Example Of Secessionism In Catalonia Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Spain, Democracy, Government, Autonomy, Theory, Region, Politics, Culture

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/01/27

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Of course, territories now in possession of modern states have not been theirs since the very establishment of statehood changing hands multiple times over the centuries. Some countries of today are the collection of different cultures and nationalities formerly existing and developing separately. The history of human civilization would see different lands enter larger state formations on various terms, with territories brought into the fold in different ways, whether by inheritance, financial acquisition or seizure preceded by an armed conflict. While some of such ethnically diverse countries may seem monolithic, they turn out to be far from integrated now that liberation movements have gained steam. Such collection of diverse lands was often characteristic of huge political entities like presently nonexistent empires; still, the once larger modern states show the signs of multi-ethnicity as the legacy of the rich conquest past.
Some lands assimilated going into the melting pot of the dominant culture, whereas others did retain their original cultures and the aspirations after autonomy that had not become transparent until recently, as is the case with Spanish Catalonia. There being strong separation sentiments in the air, the country now stands to forfeit a portion of territory known as Catalonia. With pro-separation feelings on the increase, the likelihood of a new state emerging on the geopolitical map of the world is as high as never before. Overall, certain instances of separation attempts may be indicative of a hand of foreign governments pursuing their own territorial extension or other agendas while some territories like Catalonia make secession attempts because the time is ripe for doing what remained undone for centuries. Economic hardships, the unequal distribution of financial resources, popular support, a bright cultural identity all play their role in Catalonia’s desire to secede, of which statistical trends are suggestive. While a history of autonomy acquisition spans the entire past century, recent developments are believed to be the turning points of the separation campaign. A number of theories are excellent at explaining the secession desire of the region.

Catalonians’ Quest of Autonomy. Figures as the Indicators of Popular Sentiments

Perez and Sanjaume (7) note that the separation conflict is increasing in its intensity in the middle of a democratic and peaceful society of Spain. Perez and Sanjaume (7) and Griffith, Guillen, and Coma (7) state that the public support of secessionism has increased over the recent decade. According to Perez and Sanjaume (7), if the surveys of popular opinion are to be believed, the prevalent part of the Catalonian population is pro-secession. What the surveys show is a relatively dramatic transition from a conventional Catalan nationalism, the advocates of which expressed in favor of the adjustment of their demands within the structure of the highly decentralized and ethnically pluralistic Spanish country. Griffith, Guillen, and Coma (7) suggest that, in response to what type of relationship with Spain Catalonians incline towards, the rate has gone from being 19.4% to becoming 46.4% over the last three years. The preference of the Federal State and Autonomous Community options has moved from the rates of 29.5% and 38.2% to 22.4% and 20.7% respectively. It follows therefrom that the number of independence advocates exceeds that of liberal and less radical approach supporters. In eight years, the number of those expressing in favor of secession has increased fourfold.
Centre d'Estudis d'Opinió reports that the Catalan government conducted a poll of public opinion inquiring about people’s opinion in case of a hypothetical referendum. Thus, 55.6% of the province residents supported secession while 23.4% refused to support separation from Spain. In 2011, 42.9% were pro-secession, 28.2% were against the move, 23.3% refrained from answering, and 5.7% left the question unanswered suggesting they did not the answer at the time. By contrast, in 2014, there were 55.6% of hypothetical yes voters, 23.4% of those against separation, 15.3% abstained, and 5.7% did not find the answer. Dropping the abstention voting option implies sovereignty would pass by 65% (qtd. in Griffith, Guillen, and Coma 7). What the figures mean is that the percentage of supporters went 12.7% up on 2011 over the two-year period while the ratio of those against independence went 4.8% down from 2011 over the analogical timeframe.
According to Perez and Sanjaume (8), out of many reasons to defend separation, popular support is the chief argument. The adversaries of separation see no distinctions between Catalonians’ actions and lobbied ambitions of constitutionalizing the right of secession or providing for such in the national constitution and a calculated attempt of destroying the constitutional order that threatens the Spanish democracy. The People’s Party and Ciutadans, the sole two parties in firm opposition to the Catalonian referendum maintain that Spain is a nation while Catalonia is merely a region. At least five major events have become the turning points of an increase in the formation of the pro-separation attitude (Perez and Sanjaume 8).

