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Combatent
Sunday, April 25th, 2004, 09:16 AM
Many Catalans do not support secession because they believe that it would not be economically viable. Yet thus far, there are no convincing arguments to support such a statement.

The argument that Catalonia is too small to be an economically sustainable independent state is incorrect. Not only is there no serious economic theory arguing that a country's economic success requires a minimum size, but the evidence suggests a different reality. Looking at the ten countries with the highest GDP per person in the world shows that the Catalan proverb "the good marmalade is in the small pot" is applicable to economics: Eight out of the ten richest countries in the world (measured by GDP per capita) have a population equal or lower to that of Catalonia's six and a half million inhabitants.

Another element of the economic inviability speech refers to the availability of natural resources: An independent Catalonia will not be able to prosper because it does not have sufficient natural resources. Again, this logic is flawed. There is no established correlation between natural resources and economic prosperity: Though there are examples supporting this relationship, such as Norway; there are others refuting it.

Oil-rich Venezuela has proved that abundant resources can lead to economic disaster if improperly managed, while a relatively poor country in terms of resources, such as Japan, is one of the richest in the world. The use of natural resources is indispensable for economic development and a country that wants to grow will need to obtain them. The way to do so efficiently is through international trade, not giving up political independence to a larger country.

A central theme in the anti-secessionist economic discourse is based on the fact that Spain is the main market of Catalonia. Thus, seceding from Spain would result in an economic catastrophe because Catalonia would lose its main market. The flaw in this argument is that there is no reason to expect Spanish trade embargoes or a boycott of Catalan products, particularly in the European context.

Secondly, Spanish citizens buy Catalan products due to their quality and price and not for some abstract Spanish national solidarity. Therefore, as long as secession does not increase the prices or lower the quality of Catalan products, no loss of market should occur.

Finally, this argument overlooks an important reality: It is normal for a country that its main market is a neighboring country, particularly in the case of small countries. The Netherlands and Denmark's largest trading partner is Germany; Belgium's is France; Portugal's largest market is Spain, yet there is no suggestion that Portugal reunite with Spain.

Critics of secession can rightly argue that being part of Spain makes economic sense because it allows Catalonia to share the costs of public goods of the military, diplomatic representations, etc, among forty million people instead of six and a half million.

Although this is undeniable, it overlooks two facts:

First, the huge regional fiscal imbalance shows that today Catalans are paying for these services twice what they would pay in a separate Catalan state.

Second, the cost of some of these public goods (e.g. monetary system, antitrust regulation) is being transferred to Europe supranational level (i.e. financed by all European citizens).

In conclusion, there is no objective economic reason to believe that a hypothetical Catalan state should not be viable from an economic perspective. If Slovenia has performed well since seceding from Yugoslavia with its much smaller and less diversified post-communist economy, an independent Catalonia should also be able to do well economically. In the end, the success of a Catalan state will depend on its own government.

Independence will be good for Catalans only if the Catalan state would be able to pursue sound macroeconomic policies that foster growth and economic welfare. While it is uncertain how well a Catalan government could manage its economy, we know that the performance of the Spanish government over the last century has been overall poor. Moreover, as independence would mean getting rid of the aforementioned fiscal imbalance with Spain at once, a Catalan state would enjoy significant room to maneuver.

It is often heard in Europe that it does not make sense to talk about the secession of stateless nations in the context of globalization. It is claimed that in an era of fading borders and boundaries, it is not the time to build new ones. This type of conventional discourse results in avoiding an open and objective discussion about the possibility of an independent Catalonia, Basque Country, Scotland, Flanders or any other European stateless nation.

As shown by Harvard University professor Alberto Alesina and his colleagues like Xavier Sala-Martín, the reality is rather the opposite: "Trade liberalization and political separatism appear to go hand in hand." The increase in free international trade directly relates to the economic viability of new states. Globalization makes the independence of Catalonia more viable because it guarantees access to international markets.

Likewise, it makes secession much more desirable for the health of its economy, as fewer bureaucratic layers would increase Catalan competitiveness in global markets. In a context of international trade restrictions, large countries enjoy economic benefits because political borders determine the size of the market. In this context, small nations such as Catalonia find belonging to a larger state such as Spain to be in their economic interest because it gives them access to a larger market. Thus, from a purely economic point of view, being part of Spain has benefited Catalonia.

In a world of increasingly free trade and global markets, this rationale is no longer valid. Relatively small cultural, linguistic or ethnic groups have the possibility to benefit from creating new political entities that trade in economically integrated wider areas. With its own state, Catalonia could benefit from improved administrative efficiency and still have access to foreign markets in which to sell its products. In other words, free trade is a good substitute for a political union as a way to access bigger markets in the context of globalization.

It is important to highlight here that small countries appear to be among the main beneficiaries of freer trade. That should not surprise us if we look at the small European countries that have traditionally been active traders, like the Northern Italian city-states and the Low Countries. Professor Alesina has suggested that population explains a third of a country's openness to trade (i.e. trade relative to GDP).

A study by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of 127 countries (both developed and developing) finds a clear relationship between the size of a country and its openness to trade. While the benefits of being a small country (e.g. easier to manage, greater homogeneity, specialization) remain, the drawbacks are decreasing with free trade and new technologies.

In addition, globalization is also compromising many of the traditional functions of mid-sized countries such as Spain, making them less desirable to their citizens - in particular, to differentiated groups such as the Catalans. On the one hand, these states are not big enough to solve global problems involving issues like international terrorism, international capital movements, regulation of transnational corporations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic or global warming. On the other hand, they are still too large to solve local problems.

If Spain is not big enough to tackle global problems and not small enough to properly deal with Catalan specificity, then it should change or disappear. So far, it has shown no willingness to change. As Harvard's professor Sala-Martín puts it: "at the end of the day, states and governments should serve the people and not the other way around."

The process of European building, supposedly based on the principle of subsidiarity, has long been at the center of the European stateless nations ambitions to increase their degree of political autonomy. It is argued that talking about secession in the context of European new order is senseless because this process should lead to the disappearance of current borders and nation-states as we know them today. It is claimed that Europe will naturally become a loose confederation of independent regions.

These expectations are, however, proving unrealistic. Indeed, the principle of subsidiarity creates a perception problem: While for the majority of European states (with the notable exception of Germany) it applies only to the current relationship between the European Union and its member states, for these stateless nations it also fully applies to their administrative relationship with their respective states.

Thus, in Catalonia the process of European integration has raised expectations of higher levels of political power that are not being matched by reality. In fact, expressions such as "Europe of the regions," so often heard in Barcelona, are rarely used in Madrid.

Because for virtually all state governments, the E.U. project is to be built on the existing nation-states and the transfer of political power to the regions should never undermine the pivotal role of these central governments. The development of the current European Convention, which is drafting an E.U. Constitution, appears to confirm such position. Plus ça change ...

Even though the E.U. nation-states are not willing to give more power to their regions in the name of the principle of subsidiarity, the process of elevating state responsibilities to the European supranational level is clearly undermining their own raison d'être. The Spanish state has given up its sovereignty in key areas such as trade policy, antitrust regulation, environmental legislation and - through the European Monetary Union - monetary policy.

Today, the number of functions that it undertakes for Catalan citizens has significantly diminished. In this context, it is legitimate for Catalans to ask themselves whether the remaining attributes of the Spanish central government (e.g. fiscal policy) could not be better managed by the Catalan government, one closer to them, with greater knowledge of their needs. The evidence shown above in relation to the fiscal imbalance seems to indicate that Catalonia would be better off if it could undertake those directly itself.

The process of European integration also provides a significant argument for the independence of Catalonia, Flanders or Scotland: administrative efficiency. The maintenance of the state's intermediary role between the European and local powers results in higher transaction costs that hamper economic development.

Particularly in federal or semi-federal states like Spain or Belgium, keeping a central state that has less and less to offer to its citizens is becoming more expensive to maintain and very complex to manage. Thus, secession appears as an economically desirable option because it would result in lower costs and complexity that would reduce the burden carried by the Catalan economy.

