Just a few days ago, on the 27th of October, a vote of the Catalan Generalitat confirmed the declaration of independence signed last week by the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. A short while later the Spanish National Senate approved by a large majority the application of the lately often heard article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, giving the executive the power to revoke Catalan autonomy, be it by firing the members of the parliament and the current government, or by grabbing a hold of the main public services, like the regional television, treasury and police force.
In these crucial hours, it would be quite presumptuous of me to try and imagine a possible resolution, as the status quo may very well vary abruptly. However, what we can think about is how this will change our lives and the community we live in. When today I wrote to one of my friends, breaking him the news, his first reaction was to say “Bye, exchange in Barcelona”. However, things may be a bit worse than that. By leaving Spain, and with that the European Union, Catalonia is also shutting down all of the common programs that through the union were able to be brought forth. Universities, research institutes, banks, trade, friends, even families will see themselves separated by a wall. A wall way less real than the channel running between the continent and Britain, but harder to imagine and define given the extemporaneity of the break. No treaties, no regulations, no laws will rule the new, complicated relationship between the union and the newborn republic. They will have to invent a new currency, create an army, a serious government, establish embassies, customs, write a constitution. And they will have to do this as they see all their major firms, their pride, their economic power, slowly creep away towards Spain and the common market. And the major banks already started doing so, with Caixa and Banco Sabadell, two of the most eminent financial institutions. Knowing all this, a question lingers in my mind.
Is Independence really worth it?
Catalonia already benefited from a great autonomy - having its own parliament, police force, broadcasting network, a recognized language and a widely known flag. The principle of self-determination of peoples is not applicable in their case (see Quebec and Canada), and the constitution itself guarantees the autonomy of the region.
One of the reasons that at first gave Catalans more energy, especially in the beginning moments of the crisis, was the thought of an external, European endorsement in their quest for independence. However, this dream was soon shattered as more and more nations choose to back the rule of Law in Spain, and at the same time create a precedent to keep under control the problematic communities inside their borders, present in nearly every major country. We could now argue that most of the problems that drove to the rebellion (because as of now, a rebellion this is) may have been easily solved by adopting a federal form of state, but there is a time and place for everything, and that really wouldn’t fit in here. Now that I have shattered the fourth wall just like the hopes of the Catalan People, we can go back to more serious things.
An independent Catalonia could have been achieved in two ways: with Spain granting independence, or with the region taking it with violence. In the actual situation, as Spain seems quite keen on not helping, the only possible solution is the latter. This would mean for the employees, policemen and policewomen, doctors, students to take up arms, and defend their country. As I think you’ll agree with me on the unlikelihood of an armed revolution, the only apparent way out would seem to be for the rebels to take a step back, and go to vote. A vote that would most likely see the victory of a moderate candidate, that would have to try to keep at least some of the previous autonomy.
Still, if the Catalan people think that it is worth to throw away a future in the union, with all the progress that has been made in the last decade, the safety of a strong economic environment, to walk the harsh and impervious freedom trail, I cannot do anything but wishing them the best.