An Unexpected Fracture Line – Catalonia Considers Secession

Now this is something that would surely complicate the ongoing 'operation euro rescue' in an entirely unexpected way. In keeping with the souring social mood in Spain,  the inhabitants of the region of Catalonia (home of the 'Catalonian Blunder') appear to be seriously considering whether the province should secede from Spain.

The LSE has published an article by Montserrat Guibernau on the topic which we highly recommend as a thorough overview of the rise of the secessionist movement in the region. A brief excerpt:

“With 23% unemployment (rising to 40% among young people), the deepening of the economic crisis is hitting Catalans hard. Resentment against the Spanish government’s economic policies and dissatisfaction with politics prevail: In the Catalan society, those who are ‘dissatisfied with democracy’ rose to 49% in March. Catalonia, a traditionally prosperous region, sees its wealth and status downgraded as it looses competitiveness and lacks resources and saving for infrastructure while accumulating annual deficit of 8% of GDP due to the financial arrangements imposed by the Spanish state. In this context, support for Catalan fiscal autonomy (Pacte Fiscal) is rising fast and secession, for the first time in Catalan history, appears as a legitimate option.

Catalan nationalism emerged in the 1960s as a progressive social movement defending democracy and freedom against Franco’s dictatorship, demanding a Statute of autonomy for Catalonia and amnesty for the regime’s political prisoners. Franco’s death in 1975 allowed a transition to democracy led by members of his own regime. Catalonia played a key role in the democratization of Spain by strongly supporting EU membership; providing economic and industrial leadership and being committed to solidarity towards Spain. Vitally, Catalan nationalism was instrumental in overcoming the 1993 crisis and strongly supported Spain to fulfill the conditions to join the Euro. However, it was felt by many that Catalan loyalty and support did not pay off as Spain reinforced centralism.”


(emphasis added)

The article explains further that the renewed surge of secessionist ideas began actually in the year 2000 with the election of conservative prime minister Aznar, as a reaction to his party's tendency to centralize political decision making in Spain further.

On Tuesday a big demonstration of secession supporters has taken place in Catalonia. The turnout exceeded expectations by a mile and then some:

“Surging unemployment and financial disarray have stoked a fever of separatism in Catalonia, a comparatively prosperous part of Spain whose leaders say their wealth is being sucked dry by the central government.

Crowds waved red and yellow striped Catalan flags – one of the oldest still in use in Europe – and sang the Catalan anthem on a national day marking the conquest of Catalonia by Spain's King Philip V in 1714 after a 13 month siege of Barcelona.

The central government said the crowd was 600,000 strong. Catalan police gave figures as high as 1.5 million.

Marchers said the sheer size of the crowd – swollen with people from around the region who descended on its capital in bright sunshine – would at last make Madrid hear their message.

"This is a blow for the government. People like me came from everywhere. I don't think they were expecting something as big," said 53-years-old Teresa Cabanes, who came from Santa Coloma de Gramanet, in the outskirts of Barcelona, to march. "We feel that the central government is fooling with us. We Catalans are giving away a lot of money to Spain." They held up banners and signs saying "No to the Fourth Reich", "No to Europe", "Independence Now!" and "Catalonia: the New European State".


(emphasis added)

Is Philip the Fifth's  successful conquest of 1714 about to be overturned? Now that would be quite something. We suspect though that in all likelihood the new nation state of Catalonia would still require an immediate bailout.



Separatist marchers waving the Catalonian flag.

(Photo via REUTERS/Albert Gea)




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3 Responses to “Could the Spanish State Fall Apart ?”

  • I am spanish. I live in Valencia (south of Catalonia). In my humble opinion the seccecionist ideas has been here in Spain for decades. The renewed surge came long ago with the fall of former dictatorship regime. Both in Catalonia and in the Vasque Country (to the north of Spain). Specially in the 90´s. Everytime some regional goverment needs or wants something (usually power or money) they tend to press the central goverment with this type of manifestations. This regional parties (CiU in catalonia and PNV in the Vasque Country) seldom are the key for spanish gobernability, though not this time. I mean this is business as usual.

    I am not sure of the actual figures but I suppose that around 25-30% of Catalonian population is actually seccesionist. There is a big chunk that does not care at all or not too much. And there should be a 10-15% of population that wants Catalonia in Spain.

    In the Vasque Country, where the terrorist group (with secessionist roots) ETA was borne and lives, the population is much more polarized. Problably more close to a 50-50%. In spite of that, for the moment, there is calm in that region. Right now Vasque Country is goberned by the regional branch of one of the two big parties in Spain, the one that nowadays is not in the office.

    The secessionist problem can be alarming in a distant future (maybe four or five years) if social mood continues to worsen, which is guaranteed if we follow our actual path. But for the moment I think that it is simply a show to try to grab more money. Can it disgregate the spanish state? Could be, but If we take a look at year 1931, Spain just become a republican state (republicans forced the the king Alfoso XII to leave Spain) and the regional catalonian goverment declared itself independent from Spain. That was just for a few weeks. Later on that regional goverment agreed to stick with Spain once some claims were met.

    I hope this comments can help everybody to better undestand the special caracteristics of politics in Spain

  • jimmyjames:

    The article explains further that the renewed surge of secessionist ideas began actually in the year 2000 with the election of conservative prime minister Aznar, as a reaction to his party’s tendency to centralize political decision making in Spain further.


    Another example of the blowback that comes from central planning-albeit an internal problem within Spain-

    The greater Euro zone is a shining example of central planning run amok-what works/worked for the richer northern sates-did not work for any of the PIIGS- other than giving them the opportunity to blow a credit bubble with ultra low lending rates-which worked great for the richer states as they were able to ramp up exports into the credit driven boom-which has now morphed into a debt trap-

  • bubbly:

    Independent Catalonia would not seek a bailout but rather immediately default and use a dual currency system (Euro + local currency)

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