We have seen how the European Union is calling into question the existence of old centralized European states such as Spain. In this context, becoming a small less bureaucratic state within the European Union would result in increased economic efficiency. It would also be the best way for Catalan interests to be represented in the process of European construction - as opposed to being represented by a Spanish government that has repeatedly refrained from defending important Catalan interests (e.g. language official recognition).

Finally, the European Union is de facto lowering the potential cost of independence by providing Catalonia with a free trade area, as well as saving the need to incur costs such as creating a new currency.

Unlike many nations in Europe that have flourished due to the creation of a nation-state, Catalonia exists despite a unitary and centralist Spanish state that has repeatedly tried to eliminate it as a separate cultural entity. In this context, the mainstream Catalan nationalist movement - in particular, since the end of Franco's Regime attempt at linguistic genocide - has traditionally focused on cultural and linguistic promotion.

At the same time, it has allowed a damaging fiscal relationship with Spain to develop that might have led to a civil uproar in other countries. Years of permanent centralism have atrophied the perception of reality of many Catalans, making them accept this administrative relationship as perfectly normal even when it goes against their interests.

Today, culturally-focused policies are insufficient. Catalan politicians need to ensure the continuity of the culture and language, but they also need to inform Catalans openly that they are paying a high price to be part of a unitary Spanish state. They have to make all Catalan citizens aware of the fact that, in the name of a questionable solidarity, the current fiscal imbalance results in serious public under-investment that will hurt their economy.

And, more importantly, they need to tell them that this is a problem that affects all Catalans equally: first-generation and tenth-generation Catalans; Catalan-speakers or Spanish-speakers -; employers and employees; men and women; students and retirees. It is urgent that Catalans realize that only with a new administrative structure can Catalonia be competitive in the international markets and guarantee better public services, modernization of its infrastructure, social cohesion and economic growth.

Among all possible options, it is independence that makes more sense economically, particularly in the context of globalization and the European Union. Why?

First, secession would guarantee that the existing unfair fiscal imbalance would be eliminated.

Second, an independent Catalonia would result in a smaller more efficient public administration.

Third, a Catalan state would still have access to international markets in a free-trade world. Finally, full independence would mean a direct voice in the international forums that so much influence their lives.


No referendum on the question of independence will be a fully rational exercise. Independence from Spain is not simply a matter of economics or administrative rationality. Identity issues, in Catalonia and elsewhere, are highly complex. Some might want to be part of Spain even with an unfair fiscal treatment; others might want independence even if the cost is high. However, this does not negate the fact that economically, independence would not only be viable, but also significantly advantageous. Catalans might want to vote from their pockets rather than from their hearts.

Turificator
Monday, April 26th, 2004, 09:05 PM
Interesting post.

A few weeks I went to a small conference on the Venetian language in Treviso. A professor of Català literature from the University of Venice was present, and was talking about the development of your language and its remarkable growth (or re-birth) since the '70s. We were all struck by the similarity between Catalunya and the Veneto, and at the same time by the differences: where you have achieved an official recognition of your language by the Spanish State, to such an extent that know it is the 8th (!) language most translated in the world (at least, this is what the lecturer claimed), the Venetian language has no official recognition whatsoever in Italy, despite having an ancient and most honourable history and being the most spoken in the Veneto to the present day.

I wonder whether my fellow-countrymen are ever going to wake up...
For 1100 years we had a Republic, an Empire, a live culture and took pride in our Venetian identity. Now we have Berlusconi, pizza palours and view our tongue as nothing but an Italian 'dialect' to be forgotten...

*sigh*


Veneto awake! (www.raixevenete.net)

Combatent
Sunday, May 2nd, 2004, 12:45 PM
Recent political upheavals in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the Horn of Africa have spurred international fears of a possible "domino effect" which successful nationalisms can allegedly exert across frontiers. Accordingly, the latter could serve as catalysts for other movements wishing to achieve the same aims in different countries.
This article will first try to re-shuffle such current assumption showing that a supposed domino effect can only have an impact if some specific internal factors are present. Examples of liberation movements world-wide merely serve to reinforce already pre-existing trends and do not bear immediate consequences on the likelihood of secession in far-away states. Secondly, it will hold that a demonstration effect, rather than a domino effect, indeed exists within the movements: in the historical cases analysed, the impact of the external example(s) has always been confined to the tactics and strategies eventually to be adopted by the local nationalist groups. That is, the external models are normally used by different factions within the nationalist movement in order to advance their particular ideological orientation and political praxis within the broader nationalist movement.

In order to back this hypothesis, a comparative analysis will be carried out of the main international ideological influences exerted on two important nationalist movements in Spain, the Catalan and the Basque, through the use of both primary and secondary sources. I shall also occasionally refer to the independence movements in the Soviet Union. Before doing so, the most relevant theories and interpretations which attribute a key importance to "demonstration effects" in the development of nationalism will be briefly discussed. A set of "structural constraints" - or endogenous factors- will be finally opposed to the external influences -or exogenous factors- as alternative explanation for the success of nationalist movements. My aim is to show that the domino effect "theory" does not apply to nationalist movements across frontiers. Only a "demonstration effect" is indeed possible among their proto-elites and sub-groups.

As we shall see, the term domino effect is to be intended as a sub-category of a more general demonstration effect. In our definition, domino effect refers to a movement of structural and international changes brought about by the emulation of successful independence movements. Demonstration effect refers instead to the reshaping of ideological orientation within nationalist movements across frontiers as stimulated by international events. The former concept is somewhat more restricted, insofar as it is only a particular kind of the latter with immediate implications in concrete political alignments. If demonstration is about models, domino is about facts.

The universal parable evoked by the falling dominoes is used in both social and exact sciences, where several competing metaphors can be found with slightly different meanings: chain reaction, forest fire models, avalanche dynamics, branching process, and so on. Domino effect is a concept made famous by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, in order to justify US commitment to South Vietnam in 1954, compared the nations of Southeast Asia to a row of domino: if Vietnam became red, all the states of Asia would go Communist. By the same token, the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union has apparently affected all regimes in Eastern Europe one after another much like a chain reaction, and is hence popularly viewed as a case of domino effect. One tends to forget that the Soviet bloc and its satellites represented a highly centralized system held together by an overarching ideology and, once center and ideology could not hold, the periphery would automatically loosen. Even more tricky is the attitude of those politicians who pretend to apply the same mechanism to social movements, in particular nationalist ones. Indeed, given the problems for this model to explain or predict changes at the regime level, it is at best a mirage in the case of non-institutionalized power. In other words, non-state (ethnic) nationalism is too pervasive, vague, malleable and unpredictable a force to be predicted on the simple basis of the diffusion of immanent forces.

The ghost of a domino effect is also being used by current state powers in order to curtail ethnic dissent. This is the case not only for some Eastern European regimes, but particularly for several Third World states. There is an apparently endless list of clamp-downs on ethnic dissent by Asian states which fear a hypothetical domino effect: China's stepping up of its repression in Tibet, Burma's persistent refusal to allow democratic reforms, Indonesia's uneasiness about revelations of mass slaughter in East Timor, West Papua and Acheh, India's increasing stranglehold on Assam, Punjab, Kashmir and other restless regions, Pakistan's repression of the Sindhi minority, Sri Lanka's new offensive against Tamil separatists, Georgia's move to autocratic rule, Turkey's renewed confrontation with the Kurdish insurgence, Iran's resort to radicalism in the face of mounting tensions in its border areas, and, finally even Iraq's move to invade Kuwait as a classic case of 'externalization' of internal ethnic tensions. All these cases seem to be related to a new world-wide obsession about the inevitable break-up of multi-national states. Although the threat of ethnic secessionism is sometime present, in many other cases it appears to be only a pretext to eliminate all forms of dissent. In the case of Africa, the effect had been amplified by the Eritrean victory and the separation of northern Somaliland. The situations in Zaire, Mali or Nigeria, where thousands of people have died in ethnic clashes, are linked to the central governments fear and refusal to come to terms with ethnic demands. With the possible exception of France, Western Europe has been somewhat immune to such illiberal trends, thanks to a faith in the elasticity of federalist politics both at the level of Brussels and the single states' capitals.

