By Alexi Cohan
Catalonia, a bustling autonomous community in northeastern Spain has been fighting for its independence for years in what has recently boiled over into violent protests and a hotly disputed referendum vote.
The separation of this region from Spain is an issue not only in the country itself but throughout Europe as well. Although Catalonians are justified in wanting to annex, this move would surely mean disaster for Spain, a country that is already struggling in various ways.
Catalonia, home to its capital of Barcelona and about 7.5 million residents, boasts its own flag, own language and a high level of self-government. It is no surprise that 90 percent of the people that voted in last weekend’s referendum voted in favor of separating from Spain according to the region’s government.
The central Spanish government is refusing to honor the vote, claiming it was an illegal infringement of the Spanish constitution. Police officers shot rubber bullets at protesters and voters to deter them from the polls, lowering voter turnout significantly and rendering the election illegitimate.
Now, Catalan officials are pushing for the right to independence, something that does not have a likely chance of happening. It is clear that Catalonia deserves independence for some reasons, but does that mean they should get it? Absolutely not.
The unique culture of Catalonia is deeply rooted in the history and geography of the region. The area is a popular tourist destination, bringing in revenue every year that Spain desperately needs. However, Catalonia is in debt to the EU for about 42 billion euros. The selfish nationalism of a separation will put Spain, a country about the size of Texas, in one of the worst economic crisis it has had since the 1970s. This certainly would not help the Eurostat-reported 17.6 percent unemployment rate. In addition, there are several other areas of the EU currently seeking independence like Scotland, Bavaria and Madeira. Allowing Catalonia to separate would open the floodgates for other independence movements, potentially turning Europe into a piecemeal puzzle of borders.
Lastly, although Catalans have their own distinct culture of which they are proud, they are also distinctly Spanish. They share the same traditional customs of late-night dining, Spanish cuisine and watching soccer games. Barcelona benefits a lot from this cultural interplay, so isolating this element could dull its vibrant culture.
United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres said in a press statement last week the issue must be solved internally, most likely meaning some negotiations are in order. Although the Catalan government will continue to fight for independence, it is looking like a long road ahead. The Spanish central government should be more understanding of the issue while also keeping Catalonia a part of Spain. Ultimately, just and timely negotiations are in order, as Catalans deserve to honor their culture while also fairly participating in the prosperity of their country.
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