Catalonia declares independence from Spain

Well, la mierda ha golpeado oficialmente al fan:

The Catalan Parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on Friday afternoon, with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and 2 blank, in a 135-member chamber.

The Speaker, Carme Forcadell, read out part of the resolution from the Speaker’s chair before separatists voted.

Opposition parties abandoned the chamber. Xavier García Albiol (PP) said separatists were cowards who were afraid of Spanish criminal law and that is why they wanted to vote in secret.

Junts Pel Sí asked for the vote to be secret, and the Speaker agreed, despite opposition protests. Those MPs who had remained behind placed their ballots in a box placed on the Speaker’s table.

After the vote, the members remaining in the chamber sang Els Segadors.

The Spanish government’s response was swift. Within minutes of the Catalan Parliament’s declaration, the Spanish Senate overwhelmingly voted to activate Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution. Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy used this law to dissolve the Catalan government, and announce provincial elections to take place on December 21st.

On the foreign relations front, while the United States State Department issued a statement supporting Spain’s efforts to keep Catalonia within the country, Russia is playing a different game. El País reports that a Russian envoy has opened an office in Catalonia:

A politician from South Ossetia known for his political affinities with Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Barcelona this week, with the goal of establishing ties between Kremlin circles and a hypothetical independent Catalonia, according to Spanish intelligence sources.

Dimitri Medoyev, the de facto foreign minister for the partially recognized republic of South Ossetia, was on an official visit in Catalonia on Monday and Tuesday. During this time he met with business leaders and opened an office “to promote bilateral relations on humanitarian and cultural issues,” according to reports in Russian public news organizations such as Sputnik.

Before visiting Catalonia, Medoyev stopped in the Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto just as they were holding referendums to ask Rome for greater autonomy. While he was there, Medoyev met with local and regional leaders.

Neither the Catalan government nor separatist authorities in South Ossetia would comment on whether Medoyev met with high-ranking Catalan officials or lawmakers during his Barcelona stay.

While it may be easy to reflexively dismiss such moves by Russia, it may not be wise to do so. Russia is clearly interested in, at the very least, understanding the secessionist movements that are on the rise across Europe. These movements, along with the populist movements, are clearly on the rise. And they’re paying very close attention to what happens to Catalonia.

Take, for example, the statement Scotland’s External Secretary made, even though it has not recognized Catalonia:

“We understand and respect the position of the Catalan Government. While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future. Today’s Declaration of Independence came about only after repeated calls for dialogue were refused.

“Now, more than ever, the priority of all those who consider themselves friends and allies of Spain should be to encourage a process of dialogue to find a way forward that respects democracy and the rule of law. The imposition of direct rule cannot be the solution and should be of concern to democrats everywhere.

“The European Union has a political and moral responsibility to support dialogue to identify how the situation can be resolved peacefully and democratically.”

Basically, Scotland is telling the European Union that it better work to peacefully address the tensions between Spain and Catalonia. Otherwise, it will seek out partners who indicate that they will listen to secessionist movements.

Such as Russia.

Meanwhile, libertarians, while encouraged by the possible breakup of a larger political entity, do not exactly see Catalonia becoming a free market paradise anytime soon. As Robert Wenzel notes:

Catalonian secessionists are mostly hardcore leftists, who would push for an oppressive leftist government in a separate Catalonia. On the other hand, Spain is putting on display its iron fist and its desire to rule.

While this is certainly the case, if Catalonia were to actually break free from Spain, there would be knock-on effects that could be positive for freedom that we haven’t contemplated at this point.

For example, as smaller regions breakaway from larger political units, it will become that much more challenging for larger countries to service debts incurred to maintain their welfare states. If welfare states actually buckle under, while there could be intermittent turmoil, there would also be opportunities to dismantle welfare programs, thereby allowing for greater freedom.

However, that is getting ahead of the current situation. What matters now is that Spain and Catalonia are at an impasse. Whatever happens going forward, let us hope that, at the very least, there is very little if any violence.