Various implicit theories and underlying assumptions on the diffusion of nationalism are included in scholarly research. One of these is that nationalism spreads as a joint outward and top-down process. The former refers to a centre-periphery (horizontal dimension) mechanism of diffusion, whilst the latter refers to non-reciprocal influences between elites and subsequent diffusion among the masses (vertical dimension).

Modernization theorists stressed that increased communications would erase ethnic cleavages and result in successful achievement of nation-building.In his own adaptation of the modernization theory, Walker Connor reverses the tables, considering how nationalism is a force directly linked to increasing contacts and communications: nationalism spreads as communications spread. "Though ethnic consciousness is still to be discovered by much of the world's population, it is expanding very rapidly as outside forces increasingly intrude upon the villagers former isolation. The rapid spread of literacy, the greater mobility of man made possible by dramatic developments in the form and expanse of transportation, and the even more revolutionary strides in communications have rapidly dissipated the possibility of cultural isolation, and, correspondingly, have rapidly propagated national consciousness. These developments not only cause the individual to become more aware of alien ethnic groups, but also of those who share his ethnicity".

On the other hand, for Kedourie the process of diffusion is carried out by a mechanism of imitation by local intellectuals and elites. Nationalism is the result of the diffusion of the modern principle of self-determination as derived by the philosophical visions of German Kantianism and Romanticism and by the political praxis of the French Revolution. Intellectuals of one country imitate intellectuals from another country and the epicentre of everything lies in the midst of Europe (France and Germany). As Smith points out, "this scheme only makes sense within Europe, or part of it, and only if we think that the primary duty of the taxonomist is to trace ideological pedigrees and ancestors". Nevertheless, the next section shall argueï that ideological diffusionism plays a role for the leaders of the nationalist movement, especially in its radical fringes: different models and conceptions of nationalism can pave the way for different evolutions of their movements.

Furthermore, communications and the new information society offer new opportunities for ethnic networks and inter-national solidarity to develop on an universal scale. "Ethnic conflict possesses elements of universality and uniformity that were not present at earlier times. The ubiquitous character of ethnic conflict opens opportunities for groups and movements to become part of a broad and respectable current, learning from each other and in so doing becoming similar in their claims and aspirations. The profusion of ethnic claims is in fact expressed in a distinctly parsimonious common rhetoric. Its terminology is the language of competition and equality, a remarkably individualistic idiom for claims that are advanced on a collective basis".


As said at the beginning, the present paper advances two sets of hypotheses:

1. The potential international consequences of the success of independence movements (domino effect) are normally overstated in political theory and practice, as well in international relations.

2. The most relevant direct influence (demonstration effect) concerns the model to be adopted by nationalist movements. However, this choice is completely subordinate to the internal (historical, political, economic, cultural, etc.) situation of the receptive nationality.

The bulk of this paper will be devoted to assessing the second statement. As for the first one, its significance has been already outlined and will be further discussed later.

There are two kinds of proved and relevant demonstration effect: 1. Instrumental; 2. Empathic.

Instrumental models are adopted as examples and inserted into both ideology and praxis of local nationalism, hence they operate at the elite level, meaning that they can orientate some of the political choices of the nationalist leaders. Empathic models refer instead to a sense of solidarity which can develop among some section of a particular 'oppressed' people and operate both at the elite and the base level thanks to their [universal] mobilizing force. Instrumental models tend to be goal-oriented and successful ones (i.e., foreign movements which achieved independence or a desired degree of autonomy), whilst empathic models arise normally when a common condition of oppression (i.e., other movements struggling in adverse conditions for 'national emancipation') is perceived across frontiers. Of course, empathy is not an exclusive monopoly of the 'oppressed': the case of the Spanish Civil War is one of the most remarkable historical examples of a world-wide movement of empathy and solidarity which translated itself in the voluntary participation of thousands of foreigners fighting on either side, but more significantly with the 'oppressed'.

This apparently contrasts with the solipsist attitude often attributed to nationalist movements. Connor rightly points out the "general insensitivity that one national group and its leadership customarily exemplify towards the rights of other groups", but adds that this is particularly the case of "dominant groups". "The peculiar emotional depth of the 'us'-'them' syndrome which is an intrinsic part of national consciousness, by bifurcating as it does all mankind into 'members of the nation' versus 'all others' appears thereby to pose a particularly severe impediment to coordinated action with any of the 'others'". It looks as if, as soon as one of such groups grab the levers of state power, it is unable to recognize any legitimacy or rationality in anti-state sentiments: "Though very sensitive to real or imagined threats to the survival and aspirations of one's own group, appreciation of this same sensitivity among other groups is apparently very difficult to project". However, as we shall see, there have been instances in which inter-nationalist cooperation has worked well, at least for a time.

Instrumental and empathic reasons are admirably fused in the case of the Baltics. Occasionally, the two models can merge in the pursuit of common interests. Examples are the Galeuzca movement in Spain (1933-1939), the Congress of European Nationalities in inter-war Europe (1925-1938), and the several Baltic agreements and common demonstrations before the achievement of independence. The first two were quite ineffective, while the latter's attempts at coordinating action have been crowned by final success. International references do not only refer to victorious liberations, as nationalist speeches and literature are often punctuated with references to other peoples struggling against assimilation and genocide.

The above distinction is necessary, since the two patterns overlap with each other. However, both the concepts of domino and demonstration effect normally refer to instrumental models that the nationalist movements try to adapt to their struggle, rather than to any solidarity. Hence, this paper will consider basically instrumental models, although a few references to inter-nationalist solidarity and practice will be necessary. At the same time, it is also necessary to put into right perspective the use of the term "model". When I consider all the so-called "models" of Basque and Catalan nationalists, I see that none of them were really practicable as a model for action, since they all developed in very different environments. This fact will serve us to disprove the validity of the domino effect paradigm as applied to nationalism. At different times the Catalans and the Basques chose different examples: Crete, Norway, Finland, Alsace-Lorraine, Provence, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, Bohemia, Ruthenia, Croatia, Flanders, provided in turn the topic of numerous studies and conferences, and their struggles were regularly reported by the Catalan regionalist press.

But, if the possibility to emulate these "models" were patently scarce or nil, what purpose did they serve? An important ideological aim in this outburst of spontaneous interest was to situate the nation in a world-wide order of interactive realities. We know that nationalists see themselves as actors in a world of nations in which each nation has its right to a separate existence and, eventually, to achieve a form of statehood. Hence, they naturally look for models that give them the possibility to be ideally included in this universal scheme (which does not mean necessarily separation). However, nations also differ in the way in which they can achieve the ultimate goal of self-determination, as the latter does not necessarily imply statehood, but can also be achieved through autonomy, sovereignty-association, or statehood within supra-national bodies. Therefore, the examples can either be non-violent demonstrations, armed insurrection, democracy, cultural revival, depending on the particular orientation prevailing in that historical moment within the movement (and according to the sub-group which makes its own).

Thus, the examples quoted in the previous paragraph were chosen at a time when Catalanism was little more than a regionalist movement. They were selected as models not for promoting separatism, but for re-shaping the existing centre-periphery relations on a federal or confederal model. In some cases, their impact was merely cultural. The Occitanism as literary movement of Félibritge founded by Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) was the main external source of inspiration for the Catalan cultural "renaissance" (Renaixença). Yet, the Félibres did not proceed further into a fully-fledged nationalism as the successors of the Renaixença did. And from this exclusively cultural movement, political Catalanism arose. Hence, once it reached this stage, the movement had to select other models for its political aims. As the movement shifted again from regionalism to federalism and finally developed separatist fringes in its midst, so the external references had to change accordingly.

Thus, in the 1880s, the federalist leader Valentí Almirall (1841-1904) dreamed of an Austro-Hungarian form of dual rule as an ideal arrangement on which to shape the relationship between Catalonia and Castile. However, he stopped short of putting forwards concrete proposals in this respect. After considering a few possible foreign models (United States, Sweden, Switzerland, etc.), the final two chapters of Almirall's book "Lo Catalanisme" propose several solutions as possible external references for legitimizing future changes in the Spanish state structure. The choice of a particular model has always been related to its attraction for some currents within the movement, rather than its concrete applicability.

