Nationalist sentiment on display

A thoughtful, articulate Op Ed piece in the NY Times advocates for the secession and independence of Catalonia, one of Spain’s wealthier regions and a net contributor of funds that support Spain’s poorer regions.The article points out that Catalonia has a rational foundation for independence, namely a distinct culture and language. However, it is unlikely that secession would have the same degree of popular appeal if the economy were thriving.

Is independence of this small region even feasible? From Catalonia’s perspective, it would be. The author points out that, with more than 7.5 million people, Catalonia is larger than 12 other existing EU members, including Ireland and Denmark.

From Spain’s standpoint, an independent Catalonia would be catastrophic. The loss of revenues would threaten a fiscal situation that arguably is already untenable.

Separatist sentiment is nothing new (current and recent historical examples include Quebec, Basque region, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Bosnia – though reasons for each of these may be different, especially when ethnicity is the driving factor). Currently, economic duress is eliciting new calls for independence. Some people want to be free of their perceived oppressors. SomeĀ  people want to be rid of those whom they see as corrupt freeloaders. There are groups in Greece who think they would be better off leaving the EU, and there are parties in Germany who similarly would like to see Greece exit the Euro. There appears to be a growing number of individuals in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, and likely throughout Europe who each believe they (or others) would be better off untethered to the EU.

Nationalist sentiment has the potential to be a dangerous thing. It can be a precursor to hatred and violence. In Europe, it also has the potential to be a source of further economic problems. Hopefully people (and nations) will play together nicely. There’s a lot at stake.

Source: NY Times: Spanish Prisoners

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