Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catalans Must Decide: EU or Not EU? Unilateral or Negotiated? Include Valencia and Balearics?

As Catalan leaders plan a referendum in 2014 on independence from Spain, they are debating questions such as whether they ought to make a unilateral declaration of independence “à la Kosovo” and whether this would prevent Catalonia from seamlessly remaining in the European Union (E.U.) after a split.  The E.U.’s 2007 Lisbon Treaty clearly says it would, but it’s not clear that the Catalan president Arturo Mas’s plan for a referendum question asking, “Do you wish for Catalonia to become a new state of the European Union?” will get around that if Madrid refuses to play ball.  (See my blog article analyzing this question in detail with respect to Scotland.)

Moreover, media are reporting that some (perhaps most?) Catalonian separatists also envision the Autonomous Community of Valencia, the region to Catalonia’s south, as well as the Balearic Islands off the coast, as part of a “Greater Catalonia.”

The flag of Valencia
Valencia, the Balearics, and Aragon are three regions headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey’s People’s Party (P.P.) which have begun rebelling against austerity measures in the P.P.’s 2013 budget.  Valencia and Catalonia are Spain’s two most indebted regions, and prosperous, productive regions feeling that poorer, less productive Spanish regions are pushing them into indebtedness is the main economic factor fueling the secessionist crises in Spain.

Valencia, the Balearics, and Catalonia—along with AragonAndalusia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, and Galicia—are all constitutionally recognized as distinct “nationalities” within Spain, and Valencia and the Balearics are among those with their own devolved parliaments, like Catalonia’s.

There are differences of opinion as to whether Valencia and the Balearics are culturally and linguistically part of Catalonia: the Balearics use Catalan as an official language alongside Spanish, but the Valencians call their local official language Valencian, not Catalan, though the two are mutually intelligible.

The flag of the Balearic Islands
Separatist sentiment in Valencia, which was its own kingdom until 1707, has never been as strong as in Catalonia, the Basque Country, or Galicia, but Communists in the Balearics briefly agitated for independence in 1978 in the political disorganization following the dictator Francisco Franco’s death.

The flag of Galicia
Expect the exact boundaries of an independent Catalonia to be the source of conflict in the months ahead.  (At least Scotland has Hadrian’s Wall to keep things simple, eh?)

Basque graffiti.  (Boy, they sure make Catalonia look small in this map, don’t they?)

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), will be on shelves and available on Amazon on March 1, 2015.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

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