Catalonia is a region in the northeastern portion of Spain and home to Barcelona, the region’s capital city.
Over the last few weeks, Catalonia has become known for much more than its capital city and lively beach resorts.
The separatist government of Catalonia staged a referendum to decide on whether or not Catalonia should leave Spain earlier this month.
According to BBC News, of the 43 percent who voted, 90 percent wished to be independent. After the death of General Francisco Franco, Catalonia has experienced increasing autonomy, thanks in part to a 2006 statute that provided the region with more financial clout.
That is, up until about 2010, when Spain’s Constitutional Court reversed this statute. Now, with a separatist government in power, Catalonia has been attempting to defy Spain’s constitution, which states that the states of Spain are indivisible.
The reaction in Madrid and from Spain’s King has been clear: Catalonia belongs in Spain.
The vote was met with heavy opposition, with Catalan officials being arrested and the Spanish government moving in to control the region’s finances and policing.
In fact, Spain has started to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, and officials are set to meet to discuss enacting Article 155 of Spain’s constitution.
This article helped cement democratic rule after the death of the dictator Franco. It allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis.
According to BBC Madrid Correspondent Tom Burridge, the Spanish government sees this as “disciplining … an unruly, disobedient devolved government” while simultaneously trying to prevent large scale demonstrations.
Successions are nothing new. America has seen its fair share of states consider succession.
What makes Catalonia interesting is the question of whether or not it could succeed as an independent state.
Catalonia already has some qualities found in states: It has its own police force, a flag, a parliament, a leader, its own broadcast regulator and it has its own foreign embassies.
However, Catalonia would need more infrastructure set up to be considered a state – and a lot of it is controlled by Madrid.
Another concern is the price of this infrastructure. While Catalonia is rich compared to other parts of Spain, according to the BBC, Catalonia owes about 35.4 percent of its GDP in public debt.
Catalonia makes up almost one-fifth of Spain’s GDP. Removing Catalonia from Spain could endanger both Catalonia and Spain economically.
Even if Catalonia did secede, there is the uncertainty around it becoming a EU member.
All EU members would have to agree to allow Catalonia to become a member, and this would include Spain.
Along with the EU membership is the question of currency.
Catalonia would have to be approved to use the euro by eurozone countries, which Spain and its allies could easily prevent.
Furthermore, no state has ever declared independence from a country in the eurozone and then asked to rejoin as a new country. Catalonia could use the euro without the EU’s blessing, but they would not have access to the European Central Bank.
With all this to consider, is it really wise for Catalonia to leave Spain?
It seems unlikely that Catalonia’s separation from Spain would end well.
First, there is the issue of Spain’s constitution. Although it is possible to make amendments, and America itself wrestles with the question of changes to the constitution, Catalonia’s separation could have drastic effects on the region.
Catalonia’s separation from Spain – and thus the region’s violation of Spain’s constitution – could lead to a snowball effect of sorts, providing other countries and regions with the means to implement far more drastic actions in attempts to secede.
Secondly, Catalonia would be faced with economic challenges considering their debt and the fact that they may not be accepted into the EU.
Catalonia’s independence from Spain is a risky move that may not be necessary. Catalans should attempt to address their grievances with Madrid in a less extreme manner and find a way to fix Catalonia’s increasing repression without seeking independence.