Raging Debt Crisis Gives Europe’s Separatists a Boost
The debt crisis is fueling the fortunes of separatists in a handful of European Union countries. Affluent regions in Spain, Britain, Belgium and Italy no longer feel a sense of solidarity with poorer parts of their own countries — but they want to remain part of the EU.
Artur Mas stood there like a veritable head of state, flanked by the Catalonian flag with its four red stripes on a yellow background. Standing in the Gothic inner courtyard of the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the regional government in Barcelona, he offered sharp criticism of the central government in Madrid, calling the distribution of burdens within Spain “unfair and disloyal.” Catalonia, he said, must free itself of Spain’s complicated café para todos, or coffee for all policy, the system that sees the country divided into 17 “autonomous communities”. Mas has little regard for Spain’s complicated alliance of regions.
Mas, president of the region of Catalonia, is pulling away from Madrid. He has brought forward regional elections to Nov. 25, and he hopes to secure an absolute majority. This, he says, would guarantee him “a unique leadership position for the process of self-determination.” That, in turn, would enable Mas to have his fellow Catalonians vote in a referendum over whether to secede from Spain.
A referendum would violate the Spanish constitution, and yet Mas feels buoyed by the exuberance of Catalan nationalism. In September, more than a million Catalans marched through the streets of Barcelona, waving their flag, known as the Senyera, and demonstrating for “a new country in Europe.”