18 March, 13:35

Catalonia getting ready to divorce Spain

Catalonia getting ready to divorce Spain

The referendum in Crimea is the first plebiscite in Europe dedicated to the issue of independence scheduled to take place this year. After Crimea, Scotland and Catalonia are planning to declare their right to self-determination. Enrique Ravello, a member of the Spanish parliament, even took part in the Crimean referendum as an observer. Back in January 2013 the parliament of Catalonia adopted the Declaration of sovereignty of that autonomous region, which allowed its citizens to independently determine its political future.

When talking of the separatism in Spain, one thinks of the Basque people and their organization ETA, which has been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks. But they are not the only ones dreaming of getting from under Madrid's control. Over the past few years, Catalonians have started talking about their right to self-determination. However, unlike the Basque people, they are planning to use only peaceful methods to insist on that right. Catalonians refer to the cultural and linguistic differences between them and other citizens of the kingdom. Below is the commentary of Alexey Kuznetsov, head of the Center for European Studies at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations.

“The thing is that the Catalonians are really quite different people. Spain is a multinational state. There are Castilian and Basque people, but the largest national group are the Catalonians, as always they favored a broad autonomy within the Spanish kingdom.”

Catalonia has stated its desire to be an independent state many times. The repressions against Catalonians during the Franco dictatorship stimulated the growth of separatist sentiment. Catalonia has been an autonomous community since 1978. It is one of the 17 regions of Spain, which have their own government and parliament. In addition, local Catalonian authorities control the courts, police and the educational system. But despite all that they are deprived the control over the money earned by Catalonia. And for the richest region of Spain it is a matter of principle, says Vladislav Belov, head of the department of countries and regions at the Institute of Europe.

“Catalonia is a region, which redistributes the taxes gathered on that territory in favor of other parts of Spain. Talking about the need to increase their independence, the Catalonians come to the conclusion that they can live perfectly well independently and that they don't need any instructions from the capital. They can independently determine the direction of their development. They are self-sufficient. And Catalonia as a potential independent state has not only a right to exist, but can provide for itself.”

Catalonians plan to make a decisive step towards obtaining their long awaited sovereignty at the end of this year. The referendum concerning independence is scheduled for November. Few people doubt that the majority of its participants would support the idea of a “divorce” between Madrid and Barcelona. However, the central Spanish authorities are unlikely to acknowledge the results of that voting. The international status of Catalonia will be another problem. It wants to preserve its membership in the EU, but it will not be able to become a member of the union automatically. The EU’s attitude to Catalonian separatism is cautious. The thing is that this region’s exit from Spain could stimulate similar tendencies in other parts of Europe – Scotland and Flanders.

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