Monday, November 26, 2012

Catalonia votes

Catalonians went to the polls today in provincial elections seen as a prelude to independence - and re-elected a secessionist majority. The right-wing Convergence and Union traded seats with the Republican left, largely due to the former's austerity programme - but the overall balance of power remained in favour of pro-independence parties. The provincial government is now planning an independence referendum, which is likely to be hotly opposed by Spain's central government.

Its a headache for Spain, but also a headache for the European Union. Catalonians seem to want independence from Spain, but to remain part of Europe. But the EU's rules don't contemplate such internal splits, and its unclear whether that's possible, or whether Catalonia would have to reapply for membership (and potentially have it blocked by its former owners). The EU needs to fix this. In this era, the idea that countries should be able to keep hold of minorities who no longer want to be part of them should be an anathema. Democracy entails self-determination, and the EU should support that by providing a framework for peaceful splits. Otherwise they run the risk of discrediting themselves, by being just another stick to keep national minorities in line.