 

Spain (and Europe) are losing control of the narrative

FILE PHOTO: Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini (C) poses with the Lion of Saint Mark flag, with politicians Luca Zaia (L) and Roberto Maroni, during a rally downtown Rome, February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

As Catalonia appears to be preparing to declare independence from Spain early next week, central governments across Europe are feeling increasingly anxious about their ability to control their respective secessionist movements.

Catalonia

The primary argument made by the Spanish government and its alles against Catalonian secession is that the region’s process to secede has been inconsistent with established law.

Thomas Harrington, professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College, calls that argument hogwash:

Do you remember all the procedurally pristine processes that led to the independence (and, in numerous cases, subsequent rapid entry into the EU) of countries like Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and a long list of others? I don’t either because they didn’t take place. And I certainly don’t remember any of today’s legion of newborn “proceduralists” raising any objections about it then.

What took place was that EU leadership class led by Germany saw in these countries as a new set of relatively virgin markets that were also filled with low wage labor that would allow them serve, in Emannuel Todd’s words, as Germany’s “Near China”.

Arguably more important that [t]his was NATO’s – which is to say the US’s – desire to surround the former Soviet Union with countries loyal to its geopolitical aims. They knew that by pressuring the Europeans to swiftly acquiesce to the independence of the newly declared independent countries of the east, they could quickly corral those countries into serving as part of the US’s emerging anti-Russian coalition, an absolutely essential element of the American’s long-term geopolitical plans.

In addition to avoiding these realities, the new army [of] oh-so-concerned proceduralists obviate the fact that from the very beginning of the current drive for independence in 2010 it has been precisely the Catalanists who have talked constantly about the need to carry the referendum off in the most transparent way possible, only to be told again and again by the Spanish state that there was nothing to talk about.

To hold up the lack of pristine procedure as a fatal strike against the Catalan cause when their natural interlocutor will not allow talks about proper procedure to even begin, is tantamount to severely penalizing a woman who finally walks out the door of her house after having had her perennial requests for a peaceful, no-contest divorce dismissed out of hand by the man she no longer loves.

Finally, if there is one thing that established states can always do, as we saw on Sunday in a particularly crude way, it is to sabotage the “procedures” of the the incipient states within its borders. To appoint the potential sabotager of democratic procedures, in this case Spain, as the judge of whether proper procedures were followed in the region seeking independence is, in addition to being patently absurd, to hand the established state an effective veto power sine die in the clash of political interests

I don’t remember anyone granting the Serbs or the Russians this absurd privilege in earlier times. Why then are supposedly liberal and democratic people bending over backwards to provide the Spaniards with it now?

Lombardia and Venezia

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s relatively successful attempt at holding a secession vote has given northern Italians an additional impetus to seek further autonomy from the central Italian government:

This month the Lombardy region and the city of Venice will both vote on new powers of autonomy at referendums which are now taking on increasing levels of controversy.

Previously seen as a low-scale vote on local powers, the referendums are now experiencing symbolic overtones following last Sunday’s Catalonian chaos.

Last weekend more than 800 people were injured by police as a referendum on independence for Catalonia was held – against the express wishes of leaders in Madrid and Brussels.

And now  is facing similar chaos with two referendums set to be held on October 22, although in these instances the votes are state-approved and will not face violent opposition.

The autonomy referendums for Lombardy, a region which includes Italy’s second-largest city of Milan, and the travel hotspot of Venice will also differ from Catalonia in that they are not binding.

The referendums will ask voters if they want their regional council to invoke the third paragraph of Article 116 of the Italian Constitution.

This allows regions with a balanced budget to ask the Italian government to entrust them with new powers and a greater degree of autonomy.

(h/t Vox Day)

Just the beginning?

Additionally, the Express correctly observed that “the consequences of two yes votes could be shattering for Italy, sparking other separatists movements across the European Union nation.” (By the way, isn’t it interesting that the article calls the EU a “nation”?) For example, in addition to Catalonia, many Basques want to be independence from Spain. Scotland is considering seceding from Britain. Furthermore, Belgium, France, and Denmark have to contend with secession movements of their own.

While EU bureaucrats had been dreaming about creating a European superstate, for now it appears that they’ll have to turn their attention to helping their member states remain in current form.

Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.