Catalonia Crisis – Runs a Risk of a Civil War on European Soil


Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain, located on the northeastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula. It was designated as a nationality by ‘Statute of Autonomy’ by Spain.
The population of Catalonia makes up 16.1% of Spain’s 46.6 million, of which an estimated 10 million speak Catalan language. Incidentally, Catalan is listed as one of the most widely spoken languages in Europe.
Catalonia is one of the most industrious and productive regions of Spain, with a 209bn Euro GDP as against 01 trillion GDP of Spain.
Catalonia’s annual exports to other countries is double that of any other Spanish region. The unemployment rate of Catalonia in June 2017 was much below the national average of 17.2 per cent.
The Catalans see themselves as different from the rest of Spain, and hence, have been demanding independence from Spain.
 Historical Perspective
Catalonia was an independent region of the Iberian Peninsula of the modern day Spain and Portugal and had its distinct language, laws and customs.
The Catalan speaking region of Aragon and Catalonia was consolidated in 1150, with the marriage of Petronilia, Queen of Aragon and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona.
The War of the Spanish succession ended with the defeat of Valencia in 1707 and of Catalonia in 1714. Finally, with the last of the islands in the region was also captured by1715, which resulted in the birth of modern-day Spain.
The rulers of Spain imposed the Spanish language and laws on the region.
The political movement for independence of Catalonia commenced in 1922 when Catalan leader, Francesc Macià founded a political party for Catalan state, called the Estat Català.
In 1931, Estat Català and other parties formed a coalition called the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) parties, which won a dramatic victory in the municipal elections of that year.
Francesc Macià proclaimed a Catalan Republic, but after negotiations with the leaders of the new Spanish Republic, accepted autonomy within the Spanish state.
General Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War, set out to destroy Catalan separatism and abolished Catalan autonomy in 1938. He took control of the region, killing 3,500 people and forcing many more into exile.
Later, in 1975, after the death of General Francisco Franco, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence. The region was granted a degree of autonomy in 1977.
The call for complete independence grew steadily until July 2010, when the Constitutional Court in Madrid overruled part of the 2006 autonomy statute, stating that there is no legal basis for recognizing Catalonia as a nation within Spain.
In September 2014 the Catalan parliament headed by Artur Mas, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia approved a call for a referendum on the independence of the region.
However, the Spanish courts blocked this effort, though Catalonia went ahead with the vote which saw 80% of those voting agreeing to Catalan independence.
Once again on 30th September 2017, Catalans went out to vote in another independence referendum for the region.
However, the region was caught up in violence and tension as the Spanish courts blocked the vote as it goes against the Spanish constitution. 800 people were said to be injured in clashes with the police.
Catalans still got to the polls and 90% voted in favour or independence for Catalonia.
Reasons for Spain’s Opposition to Catalonia’s Independence
The Catalan region has long been the industrial heartland of Spain. It ranks first not only for its maritime power and trade in goods such as textiles, but is also a hub for finance, services and hi-tech companies.
Catalonia is one of the wealthiest regions of Spain, which accounts for 19 per cent of Spain’s GDP. Catalonia’s contribution to the Spanish economy is twice that of Scotland’s to the UK.
Independent Catalonia would have a GDP of $314 billion (£195bn), which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world. That would make it bigger than Portugal or Hong Kong.
Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make it wealthier than South Korea, Israel or Italy.
Hence, its secession would cost Spain almost 20 per cent of its economic output, which is naturally not acceptable to Spain.
Besides, Catalonia holds 52.5 billion Euros of debt that it owes to the country’s central administration, which would be difficult to recover in case it breaks away from Spain.
Why is Catalonia Demanding Independence
The Catalan region is historically distinct from Spain going back as far as 1,000 years, with distinct language, traditions and customs.
The region experienced a period of rapid economic growth from the 1950s to ’70s and saw it become heavily industrialized and grew as a tourist destination.
When the economic crisis hit Spain in 2014-15, it put a particular strain on Catalonia which is one of Spain’s wealthiest regions.
The greatest argument for independence of Catalonia is based on the fact that this small northeastern region makes a huge contribution to the country as a whole and tends to prop-up the smaller less developed areas of the country.

Implications of Catalonia Crisis
The escalating crisis in Catalonia runs the risk of causing a “civil war” on European soil.
Catalan businesses are considering moving out of the region due to the threat of an impending independence declaration and the region’s political stability.
Barcalona-based Sabadell bank has already announced its plans to move its head office to the city of Alicante. Similarly, Spain’s third-largest lender Caixabank is also considering transfer of its legal base out of Catalonia to the Balearic Islands.
Hence, the crisis may result in business losses in Catalonia, which will further hurt the flagging Spanish economy creating political and economic instability in the region.
The recent referendum though being called illegal by Spain, demonstrates an expression of the people’s will, where Catalan people no longer feel Spanish.
It is important that the United Nations and EU intervene to prevent the crisis from escalating further and cause avoidable bloodshed.

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