Is Catalonia a «Spanish Donbas»?
This weekend, all eyes were riveted on the events in Catalonia, where it was held an independence referendum.
Our team was also following the events. I would like to share some thoughts about it.
On October 2, the authorities of Catalonia announced the results of the independence referendum, which was held against the will of Madrid. Results are predictable, namely, 90% in favour of secession.
Another result this day was mass clashes on the streets, more than 1000 people injured in clashes with police, initiation of criminal proceedings against local authorities for organizing the referendum and against Catalan police for inaction.
What should we, Ukrainians, understand in this situation?
Catalonia is a large region. It can be compared with separate European countries such as Belgium. It has its own language (this fact is really important). It has its own traditions of statehood, its own history. There was its own state, Spain’s autonomous community. It faced with abolition of this autonomy and repeated cases of fighting for it, even for complete independence (as it happened on October 2).
The conflict between Madrid and Barcelona has a strong economic basis. Despite rather wide freedoms in terms of culture and language, the Catalans are extremely dissatisfied with budgetary and tax policy of Madrid.
In terms of economics, Catalonia – is similar to Ukrainian Donbas before the war. The region composes 20% of the country’s GDP, meanwhile its area is about 6% of total area. Moreover, it allocates huge sums of money to the budget. However, it occupies the last place in regard to subventions from the centre. In fact, this region subsidizes Spanish economy. It is obvious that the Catalans know this data and believe that they deserve more. Despite their loud statements in the legal field, they were not heard. Thus, the Catalans decided that they would be able to achieve more without Spain at all as a last resort.
Of course, the last statement is very doubtful. Potential severance of economic relations between Catalonia and the other part of Spain will have serious consequences for the both sides. The region will have no privileges and preferences on Spanish and European markets. Catalonia will not become a member of the EU due to the fact that official Madrid will not give its consent. What is the region expected for? Cutting of the entire sectors of the economy, outflow of investments, loss of workplaces. In other words, nothing good will happen. It will become one of the most disastrous economic downturns in modern Europe.
What will happen next? The central power of Spain can consider the above-mentioned events “revolution”, send more police in order to drive away the crowd, judge Catalan policemen. However, this will not improve the situation. It will not remove the claims of the Catalans and resolve the reason for the problem.
The reason for this is the fact that Madrid does not want to rebuild the economic model. It wants to receive huge revenues from Catalonia in the budget. Earlier, it was clear that this would be unfair. However, nowadays, it is obvious that it cannot be like this.
Current trend is global. It can launch dozens of the same referendums across Europe in future. France has the Basque Country and Corsica. Even small countries, namely, Belgium and Denmark have several subjects, which potentially are ready for secession. In most cases, unfair economic policy of the centre is the main reason for such intentions. Although, I would like to emphasize, secession will not resolve their problems and will not improve their life.
I believe that leaders of the countries, which faced with a threat of new “sovereignty parades” within its borders, should not force such regions to obey, but to provide it with enough powers. First of all, it comes about economic one. The same model is urgently needed in Ukraine. As well as in Donbas, and in other regions.