30 Oct 2017 - 13:31
A Sunday surge of protesters boisterously rallying against Catalonia’s bid for independence took the wind out of the sails of the so-called independence movement of the autonomous Spanish territory. The look on sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s face would have said it all. He has been defeated despite claiming victory in an unconstitutional referendum held on October 1 that voted for the wealthy region of 7.5 million to secede from Spain.
Hundreds of thousands of jubilant supporters of Spain poured onto the streets of Barcelona to demand a united nation and denounce the separatists’ bid to break up the country. An ocean of Spanish flags greeted the eye, a marked departure from the wave of Catalonia flags that have been beamed by media outlets over weeks now.
The show of support for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s move to fire Puigdemont and the provincial police chief, dissolve the Catalan Parliament and temporarily strip Catalonia of its autonomy speaks volumes about the farce that was played out in the name of a referendum in which a minority participated.
Catalonia, which produces a fifth of Spain’s economic output has its own language and culture. But so have many other regions within European states and even outside the continent. The European Union was conceived to be a suprastate and not one in which member states struggle to hold back autonomous regions. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it in so many words last week: “I would not like an EU that in 15 years consisted of 98 states.” Two days ago, he did not speak of the distant future: “I do not want a situation where, tomorrow, the European Union is made up of 95 different states.”
European Council President Donald Tusk asked Spain not to use the argument of force against Catalonia, but to use the force of argument.
The demand for Catalan independence has been ignored inside Spain and decried across the world. Washington has sided with Rajoy in the battle to keep Spain united. Madrid has called for regional elections in Catalonia on December 1.
It is expected that Puigdemont’s designs to split the country along ethnic lines would be undermined during regional elections. Spaniards, including those from Catalonia, are likely to stand by Madrid in its attempt to rein in a wayward region prodded into a separatist frenzy by some selfish politicians.
The nation-state was conceived in modern times to enable societies and cultures to form sovereign groups. It is an institution designed to impart strength to social systems, not to weaken them. Scotland learnt it the hard way how inconvenient the propensity to secede can get.
Let Europe and the world hope that Spain remains united and is able to defeat fissiparous forces.