In the midst of the vibrancy of the Plaça de la Serradora in Barcelona, uniformed men sway in formation, spurred on by dogmas of strength, balance, courage and pragmatism, or ‘Força, equilibri, valor i seny’. The passion of the Catalonian people truly demonstrates the pride they have in their deep-rooted culture.
Established in the 11th Century, this fervent Catalonian nationalism has endured through several dynastical unions, from the Portuguese ‘Age of Discovery’, the Wars of Spanish Succession, and even the ceaseless turmoils that plagued Spain in the 20th Century.
Similar issues exist in countries like India which has diverse historical, linguistic and cultural heritage. When India achieved independence from the British Empire in 1947, it consisted of over 300 Princely States apart from areas under the British governance. To amalgamate these Princely States in a post-independent India was a huge exercise of consolidation; they were tasked with everything from curtailing the Razakars from terrorising the local populace in the early 1980s, to protecting the identity of Kashmir as part of the culturally diverse India.
These are only two examples of how properly organised governance can sustain the values of all by ensuring unity in diversity – when the individual values of the local population are upheld, the good of the largest numbers is ensured.
An interesting similarity poses itself in Scotland’s move for a separate Nation State. Having merged into the UK at the same time as Catalonia merged with Spain, parallel developments for independent statehoods are evident. Emboldened with democratic principles, both the elected governments rely on collection of taxes to facilitate developmental activities.
However unlike Spain, Britain did allow Scotland to initiate an Independence Referendum, as the UK does not have a written constitution spelling out the terms of secession of a part of the country. Spain, is however, bound by the terms of the 1978 Constitution which states that the union is indissoluble and has set high barriers for any form of opposing session. Whether states should be bound by such inflexible agreements or whether constitutions should mould themselves to the needs of the fledgling state is indeed debatable.
Considering the accelerating states of their economies, both Catalonia and Scotland have a solid claim for establishing independence. Catalonia contributes to 20 per cent of Spain’s revenue and would independently attain a Gross National Product of $314 billion. Similarly, Scotland’s recent title as 14th wealthiest country among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reinforces its claim to economic independence.
As a member of the European Union, the right of other member states to stand as deterrents against the separatist movement and a ‘Catalexit’ is another potential obstacle.
With the outlook of building political stability, the EU states do not wish to make Catalonia a precedent for other small nations to claim independence in Europe. As stated in the Presidency Conclusions of the European Parliament, member countries are required to have a ‘stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities’.
In this context, an EU intervention to prevent a dictatorship from demolishing the rule of law in Spain is likely. With a destructive wave of nationalism spreading across Europe historically, allowing such a fissure to form could further deepen tensions.
So, how do we contour these lines to our societal inclinations and individual beliefs? Perhaps by increasing awareness of the Catalonians’ message: of strength, balance, courage and pragmatism, instigating cultural tolerance and channeling our nationalistic tendencies into a more globalistic outlook.
Image: Josep Renalias