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updated 9:42 PM CEST, Jun 30, 2018

What is really needed for Catalonia?

What is really needed for Catalonia? Wikipedia

More supporters, no. A historical sidenote.

Whatever we think about the sense and logic of the idea of a Catalonian independent state, cherished by many local political parties and a very significant number of citizens, for me two things are very clear:

  1. Among the standard criteria of statehood, Catalonia possesses all criteria according to the declarative theory (the country could easily function as a state from tomorrow, since it has a defined territory, a permanent population, a government and the ability to enter into relations with other sovereign states), but lacks (and would lack) all criteria according to the constitutive theory (that is, no other states would recognize it).
  2. The population of Catalonia already supports the independence in the critical (sufficient and necessary) proportion. I don’t say this as a political or qualitative argument. I say it based on the common sense, because it’s a regular outcome of democratic elections that a party or a presidential candidate wins and can govern with less than even the 30% of the potential votes of the voting age population. And then, no one questions the results and the legitimacy of the new regime. In 2016, the US had around 250 million potential voters, 139 million people voted and around 63 million voted for Donald Trump. That’s exactly 25%. One in four US citizens of voting age decided to go and vote for Trump. And it’s better than the result of Bill Clinton in 1996, who had 24%. As a consequence, counting and evaluating survey results and the actual political and popular support of a cause or political agenda are very important in terms of understanding the basics and forecasting the changes, but that’s not a too relevant information as long as the critical amount of support is there.

The real watershed point is not that whether the idea of independence gains or loses more traction and will be more powerful in the local population or if Catalonia as a territory is ready for governing itself.

The real watershed issue is the answer to the constitutive criteria and what is behind that. In other words: what makes other sovereign states push the independence of a country-to-be?

Evidence and historical records show that since nations rule global politics (from the 17th century at the latest), the underlying reasons are quite straightforward: it is very difficult to form and proclaim new states (or new borders) in A) peaceful, prosperous periods, B) in zones with zero international conflict and C) without crucial interests of world powers and external parties. Popular movements rarely achieve a lot under these circumstances. The independence of the USA in the 18th century, that of the Latin American states and Greece in the 19th century, Israel, Malta, Germany and Croatia in the 20th, Montenegro and South Sudan in the 21st, among many others, verify these rules.

Long, peaceful, stable historical periods rarely witness the creation of new countries.

Catalonia is located in a peaceful and prosperous regional empire, the European Union, between two peaceful and prosperous states, France and Spain. It’s not a strategic geopolitical territory. There is no key and vital interest or benefit that can be extracted out of the situation by any of the world powers.

But what happened when Catalonia was situated in a strategic geopolitical territory, between two states immersed in continuous wars and of crucial interest for big European powers?

It was after 1640 when Catalonia revolted against its host state, the Spanish Monarchy, and France and Spain fought like cats and dogs for two decades for the territory. The Reapers’ War is the historical event the current national anthem of Catalonia is based on. The country did not fight for the independence then, but for its historical rights and institutions and for more liberty and self-governance. Was there a chance of winning? Yes, like the successful revolt of Portugal (against the same Spain in the same year, 1640) shows. The results of the Catalan revolt? Not too much. Why? Because Spain was against the Catalan cause, and France needed only territories and a Spanish army that is distracted from other fronts of war. In contrast, in Portugal, a country which was historically more distinct from Spain than Catalonia, France didn’t need territories and more importantly, England helped Portugal in a decisive way.

As a summary, and again, without much qualitative evaluation and taking a stand in the debate,

the Catalonian independence will probably never become a reality unless the European Union gets into a deep crisis and dissolve OR significant regional or global interests arise around Catalonia’s statehood.

Sooner or later?


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