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Catalans Can Teach the World Something

by Eli Duncan, Opinions Editor

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Just when the European Union (EU) thought it was safe, Catalans came out and had a nice little independence referendum. Of the 2.3 million voters in this referendum, 90% voted to leave Spain and become its own separate nation.

For reference, Catalonia is in the northeast region of Spain and contains the beautiful city of Barcelona, the region’s capital. This area is focused on manufacturing, and because of that, is one of the richest and most industrialized areas of Spain.

This referendum isn’t a shock. The region is largely independent already, having its own culture and language separate from the rest of Spain. The population of 7.5 million would place it between Sierra Leone and Togo for ranking by population. If the region left, it would put Spain just above Iraq and considerably lower than Sudan on the list of UN members by population size.

Aside from the obscure rankings, the region accounts for nearly 25% of the nation’s exports and 21% of the nation’s tax revenue. All this accounts for almost 20% of Spain’s economy. This is a classic example of one region taking a disproportionate load of the economy even though there are 17 regions that can share roughly 5.9% of the tax revenue if they all chipped in fairly.

Assuming they do gain independence, they likely will not be allowed into the EU. For Catalonia to be inducted into the EU, it would have to convince every member to allow the new nation to join. Including Spain. The region could still use the euro as a currency, however, it wouldn’t have a seat at the European Central Bank.

This also means that it would not be a part of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Of the 193 countries that are recognized by the UN, 163 of them are members of the WTO. This would put large trade barriers on the nation which means that trade will become more expensive for the country.

When the referendum was discovered, Spain’s central government declared this vote illegal. The prime minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. This section  says that it can take away any of the region’s autonomy if it plans to secede from the rest of Spain. It would be like if Donald Trump took away Nevada’s rights as a state.

Alongside all the diplomatic things the Spanish government did, they also sent Spanish police to stop the voting. Hundreds of people were treated for injuries when the voting turned violence. Catalans were clashing with Spanish police but the vote still went on.

But what does this mean?

It shows that even though democracy was restored in Spain 40 years ago, the prime minister  still wants control over every aspect. That isn’t a bad thing. A leader should want control of his or her nation. However,if a region wants to secede with an overwhelming majority supporting an independence referendum, then that leader is not helping out those people and something needs to be done.

In the United States’ own Declaration of Independence, the authors of the document wrote that everyone has the right to revolt against a failing government. That is how we got our independence. The Catalans took a more peaceful approach to declare independence than us, but the idea is still a revolution against a failing government. That doesn’t mean just in political terms. This even goes as far as not being able keep the people happy or provide the means to be happy. Being happy also extends to taking a large amount of the tax burden and not being rewarded fairly.

This new nation will have no international support, no support in its own region, and no effective border. That, in my eyes, should be seen as a symbol to other nations.

Like Taiwan and the “One-China Policy,” Catalonia would effectively be under a “One-Spain Policy”. This would put the Taiwanese and the Catalans in the same position: two nations with separate cultures and people under the control of bureaucracy and nations that want more power than they actually deserve or have.

As an American who believes in the right to revolt against a failing government like we did 242 years ago, I fully support the Catalans in their quest for independence. In their eyes, independence means more than having to pay more for trade and not being part of the EU, which very narrowly avoided collapse in 2016. The idea of freedom outweighs stability and that is oddly beautiful.

My message to the Catalans: Fight on. Do what you see fit to win. My message to the world: Be careful. There is a surge of nationalistic pride and the regions of the world where unions of different cultures exist, that will collapse sooner rather than later.

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Catalans Can Teach the World Something