignoring the Spanish constitution, also appears to go against common sense and indeed to defy the very course of European history, writes James Mayor.

The issue is a sensitive one, to put it mildly. Very mildly. Any Scotsman will tell you what it is like to feel that you are living on the ‘wrong’ side of the border, a citizen of a geographical entity condescended to by a larger and more powerful neighbour, while you feel proud of your specific cultural identity and traditions.

It is tempting to sympathize with the Catalonians. A dynamic, purposeful people, their industriousness accounts for 20% of Spain’s GNP. The main city, Barcelona, so closely associated with Picasso, Miro and Gaudi, is a vibrant cultural centre flocked to by young people from all over the world that can easily look Madrid in the face. Like talented adolescents, the Catalonians long to break away from their more conventional parents.

The Catalonian independence movement is not the only movement of its kind in Europe today. There are the Basques, the Scots, the Flemish, even the citizens of the Veneto and, to a certain extent, the Brexiters, who have voted to cast themselves off from the European continent. All these peoples share the romantic belief that they would be better off independent, unshackled from the domineering central state of which they currently form a part. They are all mistaken.

In Europe, the nineteenth century saw the consolidation of dozens of small city states and principalities to form two large countries: Germany and Italy. It was recognized that larger entities would be more effective in economics and diplomacy and as military powers. In the post-war period, after two absolutely devastating World Wars, the European Union was founded. Rather like getting a huge family round the table at Christmas, not everything has always worked out. The European Union has however been a successful force for political and economic stability. Today, faced not only by an unreliable America and Russia, but equally by a hungry China, European union is even more of a necessity. Many people in the United Kingdom have realized this and there is now a growing movement to remain rather than exit. In France, President Macron has made some sensible suggestions for a stronger and more humane European Union.

In our century, it is not realistic to want to ‘go it alone’. Whether we like it or not, we live in a globalized economy in which major powers and political blocks, such as the European Union, get the best deal. The Catalonian parliament has not voted in the best interest of its people. Businesses have already announced that, in the event of independence, they will be relocating elsewhere. An independent Catalonia would be a small and weak republic.

In the last century, the Spanish people lived through a ghastly Civil War, followed by several decades of dictatorship. In 1975, fascism was followed by the establishment of a constitutional monarchy which has permitted a regime of stability. Despite the insensitivity of the Rajoy government, the Catalonian people should reflect on their recent history and decide where their self-interest really lies. It is not too late for them to renegotiate autonomy.




The author, James Mayor, is the founder of Grape Discoveries, a wine and culture boutique travel company

See the 'Grape Discoveries' website

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