Political suicide in Catalonia

How Catalonia self-destructed.

November 1, 2017 21:41
3 minute read.
Students in Catalonia march in support of the region's independence, September 2017

Students in Catalonia march in support of the region's independence, September 2017. (photo credit: JON NAZCA/ REUTERS)


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The latest events in Catalonia are a clear example of a political suicide conducted in stages.

The Catalonian pro-independence coalition headed by Carles Puigdemont has turned Catalonia, a socially vibrant, economically dynamic and internationally attractive autonomous region into a failed, imaginary separate state-to-be.

As it declared officially the so-called independence of Catalonia, Puigdemont and his supporters were facing a disastrous internal and external environment portending scant success for a separate Catalonian entity.

Puigdemont and his coalition lead a divided Catalonia, between those supporting their actions and those opposing it.

They face a united, resolute political front in Spain encompassing the main political parties and a judicial system that has declared their actions illegal and unconstitutional.

On the economic front, more than a thousand business enterprises have already announced their intention to leave Catalonia.

Internationally, the European Union has declared, clearly and unequivocally, that it will not recognize or accept as a member a separate, independent Catalonia. Beyond anything else, there is a distinctive fear of a domino effect in Europe, of regions emulating the Catalonian example, leading to the fracturing of sovereign states in the Continent.

The United States, for its part, has announced, following the so-called declaration of independence, that it will not recognize Catalonia as a separate state.

The rosy image of an independent Catalonia that Puidgemont and his coalition have depicted bears little resemblance to what we are witnessing at present. They described an economically successful, politically stable Catalonia as a member of the EU.

So far, bearing in mind the hundreds of companies leaving the region, the fractured political scene in Catalonia and the utter rejection by the EU, an independent Catalonia is closer to a failed entity, existing as a separate state only in the fertile imagination of Puigdemont and his coalition.

The attempt to depict Catalonia as an oppressed region of Spain has miserably failed to convince Spanish public opinion and, more importantly, European decision- makers. A ridiculous video drawing a comparison between events in Catalonia and in Ukraine in 2013 has only enhanced the impression among the skeptics within and outside Spain of a failed political campaign clinging to half-truths and distortions.

It has to be stressed: Catalonia enjoys a large degree of autonomy. It has a parliament and a government of its own; a local police force; its language and culture thrive without any restrictions.

Spain is a stable, free parliamentary democracy composed of autonomous regions, a prominent member of the EU.

The Spain of today bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of Francisco Franco, who tried to suppress any manifestation of Catalonian identity.

Legally, the Spanish government stands on solid ground.

The unilateral actions undertaken by Puigdemont and his coalition, from September of this year onwards, including the referendum held on October 1 and its aftermath, were declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain.

Further, according to public international law, no region of a sovereign country is allowed to secede unilaterally, except in cases where a gross violation of human rights takes place, and even then there is no consensus about it as the case of Kosovo can testify.

To be sure, a region of a country is permitted to secede, according to international law, if the central government consents to it, as occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1993, when the Czechs and the Slovaks agreed to split the country into two states. That, of course, does not apply in the case of Catalonia.

If the objective of Puigdemont and his coalition was to create disruption, then the strategy has worked. However, if they intended to create a separate, stable, prosperous and viable state of Catalonia, which is accepted into the society of nations, then, so far, it has failed miserably.

However this crisis ends, it would seem that Puigdemont might become in the future a byword for political fiasco.

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