Attitudes in Spain’s Basque Country Mirror Those in Catalonia

Flag of the Basque Country in Getaria, Spain, April 20, 2011
Flag of the Basque Country in Getaria, Spain, April 20, 2011 (Barbara Dieu)

Attitudes in Spain’s Basque Country have mirrored Catalonia’s surge in separatism.

When the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Spain’s Constitutional Court had been correct in declaring a Basque independence referendum illegal, the region accepted it.

But when the same Constitutional Court threw out part of Catalonia’s autonomy statute that same year, it galvanized the separatist movement.

The Catalans are now determined to vote on independence. Opponents fear a domino effect. They worry that, if the Catalans are successful, the Basque Country may push for independence next.

That seems unlikely. Read more

Catalan Referendum Animates Flemish, Leaves Dutch Cold

View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014
View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014 (Visit Flanders)

The Dutch aren’t sure what to make of Catalonia’s independence bid. Only in the last few days have their news media started paying attention to what’s happening in the region.

Flemish media are more interested. Maybe because they have pragmatically managed their differences with the French-speaking Walloons for decades and are wondering why the Catalans and Spanish can’t do the same? Read more

Iraq’s Kurds Deserve the West’s Support for Their Own State

View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011
View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011 (James Gordon)

Western countries are falling into the familiar habit of discouraging Kurdish self-determination.

American and European officials have urged Iraq’s Kurds to delay their independence referendum, scheduled for next Monday.

The reasons are by now well-known: a Kurdish state would anger the Turks, destabilize Iraq and complicate the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

All of which is true, but there will always be a reason to deny the Kurds self-rule. They have been stateless for generations. If it isn’t Turkish apprehensions today, it will be fears of an Iranian-Turkish condominium tomorrow.

The Kurds, one of the most progressive people in the Middle East, deserve better. Read more

Partisan Divide in German Views on Catalan Referendum

A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

German views on Catalonia’s independence bid break down along partisan lines. Left-wing commentators sympathize with Catalan pleas for self-determination and blame Spain for the impasse. Conservatives focus on the illegality of the planned October 1 vote. Read more

Iraq Takes Similar Approach to Separatist Challenge as Spain

The Al-Rahman mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, October 23, 2003
The Al-Rahman mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, October 23, 2003 (James Gordon)

Like Spain’s, the central government of Iraq is determined to prevent an independence vote for its largest majority. But like the Catalans, the Kurds are determined to vote anyway.

Iraq’s parliament voted on Tuesday to stop a referendum in its Kurdish region and instructed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to preserve national unity.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to prevent a referendum on secession in Catalonia. At his government’s request, Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the Catalan referendum law.

Catalan regional authorities are pressing ahead. So is the Kurdistan Regional Government, which controls the northern part of Iraq. Read more

The Arguments For and Against Catalan Independence

Statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Spain, March 29, 2016
Statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Spain, March 29, 2016 (Lutz)

Catalans are due to vote on independence from Spain in a referendum next month, despite objections from Madrid.

Most of the arguments for independence are cultural or emotional. Opponents are more likely to point to the concrete economic and security risks of seceding from Spain. Read more

Catalonia Independence Referendum News and Opinion Blog

Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia
Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia (La Moncloa/Ariet/Generalitat de Catalunya)
  • Catalans take to the streets after top civil servants are arrested.
  • Spain has “crossed a red line,” according to regional president Carles Puigdemont.
  • Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy urges Catalans to step back from the brink but vows to do “whatever is necessary” to stop their independence vote. Read more