Homage to breakaway Catalonia unlikely
“It’s like a divorce. And like any divorce you have to put a price on everything when it happens. Only this divorce is taking place after hundreds of years of marriage.”
Inés Arrimadas believes her comparison gives an idea of how painful and damaging Catalan independence from Spain would be.
Her Catalan-based party, Ciutadans, staunchly opposes the northeastern region’s push to break away from the rest of Spain. But as pro-independence groups are expected to triumph in the November 25th Catalan elections with the promise of a referendum on independence in their manifesto, Ms Arrimadas and her colleagues face an uphill battle.
Pro-independence feeling has grown enormously in recent months, making the breakaway look, if not inevitable, then at least more likely than ever before.
For Andreu Porta, of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a grass-roots independence movement, the process is more like the inevitability of adolescence than the trauma of divorce.
“It’s a period of change,” he says. “And you either accept that you’re turning into an adult, with all the difficulties that entails, or you don’t.”
But critics of the process point to countless obstacles – both economic and institutional – in the way of independence, as well as negative repercussions if the process were to go ahead.
One of the most disputed issues is whether, assuming Catalonia becomes independent, it will be accepted as a member of the European Union. The figurehead of the independence drive, regional premier Artur Mas, frequently speaks of Catalonia as a future member state of the EU. He has also suggested that the referendum question he plans to put to his people could refer to Catalonia’s place in the EU.
Yet his plan took a knock in October, when Viviane Reding, a vice-president of the European Commission, informed the Spanish government that the EU would not recognise the unilaterally declared independence of any region in the bloc. In addition, Spain, as a member state, could feasibly veto Catalonia’s eventual efforts to rejoin the bloc. Given the Spanish government’s opposition to independence, that would appear likely.
If this were the case, Catalonia’s continued use of the euro would also appear to be in doubt.
Joan Vidal, head of the office of the Catalan government, accepts this is a problem, but he believes pragmatism will win through.
“For us, it doesn’t make sense that Europe, which wants to integrate, which wants to develop commercial relationships and human relationships, begins a process in order to expel from the union some territories and some people,” he said.