The impact of Irish nationalism is an ideal case to explore the shifting "emulation" trends affecting each movement. An "Irish fever" emerged in Catalonia in the years 1886-7 among moderate nationalists, but the Irish example assumed a very different meaning between 1916 and 1936 when it was taken up by radical Catalan separatists. That is, when Ireland struggled for a limited form of Home Rule, its path was extolled by the Catalan regionalists. However, when Eire achieved independence, those Catalan regionalists were displaced by their separatist rivals in the appropriation of the Irish model. This did not result in a prompt increase in the radicals' popularity, nevertheless it added legitimacy to their beliefs.

A similar evaluation occurred in Euskadi (Basque Country), whereas a different appreciation of the Irish case reflected the split between the radicals and the moderates within Basque nationalism. The Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV, Basque Nationalist Party), founded in 1895 by Sabino Arana (1865-1903), was the first nationalist party in the Basque Country. In 1910, the moderate elements who succeeded in its direction changed its title into the more Catholic-oriented Comunió n Nacionalista Vasca (CNV, Basque Nationalist Communion). But in 1921, the radicals separated again from the mainstream CNV, in order to refound the historical PNV. At this stage, external models were determinants in both parties' subsequent political evolution, as they had to refer to different sources of external legitimation. On the one hand, the 'legalist' (=respectful of legality) CNV condemned the 1916 Easter Uprising, finding an alternative point of reference in its moderate counterpart, J. Redmond's parliamentary Nationalist Party. On the other hand, the radicals, who remained in control of the PNV, saw in the Sinn Fein as a champion to emulate. The young Aberrianos, from the name of their journal Aberri (Fatherland), who now controlled the PNV, claimed to be the true heirs of Arana's message of separation from Spain and followed with trepidation the unfolding ïof events in Ireland.

The reorganization of the PNV on radical lines after 1921 brought about another important novelty: the creation of a feminine section following the pattern of the Irish Cumann Na mBan (Irishwomen's Council). In 1922, the Irish Republican activist Ambrose V. Marteen O'Daly condensed its principles at a conference organized by the PNV in Bilbao. O'Daly emphasized women's courage and perseverance and the key role they played in the Irish struggle for independence. On the same day of the speech, a Basque feminine movement was launched by the initiative of a group of women attending the conference and subsequently named Emakume Abertzale Batza (Patriotic Womens' Association). Again, the Irish contact did not influence the spread of nationalism per se, but only its internal organization.

So far, we have seen the effect of external models on Basque and Catalan nationalisms in some crucial phases of their evolution. In the next sections I shall deal with the impact that foreign influences exerted on Basque nationalism during the Francoist Regime (1939-1975), when Spain was practically isolated from international trends and currents.


After the defeat of the Republican forces in the Civil War (1936-39), a long night fell on Catalan and Basque nationalist forces. But soon an impatient generation of nationalists grew up looking eagerly and ceaselessly for new international examples. This time they found them not in the Old Continent, but in the rebellious fringes of collapsing Western empires. A new "emulative" trend of Third World liberation movements was born in Europe. In Latin countries it received the name of thirdworldism (Spanish tercermundismo, French tiers-mondisme, Italian terzomondismo, etc.).

But first we should mention another interpretation which attributes the origin of the ethnic revival of the 1960s to a number of political movements born in the United States: students' protest, civil rights and Black Power. This interpretation holds that the Black American movement of the 1960s was among the first, at least in the United States, to advance its demands in ethno-cultural terms. After it, other groups emulated the Blacks with similar demands and a wide ethnic-revivalist movement blossomed among most groups, finally reaching the "white ethnics". From the States, the movement expanded in other directions. In the case of Quebec, the highly popular definition of the Quebecois as negres blancs (white niggers) in the 1960s seems to offer some solidity to the claim which ascribe to the Blacks the paternity of the ethnic revival. However, there is no proven direct relationship between Black Power and the various forms of ethnic nationalism which appeared in so many distant parts of the world. Rather, both the former and the latter drank from the same sources, that is, Third World emancipation movements. What is relevant in this context is the new progressive and Left-wing language assumed by such movements, a language which took a lot from the Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity rhetoric. It ended up defining ethnic nations as "internal colonies" in both Marxist and "Thirdworldist" terms.

Thus, the 1960s have been chosen by many scholars as an ideal point of reference because this is the decade of the Civil Rights movement in the USA and the student's agitation of May 1968 in France. All these events of world importance, more or less inter-connected, determined the rise of a new kind of ethnic movement, much more sensitive to Marxist postulates, more aware of the mechanism of domination and exploitation, and therefore very permeable and open to the "Leftist" language which prevailed in the 1970s. As Zirakzadeh points out, radical Basque leaders of the 1960s "were particularly fascinated by the writing of Europe's New Left theoreticians, such as André Gorz, Lelio Basso and Ernest Mandel".

Three geographical areas stand out as potential sources of inspiration for European ethnonationalist movements: the former colonial territories in the Third World, the United States, and the earlier European experience. Needless to say, the latter was largely delegitimized after World War II; thus, the ethnic movements had to look somewhere else. As for the first two areas, only the first one can stand the test of empirical evidence. We can assess this by simply going back to our double case study, emphasizing that a new Basque nationalism began to emerge in the late 1950s in the full period of decolonization. Already in 1952-3, under the full impact of Francoist Regime, a group of youths formed a clandestine cell in Euskadi, one of the aims of which was to discuss 'domestic' strategies in the light of recent international events. The nameless group published a newsletter called Ekin (=To do), and by this name it is normally referred to. It was the nucleus of what in 1959 was to be named ETA (Euzkadi 'ta Askatasuna), which by the 1970s, under a new leadership and generation, had launched a violent campaign of major proportions in Spain. This evolution was also consequence of a generational change. As we shall see, different generations of nationalist militants can switch to different external models.

Already in the 1940s the model for many Basque nationalists was the state of Israel, a model that the moderates of the PNV turned to again in the 1980s. Ekin's strategy and "security norms" were directly adapted from Irgun, the Jewish national liberation movement led by Menachem Begin, since the experience of Israel was held in high respect in the 1950s. Israel was a model not only for political nationalists, but also for cultural nationalists. One of the main founders and leaders of the Ekin group, 'Txillardegi' (pseudonym of José Luis Alvarez Emparanza), extolled the revival of Hebrew as an admirable example and praised the views of Eliazar Ben Yehuda (1858-1922) about the central importance of language in the building of the Israeli nation.

The first "security norms" outlined by Ekin recalled also the strategy and tactics of the Irish Republican leader Eamon De Valera (1882-1975) and the 1916 Easter Rising. De Valera's example was stimulating insofar as it reunited three characteristics that most Basque nationalists also upheld: separatist intransigence, cultural nationalism and a stress on Catholicism.

Yet, not all Ekin members shared the same enthusiasm for Ireland as the previous generation did. For its non-violent culturalist leaders, a leading example came from Habib Bourguiba who in 1956 achieved Tunisian independence without resorting to major violence. Ekin distributed copies of extracts from Bourguiba 's speeches, together with Menachem Begin's "The Israelian Revolt".

It is possible to gather which were the most direct external ideological influences on the organization by looking at the short bibliography supplied in ETA's Libro Blanco (White Book) which synthesized ETA's ideas. Only one Basque source is mentioned, the other references being all works from the protagonists of successful liberation movements or analysis of their struggles, normally in their Spanish or French editions: apart from the already mentioned works of Begin and Bourguiba, we can find books on Ireland and the French partisans fighting against the Nazi occupation.

