Catalonia sees itself as the nation-state of the future (The Washington Post)
Spain’s intransigence frustrates Catalan officials, who style their aspirations in lofty, global, cosmopolitan terms
Ishaan Tharoor.- In the northeastern corner of Spain, Sept. 11 has a different meaning than elsewhere in the world. It marks the “Diada,” the national day of Catalonia, dating back to 1714 when Catalan forces in Barcelona surrendered to the conquering armies of the Bourbon monarch. Last week, as has been the case in recent years, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona and Catalonia’s other main cities on Sept. 11, waving the Estelada – the flag of Catalan separatism – and renewing calls for a Catalonia free from Madrid’s rule.
The region’s emboldened independence movement is pressing ahead, despite the unflinching opposition of the Spanish government. Catalan politicians hope to stage an official referendum on independence in 2017, which would follow years of mobilization, protests and symbolic plebiscites.
“The fact that Catalonia decides whether we want to be a state or not is inevitable,” Catalonia’s unofficial foreign minister, Raul Romeva, told WorldViews in an interview last week. “There is a democratic demand for doing this.”
The Catalan desire for statehood is an old one, but it gained traction amid years of economic crisis and political dysfunction in Spain. The region accounts for a fifth of Spain’s GDP and has a population of around 7.5 million–making it comparable to European Union member states like Austria or Bulgaria. A coalition of pro-secession parties now leads the Catalan government and has made the move toward a referendum on independence a crucial part of its platform.
Last week, the Catalan president, Carles Puidgemont, indicated that if the Spanish government did not allow an official referendum next year, Catalonia would stage its own “constituent elections.” He and his colleagues insist, though, that they would prefer not to take unilateral and potentially destabilizing measures. In Madrid, two general elections within the past year have failed to produce a government, leaving a caretaker administration in charge that has no mandate to negotiate over Catalonia’s future.