The Catalonian secession and the EU
By Alberto Mingardi
The Catalonian regional election was won by the separatist parties, which are now heading towards independence following their leader, Presidente Arturo Màs. This would create much trouble at the national level. The Partido Popular of Mr Rajoy perhaps hasn’t reacted in the smartest way. The Wall Street Journal reports that Xavier García Albiol, regional leader of the Popular Party, commented that “The vote, with a very high turnout, has made it very clear that a majority of Catalans don’t want to break with Spain”. And yet the success of the secessionists appears unambiguous.
Jan Marot at Politico.eu has some interesting take-aways from the Catalonian elections.The most intriguing point, to me, is the fourth:
Since there is no EU roadmap for the independence of regions within member states, a swift secession of Catalonia would automatically exclude the new nation from the European Union and the euro. However, looking at the economic strength of Catalonia, as well as its democratic, hugely pro-European society, it is likely that neither Brussels, nor many EU-member-states, would have the appetite to punish a Catalan Republic. There will be vigorous pressure for compromise, and creative solutions. As far as nationality is concerned, Spain’s constitution highlights that citizens “living abroad” can keep their Spanish passport. Thus, it is likely that the citizens of a Catalan Republic — even without membership of the EU — would still keep their EU-citizenship in an unprecedented anomaly.
This would be very interesting to watch. The Catalonian secessionists have long been saying that they want to remain part of the EU and of NATO. But the Spanish government is holding the line that secession would mean de facto expulsion from the EU.
This might well be true, since the EU is, after all, basically a cartel of existing nation states. EU Commission President Juncker has come out on Catalonia, taking a position that actually favours, surprise surprise, the Spanish government. Interestingly enough, Juncker’s remarks were far more sober in their English than in their Spanish version.
One interesting question is whether being so steadfast on secession would actually be good, taking the viewpoint of the EU ruling class’ own self-interest. I wonder if actually openly recognising the right of self-determination within exiting European member-states won’t help the eurocrats in getting what they really want: that is, more transfer of power to Brussels, in the context of a “federal” Europe. Could it be that newer smaller states are okay with renouncing some of their prerogatives more easily than old nation states?
Of course, with the exception of Scotland, what most secessionist movements are opposed to is the drainage of resources from their pockets to the benefit of other areas within the same national boundaries. This rhetoric of “exploitation” may be exaggerated but if there is some truth in it, it is easy to see that Catalonia (or Lombardy or Bavaria) seceding may entail a few headaches for profligate national governments.
There would be room here for the EU to act as a mediator, to propose guidelines for ordered secession, to guarantee impeccable democratic procedures in the process. The secessionists should be all for it, as making sure one is renouncing his Spanish passport but not to Schengen is also a good way to assure the world that there are not looking forward to establish a parochial, xenophobic small state. The eurocrats should be for it, too. They always claim they do not have enough of a political role. Will they try to gain one?