Finally, the rejection of the Irish "failure" was total in ETA's key ideological text "Vasconia" written by Federico Krutwig. Krutwig was the main inspirer of the military "soul" of Basque nationalism, yet he was also a political and cultural nationalist. Rejecting old racialist and religious definitions of the nation, he claimed that language was the most important factor of Basque identity: Ireland now became anathema. The Irish people who "struggled as lions over the centuries for the sake of national independence, achieved their liberty only at the cost of losing their nationhood. Ireland was such a disastrous case of a people for whom freedom was useless, but for de-nationalising them even further". The author was referring to the twilight of Irish Gaelic and to the impossibility to promote it as a modern means of communication. The vision of Ireland's failure is deeply ingrained in the strong cultural emphasis adopted by Catalan nationalism, but there it often goes hand in hand with the rejection of violence.

More edifying examples were needed by the Basque radicals. The most promising ones seemed all to come from Third World countries. When ETA was born, the Algerian struggle was at its apex and renowned progressive intellectuals such as Franz Fanon (1925-1961) witnessed the atrocities perpetuated by the French troops. The conclusion of that tragic series of event is well-known, with the French withdrawing before international outrage. Franz Fanon's theory of violence as an instrument of nation-building was adopted to the Basque situation a few month after its publication in France. ETA's "theory of the cycle of action/ repression/ action" owes much to Fanon's insurrectionist model, and the Basques were soon identified as a colonized 'wretched of the earth'. In the vision of Fanon, the violence of colonialism engendered violence in the native that, when expressed, prompted government retaliation that in turn fed an escalating spiral of violence and counter-violence. The application of this theory to the Basque Country brought about a "logic of polarization" and a tragic set of self-defining bipolar oppositions.

Fanon's theory became widely known in the Basque Country, largely because of its constant dissemination by ETA. The parallel between the Algerian revolution and the Basque struggle for self-determination has been quoted again and again by most ETA theorists. The Algerian experience was so relevant to the times, that a whole generation grew up in its shadow. Its impact was felt all over Europe, albeit especially in France, where most Basque exiles were living.

The experience of Algeria seemed to promise that only violence could pay off and lead the insurgents to victory. This theory of violence as the only solution was obviously also determined by the internal condition of ruthless Francoist regime in Spain. As predicted by Fanon, state violence was an indispensable ingredient in spreading a general "national awareness" among the wider population, instigating them to fight back. However, at the elite level, this internal constraint came to be reinforced by international events: in the Third World, victorious nationalist movements led by revolutionary elites were restoring independence for their countries after years of bloody rebellion. Cuba, Vietnam and, to a certain extent, Maoist China, were the other unchallenged champions of this experience. Third World liberation movements exerted an enormous impact over the European youth in the 1960s at the same time as the European youth, as well as ETA, started to enter the political arena. In ETA's ranks, the evaluation of the new phenomenon was somehow contradictory: for instance, at the beginning, the leaders were unable to discern the nuances which differentiated movements such as the Israeli Irgun and the Algerian FLN. They were both seen as gallant and successful examples of armed struggle applied to national liberation. Again, in the bibliography included in another key text for ETA's military strategy, José Luis Zalbide's "Insurección en Euskadi", the only Basque work mentioned is Krutwig's "Vasconia". Most of the references are war studies or memoirs which refer to the movement of resistance against the Nazis, especially in France. There are also two books on Algeria (Jacques Duchemin and Francis Jeanson), three guerrilla classics (Che Guevara, Mao-Tse-Tung and Claude Delmas), and, finally, three 'reactionary' manuals, in order to study the strategy and tactics of the enemy (Dominique Ponchardier, Curzio Malaparte and Colonel Roger Trinquer).

External sources are selected according to the need of the movement in that particular time, hence a full explanation of these choices can only be attained through an in-depth study on the condition which brought about the emergence of a particular form of mobilization. External models are particularly needed in times of crisis: for instance, ETA's fascination with the Algerian FLN and other Third World liberation movements is an outcome of what was perceived as the United States' 'betrayal' of the Basques and their support for Franco during the Cold-War era. Likewise, in the 1960s, the choice of Marxism by some key sectors within ETA was a consequence not only of internal conditions, but also of the above mentioned international environment.

As a conclusion it is expedient to consider that "thirdworldist" ideologies had a much more limited impact in Catalonia. Here, they have been picked up only by fringe separatist sectors which have scarcely influenced the wider nationalist movement. The pre-existing historical tradition of struggle tied, on the one side, to a "bourgeois" type of nationalism and, on the other side, to federalist Republicanism and the progressive Left, has made the "importation" of Third World approaches irrelevant, whilst the latter have prevailed in Basque radical nationalism. Hence, this section has only addressed the Basque case.

Other allies for most nationalists were not successful liberation struggles which had limited possibilities of emulation, but minority nationalist movements in the very heart of the Old Continent. We have seen that the earlier European tradition of nationalism had fallen into disgrace as a result of World War II. Moreover, unlike the historical cases mentioned earlier (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc.), the "new" ethnic movements of Western Europe did not achieve independence, and their rights and autonomy are today even more restricted than in the Basque case. That is where the 'empathic' element comes in. Such alliances may appear more stringent in their constructive opportunities that any 'ideological' reference to victorious African or Asian independence movements. Indeed, Western European ethnonationalisms share more in common among themselves than in respect to most Third World movements. The reference to a united Europe as a common supra-national home for its several peoples has encouraged this trend. Hence a federalist and Europeanist trend is widespread among both radical and moderate nationalists.

But who were the forefathers of this political undercurrent of Europeanism? How was it being articulated? Jauregui mentions specifically the works of Alexandre Marc, the regionalist Yann Fouéré and, in particular, the federalist Guy Heraud. In Catalonia, two other authors exerted a considerable impact in nationalist milieux: the Occitan Robert Lafont and the Italian Sergio Salvi. They both used the definition of 'internal colonies' as applied to Europe's ethnic nations.

An important undercurrent of international contacts in this direction has been building up for decades, though it has still to yield its fruits. For instance, Catalan and Basque nationalists encouraged a moderate activity of international encounters with representatives of various stateless nations in Western Europe since at least the first decade of this century. As Pi i Sunyer explains, it "is a phenomenon of displacement and identification that leads Catalans to champion the cause of minority groups other than their own". This "international" activity has increased over the years and is particularly directed to the youth. In turn, the situation of the stateless nations of Europe was -and is- especially followed by the youth, given its Romantic overtones and universalist appeal. Social movements such as Corsican nationalism have gained prominent attention in the radical and Leftist press of both Catalonia and Euskadi. Again, the examples followed by the radicals and the moderates were sharply different, with the former supporting international violent groups and the latter very careful to avoid any such contacts.

The original federalist component of Catalanism has evolved into a new form of Europeanism in which all ethnic regions of Europe should have their identity and culture recognized and have direct control over their internal administrative matters. In practical terms, this trend has produced interesting links, albeit theoretical for the most part, with other nationalist movements in the West, such as Sardinia, Flanders, Occitania, Wales, Scotland and, in particular, Quebec.

As we have seen, the models for Basque and Catalan nationalism have changed in time over and over again. It is important to stress that recently ETA's actions remain without external references. Increasingly, their sources of inspiration have been drying up. Most of these sources were located in Third World countries and were shared by much of the European Left. Yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, both Cuba and Algeria ceased to be a myth. The Cubans' exodus denounced the harsh conditions of life prevailing on the island under Castro, while the clamp-down on Berber activists in Kabilya struck at the very image of Algeria as a champion of liberation struggles. After the great Algerian, Cuban, and Vietnamese sagas, the Iranian revolution (which indeed had a powerful impact in some parts of the Third World) appeared hardly compatible with the secular outlook and the Marxist orientation of the Basque Left. Finally, the war resulting from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has dealt a fatal blow to most Third World rhetoric, making anti-imperialist claims and slogans seem laughable.

Thus, ETA has lost most, if not all, of its sources of external legitimation. Of course, this is not to say that as a consequence ETA's armed actions ceased or subsided. Cases such as the Croatian civil war and the Kurdish tragedy have prompted radical spokesmen to reassert their old dictum that "the sovereignty of people is founded on blood and pain". Yet, whereas ETA has lost an international frame of reference, the democratic and moderate nationalists have gained a whole host of them after the recent upheavals in Eastern Europe.


