Whilst the Catalan referendum on independence was illegal and a bit of a stunt, it is totally clear that the way the Spanish Government handled it was amazingly stupid as well as very violent, this is certainly not the way to handle these kinds of situations.
I am not sure about how the Latin temperament handles and processes these conflicts but highly emotionally seems to be the answer just like the Junta in Argentine and the Falklands war, it is a case of rash actions having negative longer term consequences so why do it in the first place ?
Leaving aside all the talk about a “unique culture and sense of identity”, the truth behind all of these “break away” movements is the idea that as an independent state, Catalonia and Catalans would be financially better off by not being part of Spain. However in economic terms for Spain, it would be the equivalent of London not wanting to be part of the UK because economically London generates around 22% of total GDP whereas Catalonia generates 19% of total Spanish GDP.
Now obviously there is a major difference in the sense that whilst I still identify as being a “Londoner” having been born and raised there, London is partly geography but combined with the multi cultural and diverse attitudes of living in a big international city. With London something like 1 in 4 of the population weren’t born there, Catalonia like Scotland is different, it has its own distinct history and cultural identity as well as geography plus there may be some ‘overhang’ from the period of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
Where it will go eventually is another matter but for now, both sides need to cool off and look for a way forward based upon mutual respect and negotiations to bring about a proper democratic test. Madrid should have followed a similar line to that adopted by the UK Government with regard to the question of Scottish independence, allow for a proper referendum to be held and accept the result.
Although the situations are not identical, Scotland being economically more dependent upon being part of the UK than Catalonia is being part of Spain, what is identical is that you cannot keep a people and culture “prisoners” in any kind of union and the central government must have the courage to offer the ‘dissenters’ to the status quo an alternative rather than trying to bludgeon people into submission as Madrid did last weekend.
Allowing a proper referendum may well have produced a majority for remaining part of Spain. Behaving as it did, Madrid has made it more difficult for local people in Catalonia to campaign for Spanish unity, riot police and strong arm tactics make for great “recruiting sergeants” to most causes. Adopting these strong arm tactics could put the whole population on the side of independence whether they want it or not and is totally stupid, what on earth did Madrid think would happen ? However it is all indicative of a broader problem that stretches right across Europe and which the EU continually tries to sweep under the carpet which is as foolish as the attitude towards Catalonia by Madrid.
Unity by Free Choice
Whilst I may be accused of “beating a distinctly British drum” in these matters, it is a drum worth beating because whilst by no means perfect the UK offers the example of a model that works which the EU needs to take on board if the EU is to flourish in the years ahead. True in terms of one essential ingredient they are rather lacking, an integrated currency, the Euro is really a bit of a bad joke and not sorting that out will inevitably lead to some or most of the EU as we know it today, being dismantled sooner rather than later.
Having Sterling, a Central Bank, mutual debt provision, common tax rates and a common standard for welfare payments means that the currency acts as a conduit for distribution of the “common wealth” of the UK. The vast majority of taxes are raised centrally and then distributed via a bloc grant system across the length and the breadth of the UK, inevitably this means that ‘wealthier’ areas like London will effectively have tax revenues syphoned off to be distributed to poorer areas and not all the revenues raised in London will be spent there but this is the price of a ‘United Kingdom’ where an accident of birth does not lead to you being ‘left behind’ in terms of the basics of being a citizen. Health, schools and welfare are aimed at being roughly equal across the piece and local taxation will generally raise less than 10% of local government spending the bulk coming from central government.
And in the Eurozone ?
None of these basic structures exist across the eurozone or indeed are ever likely to exist at anytime in the future and yet without this or a very similar structure, the idea of “Ever Closer Union” is just that, an idea that will never come about. When you have rich German States like Bavaria objecting to supporting poorer German States or in this case, a Spanish region not wanting to support other less well off parts of Spain, even the most ardent supporter of the EU must acknowledge the strict limitations that have already been placed on the ‘European Project’, the whole thing needs a serious revision if even a half baked version of the EU is to function and survive the current nonsense.
Are there truly no people in Brussels and the rest of the EU who fail to see just why the UK is leaving this organisation ? It lacks the very basic tools for a unity of purpose that we British and probably unthinkingly, take for granted as part of our day to day lives. I live in the West Country but am a Londoner and at no time whilst living there did I resent ‘London Taxes’ being spent elsewhere, the personal opportunities such a great city offers are amazing compared to other less prosperous parts of the UK.
By the same token and much as I admire the Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davis who I suppose must say such things, I do not object to things being “London Centric” blame that on the Roman Occupation and geography that made it a trading and administrative centre in the first place, if it wasn’t valid it would have moved to Winchester, York or Edinburgh hundreds of years since. But I must finish by saying that personally I’m glad we are on our way out of the EU, it just doesn’t work and a lack of willingness to share wealth is its hallmark. Sadly I have always said and it has yet to be proved wrong that the biggest weakness of the EU lies in it being based upon “bugger my neighbour”, unity does not exist.