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After all the excitement of Scotland’s vote for independence it was something of an anti-climax for many people when they voted to retain the union with the rest of the United Kingdom. However countries seeking independence from larger cousins is hardly something new. Over the years, dozens of countries have tried to gain independence with varying degrees of success.
However as with Scotland versus the United Kingdom, this independence is normally sought by a country seeking to leave an unwelcome partnership. What is rather more unusual is the situation currently bubbling up in Spain. Here the region of Catalonia is attempting to claim independence from the rest of Spain.
So why is Catalonia seeking independence? Their pro nationalist faction would list a number of reasons. To begin with Catalonia has always considered itself ‘separate’ from Spain. They speak their own official language (Catalan) though, to be fair, Spanish is still the other official language here.
Catalonia also demonstrates a number of cultural differences to the rest if Spain. For example they have their own flag, history and culture. For decades they have been fighting to keep this unique culture alive and well rather than being absorbed into the rest of Spain and losing their cultural identity.
Catalonia also finds itself in a unique financial position that both sides are trying to use as proof for their arguments. On the one hand, the small province of Catalonia is responsible for almost a fifth of Spain’s GDP, and residents are frustrated about the way so much of their wealth ends up being filtered away to the rest of Spain. Independence could mean that Catalonia gets to keep more of this wealth, and becomes a stronger global citizen as a result.
On the other hand, Catalonia has borrowed billions of dollars from the EU in recent years. Until now this hasn’t been a problem as, being a part of Spain, this debt has been covered and serviced as necessary by the Spanish government. However in claiming independence Catalonians would be forced to service this debt themselves. As a ratio of debt:earnings, the sums owned would likely force Catalonia to seek an economic bailout from the EU.
Whatever the arguments for and against, it seems that Spaniards and Catalonians won’t have to deal with the possibilities for some time to come. Catalonia has been unsurprisingly vocal about their forthcoming referendum where locals can decide on whether they would like independence from Spain.
Sadly, it seems that Spain’s Constitutional Court claims the vote is illegal and has suspended it for the time being pending further investigation. Such ‘stalling’ will no doubt do nothing to help Spain’s reputation in Catalonian eyes.
In the meantime, the pro-independence Catalonian government has decided to push forward regardless in a political move which could be explosive to say the least. Europe waits with baited breath for the November 8th vote to see whether it will go ahead, and if so the result. There will no doubt be much debate both before and after the event.
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