What are the roots of Catalonia's separatism?

Catalonia's separatists are fuelling nationalist sentiment yet at the same time they describe themselves as pro-European - a contradictory stance, commentators observe. Beyond the day-to-day events Europe's press discusses the reasons behind the Catalan separatists' push for independence.

Open/close all quotes
Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Create a Europe of regions!

Greece's former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis argues that faults in the design of the EU are fuelling separatism and proposes solutions in Krytyka Polityczna:

“Instead of impeding local and regional democratic governance, the EU should be fostering it. The EU treaties could be amended to enshrine the right of regional governments and city councils, like Catalonia's and Barcelona's, to fiscal autonomy and even to their own fiscal money. ... If there was still demand for statehood and separation from the internationally recognized state to which they belong, the EU could invoke a code of conduct for secession. ... As for the new state, it should be obligated to maintain at least the same level of fiscal transfers as before. Rich Veneto could secede from Italy, for example, as long as it maintained its fiscal transfers to the South.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Why monetary unions promote separatism

The Catalonia crisis is further proof that monetary unions are often based on a misconception, economist Jean-Pierre Petit writes in Le Monde:

“This crisis reveals once again the naivety of the project of a monetary union, presented politically as automatically promoting economic convergence. Yet ever since 1993 the US economist and 2008 Nobel prizewinner Paul Krugman has been rightly asserting that the constitution of a monetary union can in fact strengthen the tendency of regions to specialise according to their existing comparative advantages. This is what is known as agglomeration effects. Despite decades of structural fund investments, regional inequalities remain one of the major challenges faced by the European monetary union.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Back to a fragmented Medieval Europe

Europe's enemies are now counting on separatism to achieve their goals, writes journlist Ion Ionita on the blog portal of the daily paper Adevărul:

“The biggest market in the world, the most developed economy, the best social welfare system - all these were attributes of the EU up to now. The reconstruction of the EU that France and Germany and also Spain and Italy are aiming for - the four biggest states in the Union after the UK leaves - could turn Europe into a superpower in every sense of the word. The economic and diplomatic power it already wields could be complemented with a more efficient leadership and a European army. But all that is being rejected. Europe's enemies have found a new front: the separatist movement. Their goal is to split Europe up into little pieces like it was in the Middle Ages.”

BNS (LT) /

Not comparable with the Baltic states

Catalonia mustn't be compared with Kosovo or the Baltic states, British journalist Edward Lucas stresses in a commentary for news agency BNS:

“The peoples who seek independence in democratic, constitutional states would like to adopt the romantic rhetoric of those who sought to free themselves from genuine oppression. But they have no real right to do so. Whatever Catalonia's complaints may be it has not been occupied by Spain, unlike Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which suffered under the Soviet occupation.”

Le Point (FR) /

Everyone should get their own princedom

Separatism is absurd, the writer Gabriel Matzneff writes in Le Point:

“We fly to the moon and we'll soon be flying to Mars, we travel to Manila or Cuba as easily as our grandparents travelled to Versailles or Fontainebleau. Our good old earth has become small, as Captain Haddock of The Adventures of Tintin would say. That's why the enthusiasm for independence and a return to the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War [at the start of the 15th century] are absurd, but it's precisely that absurdity that delights us. ... I'm thinking about creating a princedom that stretches across a good part of the Rive Gauche. To be precise, the 5th, the 6th and the best parts of the 7th arrondissements, the streets that branch off the Boulevard Saint Germain. ... Long live the free Latin Quarter!”

Reposzt (HU) /

The nation as the core of our identity

Catalonia illustrates how national identity is still the main uniting force in society, journalist László Köntös reflects on opinion portal Reposzt:

“Although trade, economic and financial networks criss-cross the globe and there are transnational efforts towards unification in many regions of the world, membership of a group still forms the basis of individual identity and the strongest bond between people. Today this group identity is manifested in the nation. And even though we know that national consciousness is a product of history and has nothing to do with 'blood' or 'race', mankind still hasn't overcome the idea of the nation as the main framework for identity. What we are now observing in Catalonia is among other things a battle between national identities.”