October 24, 2012

The Federal State - A Loss-Making Business (II)


german-foreign-policy.com

2012/10/17  MADRID/BARCELONA/BERLIN
(Own report) - Driven by the Euro crisis and the German austerity dictate, secessionist aspirations in the Spanish province of Catalonia are becoming accentuated. Following a major demonstration demanding the founding of a sovereign nation, the region's parliament and prime minister have announced intentions to table a referendum on secession in the course of the next legislative period. New - pre-term - elections have been scheduled for late November. According to Barcelona, the break with Spain must come, even if it means violating prevailing law. Catalan separatists have been receiving German support for a long time. The German Green Party is in the same European Parliamentary caucus as the secessionist parties. Their umbrella organization has published maps in which the majority of European nations have been broken up into smaller entities - including a nation Catalonia. According to their map, Germany had annexed Austria, the German-speaking region of Switzerland and several other territories. Cooperation with Catalonia as the "Partner Nation" in 2007, at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair, provided the separatists with an appreciable boost. German federal state Baden Wuerttemberg's special cooperation with Catalonia provides economic support for its secessionist efforts - and points to Europe's breakup into an economically successful core and poverty-stricken, hopeless marginalized zones, just as has crystallized under Euro zone pressure.
A New Nation
The secessionist efforts in the Spanish region of Catalonia have been greatly accentuated since September 11 - the day Catalan nationalists celebrate as their "national holiday" - when about 1½ million people (approx. one-fifth of the region's population) demonstrated in Barcelona under the slogan "Catalunya, Nou Estat d'Europa" ("Catalonia, Europe's New Nation"). Following a hefty dispute with Madrid, the region's Prime Minister, Artur Mas, scheduled new Catalan elections for late November, coupled with the prospect of a referendum on secession. Two-thirds of the incumbent Catalan parliament supports his plan. European parliamentarians of various Catalan parties recently addressed a petition to the President of the European Commission, asking for a "democratic and transparent timeline in case a process of Catalan independence" is initiated.[1] Even though Spanish officials have unanimously determined that a referendum can only be a decision of the central government and that it is unconstitutional in Spain to unilaterally pursue secession, Mas has announced that Catalonia would secede, even if in violation of the Spanish Constitution. "We must attempt this within the framework of the law, and when that is unsuccessful, we'll do it anyway."[2]
Prosperity Chauvinism
The current intensification of secessionist efforts can largely be traced back to the Euro crisis. Efforts to achieve Catalonia's wide-ranging autonomy, based on its economic prosperity, are not new. During the Franco dictatorship, this was partially associated with a democratic resistance. However, since democracy has been re-established, the efforts to put through comprehensive special rights for Catalonia have mainly been concentrated on defending the prosperity of the region - it is the richest region in the country - against the national government's redistribution of part of its wealth to impoverished areas in the south.[3] The Euro crisis, under Berlin's austerity dictate - has forced also Barcelona to make drastic budget cuts - has provided the basis for mass acceptance of secessionist demands. Catalonia, it is assumed, could better protect its own prosperity, if it no longer has to share it with the Spanish state. The same train of thought has fueled separatism, for example in northern Belgium's Flanders and in northern Italy's South Tyrol. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4])
Ethnic Chauvinist Europe
Germany has repeatedly promoted Catalan chauvinism in the past. For example, the German Green MEPs are in the same European caucus as other European Green parties, but also with MEPs from the European Free Alliance (EFA). The EFA includes the separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia - ERC) and separatist parties from other regions of Spain. With a map on its website, for years EFA has been propagating the breakup of numerous European nations along ethnic lines into obscure small and minute entities. EFA would, for example, divide Spain up into seven fully independent mini-states, two of which - Catalonia and the Basque Country - would include French territory. According to EFA, France would lose large portions of its national territory to a nation "Bretagne" and a strange construction called "Occitania," but would acquire the Belgian Wallonia territory. Belgium, in turn, would no longer exist as a nation. According to the map, Germany is the only country, whose territory would increase. The EFA's map depicts it as having annexed Austria, the German-speaking regions of Switzerland, South Tyrol as well as Eastern Belgium and would dominate the continent by virtue of its sheer size. Great Britain would also be dismembered. The Scottish National Party, which is currently pushing for the breakup of Britain as a nation, is an EFA member. Two of its activists are closely working with the German Green Party - in their European Parliamentary caucus. (german-foreign-policy.com documented two segments of the EFA map.[5])
Partner Nation
In the fall of 2007, Germany gave Catalan separatism a boost, when the Frankfurt Book Fair selected not a country as its "Partner Nation" - as is its tradition - but rather the region of Catalonia. Not all the writers working in Catalonia were being honored in Frankfurt, but only those working in the Catalan language. Authors, whose works had been composed in Spanish, were strictly barred. At the book fair, maps had been distributed that - similar to EFA's pipe dream - depicted a Catalonia nation, which had annexed an area of southern France as well as Andorra. The Frankfurt Book Fair provided welcomed global publicity for the region's separatists - as well as an assurance that, in principle, their efforts to achieve independence enjoy sympathy with the strongest EU power. As usual, the German Foreign Ministry had officiated as the book fair's partner.[6]
Motors for Europe
It is significant that for decades Catalonia has maintained special economic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. The regions of Catalonia, Lombardy (Italy), and Rhône-Alpes (France) had signed the "Four Motors for Europe" cooperation agreement [7] in 1988 with the German federal state Baden Wuerttemberg. This agreement formed the basis for the successful expansion of economic cooperation. German economic relations are much closer with Catalonia than with other regions in Spain. These twenty-five years of cooperation have also reinforced Barcelona's efforts to expand its predominating economic position on the Iberian Peninsular -thereby, also the basis for its secessionist efforts.
Economic Cultures
Baden Wuerttemberg's special relationship with Catalonia, the Lombardy and Rhône-Alpes is an indication of Europe's economic formation. A powerful economic core, which a German economic historian found to be centered on Germany and neighboring regions - "from Scandinavia to Northern Italy and from the Seine to the Oder" and to which he also ascribed "a relatively uniform economic culture,"[8] is surrounded by impoverished, hopeless countries, such as Spain and Italy, whose few economically attractive zones (Catalonia, Lombardy) are linked, by way of special mechanisms, to the German core. This is currently happening within the framework of the EU. Should Greece - and possibly other southern European countries - be expelled from the Euro zone, the question of Catalonia's secession and its integration into a "Northern Euro" zone, would again be on the agenda. Sectors of the German establishment would be in favor.[9] In any case, Spain's dismemberment and the founding of a new country in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsular is not being rejected by the German media. "From the European point of view," according to a leading German daily, "a sovereign Catalonia would be tolerable."[10]