As with the previous occurrences, the revolt of the nationalities in the Soviet Empire (and Yugoslavia) served as a stimulus for internal debate within Basque and Catalan nationalisms, as non-violent nationalists used it as a powerful ideological tool for advancing their cause against the proponents of armed struggle. Even before independence was achieved, the peaceful struggles of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (and even Slovenia) were there to show the fallacy of those who unabatedly pursued the option of political violence. Accordingly, the bloodshed in these areas has only been a consequence of state repression and even in Yugoslavia the ensuing bloody civil war has only highlighted to the eyes of many nationalists the virtues of passive resistance.

On the walls of Spain in 1991 it was possible to see graffiti emphatically proclaiming "Euskadi = Lithuania" or "Catalonia and Lithuania, the same struggle". The imaginary Baltic 'connection' has been widely reported in the Spanish and even the international press.According to the moderate nationalists, the publicity given to the Baltics could act as a powerful deterrent against the continuation of violence. Once the Baltic case is convincingly put forward as an example of peacefully achieved independence -so the moderate argument goes-, an end to violence in Euskadi is more foreseeable, since the legitimacy of the armed option will be severely reduced. However, as we have seen, the pro-ETA factions still have 'negative' (unsuccessful, at least at the present) and violent examples, such as the Kurds and, more recently, the Croats. In the latter case, "Yugoslavia has shown the difficulty of using force to keep people together against their will". Moreover, the lack of prompt European and international support for the Slovenes, Croats, and other victims of state aggression, has provided further fuel for the radical option.

Obviously, the pressures for independence will continue to remain considerable, independent of other nations achieving independence. As we have seen, the separatist trend was already well established and strongly pursued in Euskadi long before perestroika brought into the open the plight of ethnic minorities in the Soviet Empire.

On the other hand, the most relevant "demonstration" effect exerted by the Baltics within the Union as well as abroad, has been to set the pace for a relatively peaceful and democratic transition. It has shown other nationalist movements that independence can be achieved in an orderly way, with full recognition from the international community and, most of all, without provoking civil strife and violent confrontations between communities. Equally, the dispatch of the Soviet army to Baku in the aftermath of the Armenian pogroms at the hands of Azeri mobs has shown to other nationalist leaders that, if they do not succeed in restraining ethnic passions, the result can be the reverse of their aspirations. Ethnic strife serves as the perfect precedent for the deployment of state troops and the maintenance of the political status quo.

The two previous examples have also reinforced the position of the proponents of the inviolability of state borders who, as in the case of the dismantling of the former European colonial empires, argued for the maintenance of the original administrative boundaries (although that pattern was first broken by the fall of the Berlin wall, and then by the pan-Serbian expansionist war). According to its proponents, such a solution would bar the way to a wave of possibly endless national recriminations and territorial disputes. A glimpse of the dramatic consequences of the latter possibility has been revealed by the Yugoslav crisis. Another propaganda victory has thus been granted to the moderates, namely, their defence of the present borders of the Catalan Autonomous Community, as against pan-Catalanist aspirations. The Armenian-Azeri, Serbo-Croatian and other conflicts have shown the risks involved in any major border adjustments. Thus, the preferability of maintaining the current existing borders between the formerly Soviet republics has been translated into a further commitment to recognize the present Autonomous Communities as they stand. However, this argument is less cogent than the previous one, and many who abandoned armed struggle are not prepared to renounce their irredentist aims of reuniting in a single homeland all Catalan-speaking peoples. But, at least, they have committed themselves to achieve that end through peaceful means.

What we wish to stress here is, in particular, that a few foreign examples, such as the Baltics, did not influence the concrete popularity of nationalism, yet they played a role in reversing the previous patterns derived from Third World movements. In some cases, the result has been to set the tone for a relative lessening of virulence in pre-existing ethnic conflicts in other regions of the world, rather than influencing their overall success. International examples do not normally have an impact on the intensity of nationalist feelings beyond limited militant circles. Somehow, they work as a tool of reinforcing the commitment of already committed individuals (converting the converted), whilst showing them different possibilities and patterns. This can clearly be seen, for instance, in the case of Catalonia, where the Baltic/ Lithuanian solution has directly contributed to the abandonment of armed struggle by the most important terrorist Catalan organization (Terra Lliure). In October 1990, its leaders publicly declared that political violence had became an obsolete weapon in order to achieve independence. In a document full of references to the Baltics and German reunification, the hardest sector of the organization decided to drop armed struggle altogether and join mainstream politics. Looking at Eastern Europe, they declared that the right of self-determination can be exercised today without fear of suffering military repression: in the present situation, "nobody will dare to send the tanks to Catalonia". It added that the revolutionary events occurring in the East heralded a new era, proclaiming with amazement: "who could dare to imagine, only one year ago, that Germany could have been reunited". This is a relevant case of an historic local choice directly influenced by an important foreign event. At the same time, the anti-Armenian pogroms of Sumgait and Baku and the ghost of a new Armenian genocide (together with other inter-ethnic clashes involving non-Russian minorities in the Soviet Union) awakened public opinion to the dangers of an unchecked explosion of ethnic resentment.

Talking about the structural constraints, brings us back to the question of the etiology of nationalist movements and, in particular, of their success. An abundant literature is already available on the origins and causes of nationalism. We previously mentioned the important school of theorists that seems to attribute a crucial role to external ideological forces. Many other scholars focus instead on structural or other 'internal' dimensions, be it at the state level, the economic level, the historical level, or the local-anthropological level. Many studies are also available on the causes of success of nationalist movements. However, no study has yet systematically contrasted diffusionist and structural dimensions on a comparative basis in order to explain the differential success of nationalist movements. For the purpose of this article, it will be sufficient to briefly mention those constraints which any demonstration effect must confront in order to spread beyond borders. At least three sets of constraints hamper the possible spread of nationalist waves across countries and continents:

1. Political: character and legitimacy of the state vis-à -vis peripheral nationalism(s). [The message of secession is more likely to catch on where a regime change is under way].

2. Economic: the economic interests at stake in the different regions under possible nationalist exposure and their different relations with the centre. [The message of secession is more likely to catch on where independence is more economically viable].

3. Institutional: the ready-made availability of an indigenous elite ready to assume the reins of power. [The message of secession is more likely to catch on where a pre-existing nationalist intelligentsia is ready for seizing local power, possibly with some recent previous experience].

The discussion which follows will skip the last factor since it overlaps with the preceding two. It will instead concentrate on the first of them, with a brief explanation of the second and third ones at the endï.

As for the first point, each state adopts a different policy towards its minorities. Yet, a common feature in the popular spread of nationalism is a change of regime at the centre and a lessening of its authority over the periphery. The reasons for which regime change is so important are mainly two: firstly, through change, there is a vacuum of power and the de-legitimation of the old regime is not normally followed by a prompt legitimation of the new order, unless revolutionary situations prevail. The second reason is 'psychological': "Times of transition are often times of ethnic tension. When it looks as if the shape of the polity is being settled once and for all, apprehensions are likely to grow".

There have been many waves of national fervour spreading across continents since the last century, nevertheless, only some of them have succeeded. We can see at a glance that nearly all the successful cases are clustered in some particular areas and periods. These areas were either characterized by a regime change or by deep socioeconomic transformations which tantamounted to a regime change. However, the latter are more likely to coincide with the phase of dissemination of the nationalist ideology among the masses, rather than with the moment in which nationalities achieve independence. In the past, the accession to independence of other stateless ethnies raised the hopes of many nationalist intellectuals, yet they failed to disseminate their hopes and model to the wider public, since the structural conditions were not propitious for such an 'adventure'.

In Catalonia and Euskadi, the peak of nationalist mobilization was achieved during a stage of relative nationalist dormancy for the rest of Europe. The first success of Catalanism came about in 1901 with the Lliga Regionalista sweeping the regional polls, followed in 1907 by the overwhelming victory of the coalition Solidaritat Catalana. The years from 1917 to 1919 witnessed another period of nationalist unrest with both Basque and Catalan nationalists raising their demands for more control over regional resources and a reinforcement of local institutions. The Mancomunitat de Catalunya, a semi-autonomous administrative body coordinating the activities of the four Catalan provinces, was established in 1914. These latter events coincided indeed with the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the re-foundation of the Russian Empire under the new Soviet guise and President Woodrow Wilson's rearrangement of post-war Europe. The European map was then re-drawn according to principles of self-determination, allowing the creation of new states.

