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Why The Catalan Independence Bid Is Unlikely To Gain Traction

The ongoing Catalan bid for independence and the political crisis between the central government in Madrid and Catalonia has opened up a divide which is creating an internal conflict within Spain that runs deep into the social fabric of the country.
Day Donaldson
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Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The ongoing Catalan bid for independence and the political crisis between the central government in Madrid and Catalonia has opened up a divide which is creating an internal conflict within Spain that runs deep into the social fabric of the country.

On Monday, lawmakers in Spain’s Catalonia region voted for a resolution outlining a plan to separate from Spain over the next two years.

The New York Times reports the proposal to “disconnect” involves creating separate tax agencies and social security programs for Catalan citizens:

The move was immediately denounced by Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, as the latest evidence that Catalan separatists were willing to flout Spanish law in their pursuit of independence. In response, Mr. Rajoy said he would sign a decree to suspend all the declaration’s possible consequences, pending a ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court that is expected to strike down Catalonia’s resolution, the latest in a series of steps to break away from Spain that have escalated over the last three years. “Catalonia is not going to disconnect from anywhere, and there is going to be no breakup,” Mr. Rajoy said.

Suzette Grillot, the dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the host of KGOU’s World Views, says Catalonia’s independent streak goes back centuries, but the current movement can trace its roots to 2010, when the central government rolled back provisions of the Statute of Autonomy that’s part of the 1978 Constitution.

“The economic crisis also fueled this movement later in the 2000s and into recent years,” Grillot said. “They're a relatively wealthy part of Spain, and don't necessarily like to be part of the Spanish economic decision-making that goes on in Madrid.”

But support for Catalan nationalism is somewhat mixed, and Grillot says economic interdependence will reign. She says Catalonia will struggle on its own without the support of the European Union and the United States. Both President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have come out in favor of a unified Spain, according to The Telegraph:

On Wednesday, the issue of EU membership was the subject of an impassioned debate on Catalan TV between Jose-Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the Spanish foreign affairs minister, and Oriol Junqueras, a leader in the pro-independence coalition, who accused Madrid of "apocalyptic" claims over the consequences of Catalan succession. Mr Garcia- Margallo insisted Catalonia would not be kicked out of the EU but instead would be excluding itself, warning of capital flight, a possible banking collapse and a"border effect" damaging external trade. "The one leaving home is Catalonia," he said. The stance in Brussels meanwhile, is somewhat unclear. On Monday, the European Commission gave a written answer to a Spanish MEP which has now become the subject of an internal investigation after it emerged the Spanish version pronounced the independence bid unconstitutional, while the English version said only that it was an "internal matter" for Spain and Catalonia.

“The government in Madrid will definitely resist,” Grillot said. “So I think the jury is still out on this despite the fact that the Catalan parliament has voted to start the process. I think we're a long way from actually seeing it happen.”

KGOU and World Views rely on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with internationally focused reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online, or contact our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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