Well, it happened. Catalonia declared independence from Spain. We, as Americans, as people whose founding fathers declared independence from our own overlords, should be happy, supportive even. Based on our own track record of saying we support freedom and democracy, the United States should be clamoring at the chance to embrace this fledgling democracy. So why is that not the case?
The world was first alerted to the 70-10 vote in favor of independence declared by the Catalonia government on October 27; it seems to be a very strong outcry that the people want independence. Again, why is the world not supporting? BBC reported that the UK, France, Germany, and the US all push for what they call “Spanish unity.” In other words, supporting the status quo with Madrid at the helm, rather than having the region govern itself.
Let’s take a little stroll back through the past (sorry, I’m a history major so you’ll have to bear with me for a minute). From 1150 until 1715, Catalonia was an autonomous region on the Iberian Peninsula with different laws, a different language, and unique customs from their neighbor, Spain. For those of you keeping score at home, Catalonia was independent longer than the United States has been a country. Think on that for a minute.
The same article from BBC sites European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker saying that the European Union (EU) “doesn’t need any more cracks, more splits.” From that statement, we can glean that countries are worried about a dip in the economy, numbers and cash, rather than a vote from the people themselves.
An independent Catalonia might be detrimental for the Spanish economy. The Telegraph notes that losing this region would cost Spain nearly twenty percent of its economic output. Since Spain is part of the EU, a decline in Spain’s economy could cause an issue for much of Europe. Taking that a step further, with ties the United States has to the EU, a recession in Europe could have ripple effects across the Atlantic. The United States has been enjoying a time of economic prosperity since January 2017 and, I believe, would do a lot to try and keep that prosperity moving in the right direction.
I understand, the economy is very important – it drives the world. But, I think we need to take a step back and look at the people. Though firm numbers are hard to procure, BBC cites a poll conducted by the Catalan government saying that only 41 percent of the population supported the pursuit of statehood. If you’re thinking that number seems at odds with the ratio I gave at the start of this article, you would be correct. At this time, it is difficult to get decisive data out of the region and the information we get can be contradicted. The incongruity in numbers shows the uncertainty and chaos surrounding the situation.
When looking at geopolitics, people are tempted to go with the first opinion they see, read, or with which they agree. Everyone is guilty of clinging to an ideological standpoint just because it sounds reasonable to their own ears. However, we have to look at the bigger picture. Bigger than possible economic fallout or numbers in a poll. We have to understand what the people actually want. While that may be wishful thinking that doesn’t actually function in the real world, it is a goal for which to strive.
So if Catalonia wants independence, great. But that is something they need to figure out for themselves before the international world weighs in on the issue.