The Timeline of Secessionist Mindset Formation

Griffith, Guillen, and Coma (6) note that the relationship between Catalonia and Madrid has varied between repression and accommodation. In the course of the Second Spanish Republic between 1931 and 1936, the region received an Estatut, which is a Statute of Autonomy in the Catalan language. However, the ascension of Francisco Franco and the establishment of a dictatorship resulted in the cancellation of the statute together with all legal acts adopted by the Republic. Not until 1975, the year that Franco passed away were the policies reversed. Catalonia achieved quite a high degree of autonomy in 1979. The country has enjoyed the granted privilege ever since (Griffith, Guillen, and Coma 7). Perez and Sanjaume (8) state that Estatut d’Autonomia, the autonomous constitution of Catalonia underwent reformation in the period between 2004 and 2006, which was reported insufficient by the separate advocates of Catalonian nationalism.
The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the conservative People’s Party instituting a lawsuit against the Catalan constitution, which got nationalists cross and frustrated over the reduction of a priori insufficient autonomy. Then there came the economic crisis striking when the better part of Catalonians were of the opinion that the region was experiencing what they believed the unjust revenue redistribution by right-wing government and leftists. On September 11, 2012, people took to the streets of Barcelona demanding that Catalonia receive the status of the next European state. Catalonia held elections that led to the majority of the Parliament seats being taken by the supporters of sovereignty. Apart from that, the most apparently secessionist parties grew, and the left-wing secessionist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya parties and pro-sovereignty Convergència i Unió, agreed on the plan of parliamentary stability, including the holding of independence referendum sometime before the end of 2014 (Perez and Sanjaume 8).

Separation Theories and Justification

Based on the Acriptivism theory, Catalonian nationalism has authorized the liberation demands by emphasizing the cultural identity of the ethnic group, which is especially true of the linguistic dimension the identity (Perez and Sanjaume 8). Catalonia has its own distinctive languages the majority speaks along with Catalan nation narratives like foundational myths dating as far back as medieval (Griffith, Guillen, and Coma 6). It is not uncommon for an ethnic group to speak a specific regional dialect, often a modified form of the core national language. Ministry of Culture (3) suggests that Catalan and Aranese Occidental are in use in the region, besides Spanish, French, and English. Ministry of Culture (12) states that Catalan is the habitual language for the majority of citizens in five out of eight districts of Catalonia. About 80.7% of Aran residents are capable of understanding Aranese Accidental, and another 55.6% can speak the language (Ministry of Culture 13). In 2005, the original draft of the local constitution defined Catalonia as a nation with historical rights, which formed the basis of demonstrations clamoring for the right to make a decision, including the march in 2010 after the notorious ruling of the Constitutional Court of Spain on the statute documenting slogans like “We decide,” and “We are a nation.”
The plebiscitarianism theory builds on the presumption that the prevalent part of the Catalonian population wants the autonomy granted and that letting the appeal for independence go neglected is undemocratic (Perez and Sanjaume 8). As argued above, the censuses conducted over the past 2 years speak volumes for the desire of the majority, which, according to Guinjoan and Munoz (n.p.), is a firm vindication further strengthened by the massive mobilizations for the secession right occurring during the past half a decade. Another proof were unofficially held referendums in cities throughout Catalonia in 2009 (qtd. in Perez and Sanjaume 8). Ovejero (n.p.) holds that this the train of arguments evokes criticism plebiscitarianism usually does. If any group of individuals is eligible for secession, then it appears all types of democratic evils are free to do the same thing (qtd. in Perez and Sanjaume 8).
Speaking of the just-cause theory, the support of the secession builds on the condemnation of the unjust distribution of revenue by the government of Spain among the communities enjoying an autonomous status (Perez and Sanjaume 8). Miró (n.p.) quotes the leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, which is a leftists pro-sovereignty party, as claiming that Catalonia makes up 16% of the overall Spanish population, collects 24% of the Spanish taxes, and manufactures 20% of the GDP. All it receives are 10% of the revenue (qtd. in Perez and Sanjaume 8). The region may be right to call for independence after all if the government does not celebrate its economic contribution through a more proportional distribution of funds, but then again, there is such thing as political populism. Lawson (2) notes that Catalonia is the country’s richest region with the median income of almost 27.000 euros per capita, as against the national average rate of slightly more than 22.000, as of 2013. It is fair to admit that no politician want the region to secede, with the country in crisis. Being in power at a time when the country notoriously loses the most profitable region is likely to put finish to political careers. Lawson (3) goes on to state that Catalonia remains the single most indebted region of Spain. At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, the debt stock of the region was 57 billion euros while, in 2009, the amount was 25.4. The per capita debt is nearly twice as high as the state average is. Being 7.104 dollars per capita in Catalonia, it exceeds the average by 3.000 euros (Lawson 3). Populist politicians may just keep some facts concealed while publicly advocating secession.
According to Perez and Sanjaume (8), in the context of the just-cause argumentative justification, some build their arguments on the Constitutional Court decisions that decline sensible demands laid down by Catalonian nationalists. The key proponent of the theory under analysis, Allen Buchanan (n.p.) asserts the region has an nonconsensual right to separate since Spain has not done anything to respond to the appeals for a greater intrastate autonomy (qtd. in Perez and Sanjaume 8). Those disagreeing, such as Overjero (n.p.), look back at the earlier arguments put forward by the theorist claiming that it is extreme injustices like the breach of the major human rights that can serve as a pretext for the right to secession. Other than that, grievances as regarding the existing legal order in a state where democracy reigns supreme require presenting, convincing, and accepting by all citizens of the democratic country (qtd. in Perez and Sanjaume 8).
Besides theories, there may be far easier explanations. The notions of referendums and secession would not emerge until after arguably the past century. The political mentality of Europe and other civilized parts of the world was changing. As huge colonial superpowers were losing their colonial possession, so was Spain. After the last global conflict, it was a matter of decades before the state would turn democratic since dictatorship of the 20th century was on borrowed time eventually lapsing into oblivion in the second half of the century. Naturally, people granted democratic rights not seen in the centuries before, ethnic groups came to clamor for separation from countries did not enter voluntarily at a time when the world was in the middle ceaseless conflicts and fist or jungle law being the chief guiding principle. Thus, the Catalonian secession quest may be the long-lasting still-to-be-materialized ambition of liberty.