Yet, in this case, a more important factor came to reinforce a pre-existing nationalist strength: Spanish neutrality during the war produced an economic boom in the two regions, where the production of steel derivatives (in Euskadi) and textile products (in Catalonia) reached boom proportions unleashing a wave of prosperity. This boom encouraged and provided the basis for an increase in the demands of local elites to run at least their own affairs, at a time when they were prevented from having a voice in the running of state affairs. Furthermore, these demands were still largely framed in regionalist terms, although the stake was now raised (more autonomy was being demanded).

Again, after the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1931) and all through the Second Republic (1931-1939), a resurgence of regional nationalism occurred at a time of erstwhile massive centralization in all other European states, as exemplified by the Nazi and Fascist models. Whereas the latter were busy in their drive for cultural homogeneity and racial purification, Spain was experiencing a solitary flourishing of nationals identities.

What all the four (1901, 1907-1909, 1917-1919, 1931-1939) above mentioned periods of nationalist revival share in common is that they happened in moments of weakness and lack of legitimacy of the centralist state: the Lliga's victorious electoral performances in 1901 came in the aftermath of the 1898 Cuban crisis, when Spain's loss of its last American colony (together with the Philippines) prompted an outcry among Spanish elites and intellectuals, especially in the periphery. At the time of Solidaritat Catalana (1906-7), the centre was further weakened by the crisis of the government of Antonio Maura and raising social conflicts which culminated in the Tragic Week (1909). In 1917-19, social conflicts dramatically increased with repercussions on governmental policies and a general institutional crisis. The end of the dictatorship in 1931 and the whole period of the Second Republic spelled a progressive waning of the legitimacy of the central authority through its inability to deal with both class unrest and nationalist aspirations.

What we have hitherto said can be further demonstrated by looking at what preceded and followed the demise of Francoism. Before and immediately after the death of Franco (1975), all over Spain nationalist movements erupted with an unforeseen strength, reaching their peak mobilizations two years later. True, in this case, the rebirth of Basque and Catalan nationalism was preceded and even accompanied by an European- (and Western-) wide "ethnic revival". But only in Spain did these movements achieve institutional changes of major proportions, sufficient to influence the political arrangements of forthcoming decades. Thanks to nationalist pressures, Spain has undergone administrative transformations unparalleled in the rest of Western Europe and which are tantamount to a revolution. Its map has been thoroughly re-drawn according to regionalist and nationalist principles, as the country was transformed from one of the most centralized regimes in the West to one of the most de-centralized ones. A quasi-federal system of 17 Autonomous Communities was established and their rights enshrined in the Constitution. Nowhere else in Western Europe were nationalist movements able to exert such effective pressures.

Hence, the so-called "international wave" of ethnic revival cannot explain the resurgence of Basque and Catalan nationalism. Rather than an imaginary demonstration effect, we can reaffirm here the primary importance of structural and historical constraints, that is, a regime change and an ongoing strong nationalist tradition. The two regions benefited much more from the pre-existing strength of nationalist elites than from the fading effect of passing international events. At the time of the regime crisis, the former were ready to seize their opportunity for power.

Nationalism is an historical process which was initiated by Basque and Catalan elites several decades ago and has continued to grow ever since, independently of the impact of international events. The only relevant influences that can be derived from external events encompass the means to achieve this goal of self-determination. As the argument hiterto exposed has hopefully demonstrated, what really matters is not an imaginary demonstration effect or domino reaction, but some pre-existing historical and sociological constraints. The cases shown represent different versions and visions of nationalism, rather than nationalism per se. Every new nation which achieves independence indicates a new avenue to the intelligentsia of other stateless nations that wish to achieve the same goal. But the "internal" nationalist trend antedates the impact of the new 'external' experience. If the case of autonomy or independence would be a simple case of demonstration effect, then Galicia, the Canary Islands and other regions would have followed the lead of the Basques and the Catalans, but this has not occurred. While in most regions we can find regionalist parties, in Galicia and the Canary Islands there are groups advocating secession, but their following is relatively small.

The arguments advanced, for instance, by Horowitz are typical of the contradiction existing in the comparative literature on ethnic conflict. He first asserts that "the example of one movement cannot create separatist sentiment where it does not exist; this is not a question of contagion". Yet, he goes on arguing that "the strength of a movement, particularly one supported by external aid, can propel other separatists into action by convincing them of the plausibility of success or of consensus short of success". The fact that he adds the unnecessary variable of some external states' involvement is confusing and it suggests a lack of deeper theorizing by scholars in the field. The data provided in order to support the latter statement are essentially secondary and tertiary sources and fail to convince.

The "structural constraints" model which is to be placed in opposition to the diffusionist one includes historical (the timing of the nationalist spread), institutional (the formation of national elites), as well as political factors (the situation of the state). This model can be applied to a whole host of -if not all- the cases of successful ethnic secession. Accordingly, the ongoing dismantling of the Soviet Empire occurred at a time of political vacuum at the centre, when the only source of legitimation for the state -Marxist ideology- collapsed.

It has been repeated ad nauseam that we live today in an interdependent world where news from one corner of the globe to the other flows with an unprecedented speed. The global village has given place to a global network in which "tidbits of information" are selected according to the recipient's inclinations and aims. In the case of nationalist movements, these tidbits have indeed an impact, but the ideologues have to face the realities of their constituencies and adapt incoming information to their needs. As for emulation of outside models, it is almost impossible to adapt fully a foreign model to indigenous circumstances, but, as we have seen, foreign models are very relevant in influencing marginal sectors of fringe separatists, who are unmistakably the most radical and extreme in their demands, and are often committed to violence; as well as sometimes exerting a peaceful influence on these fringes.

Combatent
Friday, May 7th, 2004, 11:54 PM
What do you think about it?:


Europe's Stateless Nations in the Era of Globalization
The Case for Catalonia's Secession from Spain
By Josep Desquens

"The life of the Catalan is an act of continuous affirmation [...] It is because of this that the defining element of the Catalan psychology is not reason, as for the French; metaphysics, as for the Germans; empiricism, as for the English; intelligence, as for the Italians; or mysticism, as for the Castilians. In Catalonia, the primary feature is the desire to be."
-- Jaume Vicens Vives, Catalan historian

