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

Spanish Raids, Arrests Cross “Red Line”: Puigdemont

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Spain has “crossed a red line,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after gendarmerie raided offices of his regional government in Barcelona and arrested a dozen civil servants.

“On October 1, we are called to defend democracy from a repressive and intimidating regime,” Puigdemont told Catalans in a televised speech.

He argued that the actions of the Spanish state, which considers a planned independence vote illegal, are “totalitarian” and amount to the suspension of Catalan home rule. 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

Spanish Far Left Takes Rajoy to Task for Catalan “Repression”

Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias listens to a speech in Barcelona, September 11
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias listens to a speech in Barcelona, September 11 (Podemos)

Pablo Iglesias, the head of Spain’s far-left Podemos movement, has criticized Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for his handling of the Catalan separatist challenge.

In a series of tweets, Iglesias takes Rajoy and his government to task for their “fear of democracy”.

Defending Spain requires providing political solutions to historical problems. Prison and repression will only compound the problems.

Iglesias accuses Rajoy of aggravating support for independence by refusing to negotiate with the Catalans and argues that the only way out of the crisis is to let them 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