Editor’s Note: Barcelona- pronounced with a lisp- “Barth-alona”- is a delightful city with a vibrant street life, marvelous cafes, tasty tapas nd bold red wines. It is also the epicenter of a popular revolt against the nation-state in which it resides. This morning, Arrias examines what the implications might be for a united Europe.
Amidst the horror in Las Vegas, many Americans – understandably – may have missed an event in Europe that might change everything: a Catalonian referendum to secede from Spain.
Catalonia occupies the eastern corner of Spain, bordered on the north by France, on the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea. About 12,000 square miles (roughly Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined, less than 1/10th of Spain’s area), a population of some 7.5 million (1/7th of Spain’s population), and a GDP of roughly $300 billion (almost 20% of Spain’s GDP, Catalans feel they contribute far more to Spain than they receive in return.
But the real root of their independence is that Catalans have looked on themselves as Catalan, not Spanish, for well more than 900 years, with a different language and culture. Unlike most other Spanish states, they have not melted into Spain.
While Spain’s Supreme Court declared the referendum to be unconstitutional, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Piugdemont, said that he expects ballots will be counted this weekend and he will announce Catalonian independence on Monday or Tuesday. Spain can be expected to intervene.
Interestingly, Catalonia seems to satisfy the classic understanding of what is needed to form a state:
– Is the proposed state politically viable?
– Is the proposed stated economically viable?
– Can the proposed state control its landmass?
– Is there a distinct and meaningful raison d’être?
– Finally, while the above can be applied to any nation, within Western Civilization there is a requirement that a state have true moral intent in mind.
The problem with all this is that it flies in the face of not only Spain, but of the European Union and a unified Europe.
The concept of a united Europe is an old one, with roots that run back through the Holy Roman Empire to ancient Rome itself. Since the Middle Ages, leaders, politicians, writers and philosophers have spoken of a united Europe, from Dante to Goethe to Michelangelo. After WWII political and economic forces (rebuilding Europe in the face of the Soviet threat) led to the creation of NATO (1949), the European Common Market (1957) and eventually, the European Union of 1993.
But as the European Union — and its European Parliament – has moved forward, it’s become increasingly focused on expanding power based on economics. Deference is paid to various leftist shibboleths such as diversity, democracy and self-determination, but the real goal seems to be to create a society where everyone’s physical needs are sated, for “people with a full belly do not think of starting trouble,” in the words of Nikita Khrushchev.
The writer Luigi Barzini summed up the problem more than 30 years ago, writing in defense of a unified Europe:
“The reason why the economic union is a dead-end street is that it is based on a limited, oversimplified, and inadequate philosophy that became pre-eminent in Europe after the Second World War. It was believed to be the final solution to all problems. It holds these truths to be self-evident: …that an economy is the principal motor of history; … that an increasingly larger GDP was the only and sufficient condition for progress; … that a larger state revenue permitted the abundant distribution of unemployment subsidies, health and age pensions; that a well-paid, well-fed, and amusingly entertained population would not give governments any problems.”
Barzini suggested the only thing that might move Europeans beyond “their complacent belief in a lame Common Market” was fear of the Soviet Union.
But by 1993 the Soviet Union was no more. European politicians were free to pursue concepts of a unified Europe without fears, based on plans that did nothing to address concerns of various groups afraid of losing their social identities.
Now Catalans, a people with full bellies, want to leave Spain. It would appear to be a rejection of everything the EU stands for. Meanwhile, Great Britain has already voted to leave; economic troubles threaten much of southern Europe; eastern European nations bridle at key policies from Brussels.
Spain may yet keep Catalonia. But trend lines aren’t favorable; and leadership within the EU is not addressing the fundamental sense among many that the EU has drifted socially and politically away from the people’s interests, even as it has made their economies more fragile.
Might the EU be on the verge of unraveling? It’s certainly possible. There might be more reasons than China and North Korea to look at expanding our military capabilities.
Copyright 2017 Arrias