In Catalonia, Spain, secession-minded parties of different political stripes won a majority in regional elections. While those differences make secession unlikely, independence drives in Europe are likely to spread.
There’s no mystery to the sudden upsurge in secessionist moves in Europe: Fiscal woes, monstrous unemployment and the unsustainable welfare state should make anyone ask why they should remain in a going-nowhere economy in a largely powerless state under the thumb of Brussels.
The pain has been particularly acute in Catalonia, the prosperous and industrious northeast corner of Spain whose 7.5 million people are the largest group of citizens in continental Europe with a distinctive language but no nation.
Catalans are frustrated that they contribute 8.5% more in revenues to the central government in Madrid than they get in return. What’s more, their tax revenues go to Madrid first before they are remitted back in diminished form — unlike some of Spain’s other 16 autonomous regions. Makers get tired of takers.
But the real failure is less that of Spain than of the European Union.
Europe hasn’t worked out well for Spain, whose economy has tanked in part due to the EU’s single currency, whose strength undercuts Spain’s export competitiveness and whose low interest rates created the mother of all property bubbles. Spain, after a few years of creditfueled prosperity, now has a 25% unemployment rate, a 20% poverty rate, a tanking GDP and more than 1 million people who have fled the country.
That isn’t what the grand bargain of European Union membership was supposed to be all about.
The promise of the EU was of material gains and a vast welfare state under a centralized bureaucracy in Brussels, in exchange for diminished nationalities, erased traditions, an end to Christianity and discredited history — in short, the promise of Utopia.
With the money running out, suddenly the promise of Utopia doesn’t look so attractive. With nation-states pretty much repressed, distinctive local cultures become alive and vivid, a refuge from the failure of Europe and the ruins it has left of Spain. No wonder the idea of an independent Catalonia — which surged this past September seemingly out of nowhere — looks so alluring.
Sunday’s results aren’t likely to lead to a referendum for actual independence, given that the political gains were split between right-wing and left-wing pro-independence parties who are unlikely to ever form a workable parliamentary coalition.
But make no mistake, it’s a sign of something important happening in Europe that won’t end with Catalonia. The Basque country in Spain, the people of Flanders in France, the north and south of Belgium, and the north and south of Italy are all likely to stir in a desire to break free of the suffocating hand of Europe amid all its failed materialistic promises.
Even parts of the United Kingdom itself are champing at the bit to break away. With this the case, it’s pretty much a recognizable desire of people to be free of unelected EU elites — and Catalonia may be a bellwether.