Regionalization continues as a prickly issue, particularly across Europe–sort of like the Trusteeship Council of the UN only in reverse, where established states break into parts. Catalonia shares some common interests with Scotland (which has its own parliament), (Be sure to not confuse this with regionalism, seen in Benelux, the Nordic Council, the European Coal and Steel Community, etc.)
But money isn’t the only cause of secessionist sentiment. We Catalans have long been attached to our distinct identity and never accepted the loss of national sovereignty after being defeated by the Spanish monarchy in 1714. For three centuries, Catalonia has striven to regain its independence. Most attempts to establish a state were put down by force. The “Catalan question” was a major catalyst of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship harshly repressed Catalan culture.
At the core of Catalonia’s unique identity is the Catalan language, which is distinct from Spanish. Since the re-establishment of Spain’s democracy in 1977 and Catalonia’s autonomy in 1979, Catalan has been revived in the region’s schools. However, a recent ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court threatens this policy. To most Catalans, our language is a red line. If the current system of autonomy can’t guarantee protection of it, independence is the only solution.
The independence movement is not driven by hatred of Spain. Catalan nationalism is civic and cultural, unlike the ethnic nationalism that has so often plagued Europe. Indeed, most of the two million Spaniards who migrated to Catalonia in the 1960s and ’70s are today fully integrated and many of them have embraced secessionist ideals
A following story from Sunday’s Week in Review section explores the issue further in the context of the economic forces confronting Europeans:
The crisis has also produced a loss of confidence in traditional leadership, with voters punishing incumbents and mainstream political parties. That has helped more atavistic nationalist parties, like the National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. But in separatist regions, the same disaffection tends to favor parties advocating independence.
“The whole development of European integration has lowered the stakes for separation, because the entities that emerge know they don’t have to be fully autonomous and free-standing,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They know they’ll have access to a market of 500 million people and some of the protections of the E.U.”
Heather Grabbe, who worked for five years as a political adviser to the E.U.’s commissioner for enlargement, agreed: “If you’re a small country in the E.U., like Malta or Luxembourg, you’re likely to be overrepresented in Brussels compared to your size, so go for it.” Now the Brussels director for the Open Society Institute, Ms. Grabbe said the key variable for separatism is less a matter of money than of historical grievance and language.