Catalonia is not the only region in Spain having its own cultural identity. Each Autonomous Community has its own cultural identity. Spanish is the official language of Spain and is spoken all over the country. Catalan is the official language of Catalonia and it is the co-official language of Spain. Similarly, languages like Galician and Basque are official languages of their respective regions (Galicia and Basque) and are co-official languages of Spain. There are several other languages spoken in Spain like Valencian, Aranese, Leonese, Extremaduran etc. The point is that Spain is a multicultural and multilingual country. So the argument that Catalonia being culturally and linguistically different should be an independent country does not seem convincing.
Dispute over revenue sharing has led to use of culture as a garb to forward the call for independence. There were also indications of using security as another reason to demand independence. This was in the wake of terrorist attack in Barcelona in August. The argument being that an independent Catalonia would be able to defend itself better. Again this reason may not be enough to demand independence. Besides, there is no guarantee that an independent Catalonia will not face any terrorist attack. Terrorist attack in Barcelona should not be used to demand independence. Dividing a country could make it more vulnerable and an easy target for terrorists. It could also trigger separatist tendencies in other regions of Spain as well as in other European countries. Such a situation would make Spain and entire Europe unstable and thereby insecure. So, security angle must not be used as a ploy by pro-independence leaders of Catalonia to forward their own interests.
In the referendum of October 1, it is claimed that 90 per cent of voters have voted in favour of independence. However, the actual voter turnout was about 40 per cent of the total number of eligible voters. Recent opinion polls have also shown a drop in support for an independent Catalan nation. While 49 per cent of the total eligible voters favoured independence in January 2017, the percentage has dropped to 41 in August 2017. It means that there is lack of clarity among the people of Catalonia as to whether to remain a part of Spain or become an independent country.
Catalonia’s quest for independence is the result of mismanagement of the Autonomous Communities by the central government in Spain. The solution of this problem lies in checking whether the federal structure in the country needs any changes. Balanced federal structure would diffuse the tension by giving adequate due to each region. It would also avoid any repetition of such incidents that disrupt the stability of the country.
(The author is an Independent Researcher based in Vadodara and can be reached at – [email protected])
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)