On October 1st the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia held a referendum on independence, despite fierce opposition from the central government, which said that the vote violated the Constitution.
Hundreds of people were injured in clashes with the police during one of the gravest tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975.
According to the Catalan government, the referendum was a success, with about the 40% of the region’s electorate taking part in the vote and the “yes” option collecting over the 90% of the preferences.
However, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy claimed that the referendum was completely illegal and that no Catalan independence of secession would be allowed at all.
Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, even signed an unauthorized declaration of independence, convincing Ravoy to seriously think about the possible application of the Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would revoke Catalan political autonomy, existing from as long as 1979.
Moreover, El Pais, a famous Spanish newspaper that positioned itself against the independence, confuted in an article the 10 most diffused reasons why Catalan people would want to be independent from Spain; in addition, many noted that half of the voters did not reach the polling stations (probably because of the fear of the disorders happening on the streets), meaning that the referendum represented the views of a minority.
Madrid also said that the vote did not use a valid census, and did not offer adequate monitoring and recount guarantees.
On October 10th Puigdemont issued a declaration of independence, but immediately suspended the decision to allow, in his words, for more “dialogue”, leaving many supporters of the secession confused.
A few days later, he has also called for international aid in the Catalan run for independence, but to his surprise the European Union urged him to respect Spain’s Constitution.
From an economic point of view, investors are already beginning to withdraw funds from Catalonia, significantly raising the risk premium they demand for holding Spanish and Catalan debt. Moreover, since the referendum, more than 40 companies have declared that they would move their headquarters outside the region.
Another big concerns is whether an independent Catalonia would be allowed to become a member state of the European Union and use the euro; the issue is complicated by the fact that the most radical Catalan separatists do not want to have anything to do with the common currency.
The truth is that the secession of Catalonia from Spain would be very likely to weaken all the European Union. In fact, this event would create a legal precedent that would allow in turn other regions in all the continent to declare and obtain independence, hitting very hard the true heart of the European Community, which is the maintenance of unity despite the differences.
It is sufficiently clear that nowadays there is no country in EU that can compete alone against great world powers like the United States, China, or even Russia; the only way to do so, maintaining a certain degree of economic, political and social predominance, is through unity.
In order to build a future for European States, historically divided because of different cultures, languages, types of national economies and so on, it is necessary to put aside these differences and focus the attention of the common features of them, starting from the easiest one, the geographical proximity.
This is the true reason why secessionist parties and politicians are on the wrong side of the battlefield: they only follow personal and individualistic targets.
In the end, if European States truly want to survive, we should seriously think not about further divisions and secessions, but about unity and cohesion.