Concluding Remarks

Catalonia is region in Spain that has drawn much attention due to its desire to secede from the country. The majority of the local population have taken a pro-secession stance in the last decade. The shift is relatively dramatic because the resident sued to support the adjustment of their demands within the structure of the highly decentralized and ethnically diverse Spain. The ratio of separation advocates rose between 2011 and 2013 while the percentage of those against secession saw significant decline in the same timeframe. The adversaries of the radical move accuse pro-secession Catalonians of the attempt to destroy the constitutional order along with the Spanish democracy. The Statute of Autonomy grated during the Spanish Republic was abolished during the tenure of Dictator Franco remaining so until 1975. Four years thereafter, it gained an autonomous status enjoyed up until now. The decision of the Constitutional Court to reduce the regional autonomy, the economic crisis, the street demonstrations of 2012, and the election of the majority of secession advocates to the parliament were among the major turning points increasing the pro-separation sentiments.
There exist at least three theories explaining the popular feelings. According to the Acriptivism theory, the liberation demands are due to the Catalonian nationalism that emphasizes the cultural identity of the ethnic group that speaks its own languages and even has the literary narratives of its own. The plebiscitarianism theory is based on the presumption that the better part of Catalonians want to be let go from the state formation. The just-cause theory is based on the condemnation of the unjust distribution of revenue by the government of Spain. The arguments are that Catalonia pays a huge part of national taxes and has a large share of production in GDP terms, yet those using the theory to justify separation fail to admit there is a huge provincial debt, the Spain biggest. Overall, Catalonian secession quest has a significant history and rationales justified by at least three different theories and proved by statistical trends elicited from the poll of public opinions.

Works Cited

Griffith, Ryan D., Guillen, Pablo, and Ferran Martinez i Coma. Between the Sword and the Wall: Spain’s Limited Options for Catalan Secessionism. Sydney: The University of Sydney, 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Lawson, Brian. Catalonia: Implications of Potential Secession from Spain. Colorado: IHS. n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Ministry of Culture. Language Use of the Population of Catalonia. Key Results of the Survey on Language Use of the Population 2013. Madrid: Ministry of Culture. Directorate General for Language Policy, 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Perez, Lluis, and Marc Sanjaume. “Legalizing Secession: the Catalan Case.” Journal of Conflictology 4.2 (2013): 3-12. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.

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