L’edició digital d’ahir de Telesur, televisió pública de referència amb una importantíssima difusió a Argentina, Bolívia, Cuba, Equador, Nicaragua, Uruguai i Venezuela, publicà una extensa entrevista a Irene Escorihuela, militant de la CUP de Sants-Montjuïc llicenciada en dret i ciències polítiques que recentment passà uns mesos treballant colze a colze amb diversos moviments revolucionaris llatinoamericans.
Scotland voted “No” to independence from the U.K. What will that mean for other regions in Europe with aspirations to be independent?
Will Scotland’s failed bid for independence impact on other parts of the world where sovereignty is also the theme of the day?
With the Scottish referendum decided, all eyes have turned to the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, who will stage its own referendum regarding its independence.
The Catalonian government has chosen November 9 as the day when Catalonians will take to the polls to answer two questions:
“Do you want Catalonia to be a State?”
“If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?”
Unlike the Scottish vote which was recognized by London, the Spanish government has denounced the referendum as “illegal,” and there are doubts as to whether Madrid will allow the non-binding referensum to even take place.
Catalonia is Spain’s second most populous autonomous community, as the country’s political divisions are called, with a population of 7.5 million in a country of 46 million. It also represents nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP. It has its own language, Catalan, which more than 5 million of its residents use. Catalonia’s officials and public servants, including doctors and teachers, are required to know the language.
While Catalonians also cite a different culture and tradition as reasons why they want to separate, for many the issue of independence is more of a question of democratic process, and the opportunity to form a federal state system, rather than stay within Spain’s beleaguered constitutional parliamentary monarchy.
Irene Escorihuela, member of one of Catalonia’s most important political parties the Nomination d’Unitat Popular party (CUP), told teleSUR “the question of a referendum is beyond the issue of personal identity, at this moment in time the public consultation is a democratic and people power issue.”
“From the CUP’s point of view, independence would provide a moment of openness ‘to change everything,’ a change in the status quo and political positions,” Escorihuela continued. “It’s a chance to start over in a new country from the point of view of a constitutional process and a step away from the political and economic elites who rule today in both the Spanish State and in Catalonia.”
“independence would provide a moment of openness to change everything”
While Catalonians had hoped Scottish independence would have helped their bid, they are remaining positive ahead of their referendum, despite polls that put those for and against separation neck-and-neck at around 42 percent (on the basis that an independent Catalonia would become an E.U. member state), with the rest undecided.
Escorihuela explained that the media in Catalonia – versus the rest of Spain – have reported the Scottish decision very differently. “For the Spanish government, the “yes” (in Scotland) was a profound failure and has somehow discredited referendum in Catalonia […] However, in Catalunya it is perceived differently: while it is a hit that Scotland has taken the unionist position, […] it is not seen as a defeat for the Catalan process.”
Escorihuela highlights how the Catalonian people have noted the U.K. Prime Minister’s stance on the referendum. “[David Cameron’s] words are the complete opposite of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who will not recognize our calls for a referendum, and says that he will prohibit a vote, despite the fact that the Catalan parliament ratified the referendum consultation.”
For Catlonians, Escorihuela argues, Scotland “served as an example that the people were able to vote and decide their future, while here popular expression is prevented at the ballot box.”
Catalonian President Artur Mas agreed, saying the Scottish decision “is not a setback, because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote. […] The real factor is that they had the chance and the possibility to vote and this is the key point.”
Others have pointed out that Scotland’s referendum can be counted as a victory as the country has been promised more autonomy from Westminister. One poll evidenced that far more Catalonians would prefer greater regional autonmy via constitutional change than full independence.
However, Madrid’s stubborn refusal to engage with Barcelona on the topic of independence means even Catalonians in favor of staying part of Spain are now supporting the referendum in principle
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, “Catalonians must be able to decide their future,” Escorihuela says.
The push for Catalonian self-determination comes as Spain’s economic woes deepen. Prompted by the 2007 global financial crisis, Spain fell into a recession and has had at least 24 percent unemployment since 2012.
This, according to Escorihuela, “has created a lot of insecurity, unemployment and poverty. The living conditions of the poorest people has deteriorated substantially, and independence would be a way out of the Spanish government’s policies of austerity and cuts.”
The German president of the European Parliament, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, agreed that the economy has played a huge role in the push for separatism in Europe, fueled by “social inequality and a wealth gap, where richer regions say we don’t want to pay to support other regions.” According to Schulz, the E.U. needs to address these issues.
“old political models aren’t working”
In Spain, it is not only the economy, but a disenchantment with politics, following a spate of scandals involving both the government and monarchy, which have lead to “the search for a radical change and a new political scenario, which can come from a constitutional process and a new country,” says Escorihuela.
Ways of obtaining independence
Catalonia and Scotland have followed the democratic formula to bid for separation, but it is not the only way.
Catalonia’s neighboring Basque country also has long standing independence struggle which at one point involved armed actors such as the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA.
While armed independence struggles in Western Europe have failed to achieve their ultimate goals, in Northern Ireland where the Irish Republican Army (IRA) tried to reunite north and south Ireland after two centuries of British occupation, they resulted in the the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, which allows for a referendum on Northern Irish independence from the U.K. every seven years. Gerry Adams of the Sinn Fein party hopes that the “inspiring” Scottish referendum will prompt a united Ireland in the next Irish referendum.
The increasing amount of separatist movements could be evidence that old political models aren’t working. Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, said Scotland’s vote showed that “strongly centralized government was out of favor on the continent,” according to Reuters.
“Germany’s model of a federal system with a central government and independence for the states and municipalities is the more modern system,” Genscher said.