One of the most recurrent arguments advocated by those opposed to Catalan independence, but also by those contrary to the exercise of the right to self-determination, is that the Republic of Catalonia would be kicked out of the European Union. This matter has been strongly debated among European experts and the only certainty is that the history of integration processes confirms that pragmatism and the principle of democracy have always triumphed over doubt. But this is not the question I am interested in dealing with today. Spain’s Government having activated article 155 of the Spanish Constitution (which implies the suspension of Catalonia’s semi-autonomous government) and following a categorical rejection of any type of international mediation by the Spanish Government and European institutions, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker publicly expressed his fear that Catalan independence may produce a domino effect within the Union’s boundaries. His message is clear: the EU as we know it is in danger. Needless to say, we’ve already noticed that after the piteous management of the refugee crisis. Indeed, the continued disagreements and breaches on behalf of member states highlighted the weakness of this Union which acts with impunity against the very human rights it is obliged to defend in accordance with its founding principles. Let us not forget that the Catalan Government and Parliament, largely supported by the civil society, have clearly voiced their commitment to welcome people fleeing war.
But let’s go straight to the point. The current European project arises from the common will to rebuild a continent that was destroyed following the deadliest war humanity has ever known. A war which was caused by the irruption of fascist regimes. Let us also remind each other that the main motive of this Union was the economic integration which translated into the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. The value of peace has always been the other great vector of this alliance of European nation-States at times where the world was polarized under the effects of the Cold War. Without doubt, despite the disparate rhythms among member states, this project has experienced remarkable progress in terms of democratic rights and coexistence. However, the clash between sovereignties of nation States – a model of state that is clearly in crisis – remains the weak point of the common European project. Again, we’ve seen this with the management of the economic crisis and the refugee crisis, and we are seeing it now with the refusal to act as mediators between the Catalan and Spanish governments in what has proved to be a deeply democratic matter.
While the European and international public opinion has started to perceive the Catalan issue as a European affair, the main leaders of EU member states and their armada all seem to concentrate their efforts into reinforcing the concept of territorial integrity. They refuse to recognize Catalonia as a political subject. On the other hand, the peaceful Catalan independence movement is increasingly supported by those pro-Europe leaders and activists who strive for a genuinely federal Europe, that is to say, the old European dream where deepening democracy involves progressing towards European institutions that directly represent European citizens, thus moving beyond the strict and often partisan interests of member states. A humanist European project where the distribution of power starts at the most local levels, specifically around towns and cities. A European project that promotes federalism as a social behavior and not as a simple state structure. Federalism, shared sovereignty, cannot be understood without the principle of peace acting as its cornerstone. It is actually the indispensable cohesion factor that allows us to develop healthy and fruitful relations. Similarly, the right to self-determination is a precondition to any kind of federation. A federation (or confederation for that matter) cannot truly exist if it does not occur between equals and if it fails to respect freedom of association. Union by force, sooner or later, is destined to fail.
Without a doubt, Catalonia is a European and pro-Europe nation where the federalist spirit is very present. On 1 October 2017, despite having been brutally attacked by Spanish police, Catalan citizens have clearly earned the right to become an independent State in the form of a Republic in order to rule themselves and to have their own voice in Europe’s construction. Does that mean shared sovereignty? Of course! But with European institutions and without being forcefully subordinated to Spanish nationalism. Moreover, Catalonia’s economy is very diversified, attractive and perfectly viable. The dynamic growth of Catalonia’s economy is crystal-clear. In 2015, Catalan GDP grew by 3.4%, well above countries like Germany (1.7%) and France (1.2%) or Italy (0.8%). Exports grew by 6.1% (10% in the high-tech sector) and foreign direct investment increased by 58% (11% in Spain), which shows a high level of confidence among international investors towards Catalonia. And this is all thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and the culture of hard work that is so well-rooted among the country’s various economic agents. Europe is Catalonia’s natural market. It always has been and always will be. Therefore, Catalonia’s contribution to the European project will always be positive in every way. And it is a fair deal that Catalan citizens be able to manage their own resources, with the aim of being fully able to reflect benefits in the well-being and progress of its population. In short, European institutions may choose to isolate Catalonia for a short period of time. However, it is clear that Catalonia will never let Europe down.