Monday, October 8, 2012

Should Catalonia and Scotland become independent?

On September 11th, 2012, a march in favor of self-determination was held in Catalonia, with city police estimating that up to 1.5 million people took part. And this comes not long after the announcement that Scotland will have a referendum in 2014 regarding its independence from the United Kingdom! How will Europe look like in the future and what new challenges await us all with the new change of the continent's borders?

If those two countries (or regions) achieve their goal of independence, then how many more in Europe are likely to follow suit? Wallonia, Sardinia, Corsica, Wales and perhaps many more regions will bid for independence. Are we prepared for this new reality, and what impact will all this have in our continent's future politics and economy?

Personally I am split between supporting the will and the wishes of the people of those regions and being a bit more cautious on the impact that this will have in an already troublesome European economy. I am just not sure that now is the time for such moves; in fact sadly, I believe that it is time for more unity.

Part of me thinks: what is the point of having too many new states in Europe, since we are working for European integration? A more federal Spain, United Kingdom or any other state that faces the same issues, perhaps would be a better solution. Give them more freedoms for self governance. Because I am sure when they gain their independence from Spain, they will rejoin the EU as Catalonia or Scotland. Thus still have no borders between them and still not being totally independent from them.

One of the main arguments the separatists put forward to support their bid, is that Catalonia contributes 20% of Spain’s GDP but only receive back 14%. But that is true for any country! Is it all about money again?  I was talking to a Finnish lady once, and she told me that the South Finland contributes and sustains the Northern part of the country that has very few natural resources. The Helsinki region in fact supports the north! “We send them bucket-loads of money” she said, when we compared Finland and Europe as money transfers from region to region is concerned!

She supported the idea that poorer regions in Europe should get money from richer regions of Europe, as in Finland, the south supports the north! That would be true for most countries. In Greece we have the same problem, in Italy too. Should we start breaking up all countries up? Shall we make a regional Europe, with many small regions being autonomous, while all be governed by one entity in Brussels? And if we achieve that, how easy will it be with so many smaller but more numerous voices in EU to reach to an agreement? We are having troubles now as it is!

Why don’t we create federations within a greater federation, so while Catalonia, Scotland, Corsica, Sardinia, Walloon and any other regions that wish to have more independence, remain in a more federal state formation, they will be governed in local-national, state-federal and European level? They will have their own government and parliament that will cooperate, answer and send their representatives to the Spanish one and the Spanish will do the same in its relations with the European one.

Of course that is only when the economy is concerned. There are many other issues involved, like protecting the Catalan language, culture and heritage. According to many Catalans, new laws appear from Madrid  everyday that take more and more control of Catalan culture and language.

So perhaps the change must come on a Spanish front, not just Catalonia? If the loss of language and identity is being promoted by Madrid then we are talking about potentially a full Spanish state dissolution if the Basques, the Galicians and others follow the example of Catalonia. Perhaps with the encouragement of the EU, Spain should promote more diversity of its culture and heritage. Follow the European motto: Unity in diversity!!

And of course we should be careful on how this dissolution will take place: the Yugoslavian way or the Czechoslovakian way? In most ex-Yugoslavian states, there are still supporters of Tito that remember the Yugoslavian days with a sense of longing. And they all now aspire to become EU members, thus giving up their short lived independence too soon.

Is now the best time to promote dissolution of states in Europe? How will the global markets and economy react and will this shake their confidence on the Spanish region and the euro? Possibly the Spanish region as a whole will find itself in the eye of new a storm, affecting all regions of the former Spanish state. Will such a solution be wise now, and what impact will it have in the overall Iberian and European economy? If Spain dissolves as a country, will this be the solution to the country's economic woes, or the creation of more and will the global investors be happy to invest in new emerging regions?

Perhaps this is what the global players want. To end the existence of old established European states, thus getting rid of the rigidity of the established European elites and their conservatism. So they promote, support and perhaps even fund this new surge of independence bids across Europe. Probably this is good. We need new voices and a fresh air in European politics.

But could it be possible to give the regions their autonomy in a Europe of regions? It is possible that what we need right now is a Europe of regions with their own culture, identity and governance under the umbrella of a European economic and political framework. But that means a redrawing not so much of the borders, rather the institutions and legislative powers that govern Europe so far. Are we ready for this? Should we perhaps focus on establishing a fully functioning European democracy and governance, before we move to the dissolution of the existing European states? Perhaps such moves come a bit prematurely.

Are we ready as Europeans to accept this new reality and start thinking as citizens of a region, rather a nation state? I do not wish to block any attempts for independence from any populace of Europe. Because if that was the case, then Ireland, the country I live in or Greece, the country I come from, should have never gained independence from their former colonial powers. Nevertheless, Ireland is still highly reliant in the United Kingdom or the USA economically and culturally and Greece still struggles economically as a county, relying in a great extend on Europe.

There are many reasons of course for this, that lay on the interests of people both in those countries, Europe and further abroad. But perhaps the Catalonians should be careful not to rush in any decisions and become reliant to any foreign country, group or organization, in their struggle to gain independence from Spain. What good does it make to have many small fragmented states in Europe, that are easier to manipulate? Are the Catalonians rushing to jump from the pan into the pot? Will they become what have FYROM and Montenegro become in their struggle to attract foreign investment and support, to fund their existence; another potential tax haven for big corporations!

I will respect the outcome of both referendums in Catalonia and Scotland of course and I will support the wish of the majority of the population of those nations. But I also wish that they will decide responsibly and not because a passing surge of nationalism!!

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