A Third Way for Catalonia

View of Barcelona, Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalonia is split down the middle.

In regional elections on Thursday, parties that want to break away from Spain got 47 percent support against 44 percent for those that oppose independence. (The balance going to a party that refuses to take sides.)

These figures are line with the latest government survey, which found almost 49 percent of Catalans in favor of independence and 44 percent opposed.

Clearly neither side has a convincing mandate and with turnout at 82 percent — the highest in living memory — it’s also clear that more voting, whether in the form of a referendum or another election, will not break the deadlock.

There is another way out. Read more “A Third Way for Catalonia”

People’s Party Should Leave Catalan Media Alone

Night falls on Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

Spain’s conservative People’s Party is overreaching in its attempts to silence pro-independence voices in the Catalan media.

  • The party has reported a Catalan radio journalist, Mònica Terribas, to the Electoral Commission for the province of Barcelona for using the terms “imprisoned ministers” and “president-in-exile” in a broadcast.
  • The same commission earlier banned Catalan public television from using those phrases to refer to separatist leaders who have been taken into custody or fled to Belgium.
  • It also accepted a request from the People’s Party to stop the Barcelona city council from coloring buildings and fountains in yellow to indicate support for the restoration of home rule.
  • Xavier García Albiol, the Catalan People’s Party leader, has proposed to shut down the region’s public television station, TV3, and relaunch it with “normal and plural” journalists, by which he means journalists who oppose secession.
  • Esteban González Pons, a conservative Spanish member of the European Parliament, tells El País there may be a role for NATO in countering Russian “fake news” about the Catalan crisis. Read more “People’s Party Should Leave Catalan Media Alone”

Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia

View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016
View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016 (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Catalonia’s independence referendum has aroused separatist sentiment north of the border, where a Catalan-speaking minority has long been content to live under French rule.

Northern Catalonia, or Roussillon, has been French since 1659.

Despite the presence of a small but vocal group of Catalan nationalists and a political party, the Unitat Catalana (UC), most of the region’s inhabitants have no desire to break away.

But recent events — not just those in Spain — have given French Catalans reason to question the status quo. Read more “Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia”

Don’t Exaggerate Russian Meddling in the Catalan Independence Crisis

Barcelona Spain
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11 (Sergio Marchi)

Spanish media exaggerate Russia’s role in the Catalan independence crisis.

Russian state media, like RT and Sputnik, and Russia-friendly trolls, like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have predictably sought to exploit the crisis in a major European Union and NATO country, for three reasons:

  1. To encouraging Catalan separatism.
  2. To provoking an overreaction from the Spanish right.
  3. To legitimizing the self-determination referendum it organized in the Crimea in 2014.

But there is little evidence Russian propaganda has changed anyone’s mind. Read more “Don’t Exaggerate Russian Meddling in the Catalan Independence Crisis”

Support for Catalan Independence Up, But Most Still Favor Compromise

Catalans celebrate their National Day in Barcelona, Spain, September 13, 2012
Catalans celebrate their National Day in Barcelona, Spain, September 13, 2012 (Fotomovimiento)

Support for Catalan independence has gone up but remains below 50 percent, according to a survey carried out by the regional government every four months.

Given the choice between independence and the status quo, 48.7 percent of Catalans would now opt to break away against 43.6 percent who want to stay in Spain.

Those figures were 41.1 and 49.4 percent in June, respectively.

Spain’s heavy-handed response to the October 1 referendum, which had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court, is most likely to blame for the shift. Read more “Support for Catalan Independence Up, But Most Still Favor Compromise”

Catalonia’s Far Left Could Hold the Key to Independence

Mayor Ada Colau and members of the Barcelona city government attend a demonstration, October 13
Mayor Ada Colau and members of the Barcelona city government attend a demonstration, October 13 (Ajuntament Barcelona)

Catalonia’s far left could hold the key to independence after the next regional election.

Snap elections are likely in the next few months, whether called by the regional government to preempt the suspension of home rule or by the Spanish government once home rule is suspended

Polls suggest the ruling center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) will trade places with its junior partner, the Republican Left.

But the balance between pro- and anti-independence parties could be unchanged — unless Catalonia in Common (Barcelona mayor Ada Colau’s party) and Podem (the Catalan branch of Podemos) change sides. Read more “Catalonia’s Far Left Could Hold the Key to Independence”

Similarities and Differences Between Catalan, Italian Referendums

View of the Palazzo Balbi, the residence of the regional president of Veneto, in Venice, Italy, April 1, 2013
View of the Palazzo Balbi, the residence of the regional president of Veneto, in Venice, Italy, April 1, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons/Wolfgang Moroder)

The northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto hold referendums on Sunday about increased autonomy from Rome.

Taking place less than a month after two millions Catalans voted to break away from Spain, the parallels are hard to miss. But there are important differences as well. Read more “Similarities and Differences Between Catalan, Italian Referendums”

Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has stepped back from declaring independence, telling lawmakers in Barcelona that although the region has won the right to break away from Spain he is prepared to hold talks:

I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.

The climbdown avoids a worse constitutional crisis but is unlikely to satisfy the central government in Madrid. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has refused to recognize last week’s referendum and conditioned dialogue on Puigdemont renouncing secession altogether. Read more “Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid”

World Won’t Let Catalonia or Kurdistan Come Quietly onto the Map

Girona Spain demonstration
Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Girona, October 1, 2014 (Ariet/Carles Palacio)

Catalonia and Kurdistan couldn’t seem farther away. One is nestled in the peace and prosperity of Western Europe, the other swims in the chaos of a dissolving Middle East.

Yet the two independence referendums of these would-be nation states are revealing. Both raise questions about the meaning of their regional orders and have provoked pushback from the status-quo world. Read more “World Won’t Let Catalonia or Kurdistan Come Quietly onto the Map”

Will Catalonia Declare Independence from Spain?

Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, July 10, 2010
Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, July 10, 2010 (SBA73)

The law which made Sunday’s referendum possible calls for a declaration of independence from Spain within two days of a “yes” vote, but there are reasons to doubt the Catalans will go that far:

  • 90 percent voted for independence, but only 42 percent turned out. Many opponents stayed home.
  • The law was suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which previously ruled an independence referendum illegal.
  • The Spanish central government would try to prevent Catalonia from breaking away.
  • The regional government has virtually no international support for a declaration of independence.
  • The Catalan economy would suffer. That is why many business leaders are opposed. Read more “Will Catalonia Declare Independence from Spain?”