Homage to breakaway Catalonia unlikely
“We think that if we really carry out a democratic and peaceful process, the European Union should find a way to allow [Catalonia] to be a part of the European Union.”
Mr Porta of the ANC offers a similar argument, insisting it is not in the EU’s interests to lose a region with a GDP the size of Portugal’s and with obvious economic assets, such as the port of Barcelona. He points to the reunification of Germany as proof that the bloc can respond positively to territorial developments if they are peaceful.
However, no amount of goodwill on the part of the EU will necessarily stop Spanish businesses from moving away from an independent Catalonia. The president of Grupo Planeta, José Manuel Lara, warned in September that he would move the publishing and media giant out of Barcelona if the region broke away.
“No publishing business has its headquarters in a foreign country or in one that speaks a foreign language,” said Lara, himself a Catalan.
The Catalan business community has kept relatively quiet while the independence debate has raged between Madrid and Barcelona. However, its members are reported to be divided on the issue.
A recent report by El País newspaper suggested Catalonia would be bankrupted if it gained independence in the current climate. With the region contributing 18 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic product, the newly independent territory could have to take on that portion of the country’s financial obligations. This could help push Catalan debt from €40 billion up to €150 billion, the article claims.
For pro-independence Catalans such forecasts are exaggerated and alarmist.
They believe that if the region can recover the €16 billion that it loses to the Spanish state each year in taxes, it will have a substantial cushion to ease the financial trauma of breaking away.
“We are the seventh country in Europe in terms of GDP per capita. We could function perfectly as an independent state,” says Mr Vidal, who sees Scotland’s negotiation of a referendum with the United Kingdom government as a healthy example to follow.
“The United Kingdom shows that when there is a majority of people voting for one option then they develop a way for these things to be expressed,” he said. “We expect to do the same with the Spanish government.”