Many citizens of Flanders in Belgium, Scotland in the United Kingdom and Catalonia in Spain do not consider themselves merely part of a region but an independent nation that has no state of its own. Greater self-rule is the central objective of the so-called nationalist political parties characteristic of these European regions and the possibility of secession has been part of their politics for years. Yet while secession is mentioned as one option for the future, mainstream parties perceive it as a utopian formula rather than a viable alternative. This results partly from a genuine allegiance to the existing states by many of these regions' residents, but also from the fear of the unknown and a surprising lack of information about the economic costs of remaining part of these states and the potential economic benefits of independence.
Current conventional wisdom in the European Union and the United States sees the issue of secession as something outdated or even dangerous. Mainstream politicians, diplomats and academics tend to present it as a senseless option at a moment in history where the focus is building a united Europe and a free-trade world. The thought of the wars in the former Yugoslavia makes many fear such an option. However, the situation in Catalonia, Flanders or Scotland is not comparable - these stateless nations are well-established democratic societies that respect human rights and free-market economies within the European Union. Thus, Catalans, Flemish or Scots cannot ignore that full political independence remains a serious option for them. The desire for secession needs to be objectively analyzed and the costs and benefits properly weighed.
Many Catalans do not consider themselves Spanish but exclusively Catalan. Such feelings raise eyebrows in other parts of Spain, Europe and elsewhere, but are widely accepted as legitimate within Catalonia. The key goal of Catalonia's main political party, Convergència i Unió (CiU), which has governed the region for more than twenty years, is to gain higher levels of self-government. It defines itself as Catalan nationalist (or Catalanist) and frequently refers to the Catalans' right to political self-determination. With this party's support, the Catalan Parliament declared fourteen years ago that it would not renounce this right. Yet it does not seek full independence from Spain. Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, which does publicly support full independence and is Catalonia's fourth largest political force, held about 9 percent of the vote in the last regional elections. Polls on the issue reflect that a much higher percentage of the population sympathize with the idea of secession.
In Spain, this is a hot topic. The Autonomous Government of the Basque Country unveiled a "Sovereignty Plan" last year which calls for a referendum on the issue of self-determination once there is an end to the violence of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), the region's separatist terrorist group. The central Spanish government in Madrid is strongly opposed, arguing that the Spain's Constitution does not foresee the right to self-determination for any part of the country. Recently, CiU made public a plan to reform Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy that reaffirms the right to self-determination, claims Catalan representation in various international organizations and demands sole control of areas such as immigration and tax collection, among many others, which are today responsibility of the Spanish central government.
There are broadly three main arguments for the independence of Catalonia. The first is that since the Catalan cultural and language is neither understood nor accepted in Spain (and so neither protected nor fostered), the best way forward is an independent state. This results from three centuries of linguistic and cultural discrimination, which reached its pinnacle under Gen. Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship. The second one says that a well-defined political entity such as Catalonia should be mature enough to govern itself with its own voice in the European Union or the United Nations in order to address the problems specific to it. Finally, there is the belief that Catalonia would be better off economically by seceding. In particular, proponents of the last argument refer to the fact that Catalonia pays much more into Spain's central treasury than it gets back (subsequently referred to here as the fiscal imbalance) and to the excessive bureaucracy resulting from the current administrative arrangements.
The economic arguments are contested. Some believe an independent Catalonia would not be economically viable; others argue that it does not make sense given that globalization and the European Union have brought about the blurring of borders. But only a few seem willing to undertake a serious economic assessment of an eventual secession, as this has become a "politically incorrect" issue in Spanish politics.
The purpose of this article is to show that there are sound economic and administrative arguments supporting the case for Catalan independence and that there are no objective reasons to believe that a Catalan state could not be viable from an economic perspective. Secession would mean getting rid of the current fiscal imbalance with Spain, which has seriously hampered Catalonia's growth and endangers its future economic performance. It would also mean simplifying the current oversized bureaucracy and having a direct voice in international forums. Moreover, I will argue that the processes of economic globalization and European integration are creating a new reality that reinforces, rather than weakens, the case for secession. Overall, evidence indicates that from an economic perspective, independence is the best solution for the people of Catalonia presently.
I will not touch upon the cultural arguments and I will not discuss whether an independent Catalonia would be morally legitimate or historically justified. Though there are strong historical and cultural arguments that justify going it alone, one could also argue that there are many others that support being part of Spain.

Catalonia: An overview

With roughly six and a half million inhabitants, the Autonomous Community of Catalonia is larger than four of the current fifteen member states of the European Union (Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg ) and than seven of the ten new countries joining the E.U. community in 2004. It has approximately the same population and surface area as Switzerland.
Catalonia has an ancient history. Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians have all left their mark in the country. Arab influence was also notable, though less than in other parts of Spain as Arab rule was brief. In the Middle Ages, as a central component to the Crown of Aragon, it became one of the most important powers in the Mediterranean Sea. In the 15th century, it was united with the Kingdom of Castile through a royal marriage. Yet the result was not a common state, but a confederation of states with separate parliaments, laws, and language. In 1640, the War of the Harvesters was fought against the increasingly centralist Castilian government. At the same time, Portugal (then also attached to Castile) fought for independence and won. Instead, Catalonia lost the war and was forced to cede its northern part to France. During the War of Spanish Succession in the 18th century, Catalonia supported the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, who favored a federalized Spain, against the French Bourbon claimant, the future Philip V of Spain. Once again, Catalonia lost, and as a consequence, the new Bourbon king wiped out all Catalan institutions and forbade the official use of the Catalan language. This effectively ended the Catalan state structure and began a process of cultural assimilation that continued until the 20th century.
The Catalan national conscience reemerged in the 19th century, as nationalism surged throughout Europe. Initially a culturally focused movement that looked back at the medieval epoch of political glory and cultural and literary richness, it soon developed into a regionalist movement demanding greater political autonomy. During the early 20th century before the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, Catalonia enjoyed partial self-rule on various occasions and a Catalan Republic within the Iberian federation was proclaimed twice. However, with Franco's victory in 1939, one of the darkest periods of Catalan history began.
Gen. Franco's dictatorial regime is key to understanding Catalonia today. While all Spaniards were victims of Franco's ruthless and institutionalized violation of human rights, Catalonia suffered a cruel and systematic attempt at cultural annihilation. It endured repression of individual and collective cultural rights, such as the prohibition of the use of the Catalan language, the public denial of the Catalan identity and the punishment for cultural expression.
The arrival of democracy in 1975 initiated a process of recuperation of the Catalan institutions, culture and language. Today, Catalonia has the highest level of self-governance that it has enjoyed since the Bourbon dynasty came to power three centuries ago. The Autonomous Government and Parliament have substantial responsibilities in areas such as education and culture, its own health care system, its own police, etc. After Germany and Belgium, Spain is the most decentralized country in the European Union, with the Basque Country, Navarre and Catalonia as the most autonomous regions.
Language is central to understanding Catalonia's identity. Having survived three centuries of repression from Spain, it still has a vibrant and sophisticated literary scene and its language is used by about eight million, known by ten million and widely spoken at all levels of society. It is spoken not only in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands (Autonomous Communities where it has the same legal status as Spanish), but also in the eastern part of Aragón, the Principality of Andorra (where it is the only official language), the historically Catalan territories of southern France and the city of Alguer (Alguerho, Italy). In fact, Catalan is more widely spoken than a number of other official E.U. languages, like Danish, Finnish, Slovak, Slovenian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese. Yet it does not enjoy recognition by E.U. institutions, as all Spanish governments have consistently ignored Catalonia's demand to press for this. There are numerous radio and TV channels, newspapers and magazines in Catalan, and, more than eight million books are edited in Catalan every year. This recovery of the Catalan language - thanks to a vigorous language policy and hefty funding - might look impressive by many counts. However, it faces very serious threats and is a main concern for many Catalans. Catalan is the weaker language in a bilingual society where Spanish is equally spoken.
Apart from its long-standing literary tradition, Catalonia has shown a high level of cultural creativity over the last century. Many painters (Dalí, Miró, Tàpies), architects (Gaudí, Bofill), musicians (Granados, Savall, de Larrocha) and opera singers (Carreras, Caballé) confirm Catalonia's standing in art and culture. It still is a center of imaginative talent in areas like design, fashion and architecture, particularly focused in Barcelona, the capital.

The fiscal imbalance between Spain and Catalonia

The long history of Spanish centralism has resulted in Catalans, as opposed to other regions of Spain, traditionally valuing private initiative rather than the state in order to develop. This has led to Catalonia being a relatively rich and dynamic region within Spain, a country that is relatively poor by E.U. standards. Catalonia has a strong net of small and medium businesses and many micro-entrepreneurs. Containing about 16 percent of Spain's population, it provides about 20 percent of its GDP and one-third of the total industrial production and exports. The region contributes about 25 percent of Spain's total taxes, but public investment in Catalonia is scarce when related to either population or GDP contribution. The regionalized investment of the Spanish state in Catalonia from 1982 to 1998 represented only about 8.5 percent of the total.
Spain's central government controls tax collection and decides the distribution of the fiscal revenues throughout the country. So Catalans pay taxes to Madrid in exchange for public expenditure in the region. The difference between what is paid by the region and what is received back in the form of public spending is the fiscal balance, which can be positive (a 'fiscal surplus' for Catalonia) or negative (a 'fiscal deficit' for Catalonia). Calculating the fiscal balance is not an easy task. There are technical difficulties: Many public services that benefit Catalan citizens are not provided directly in Catalonia but from Madrid (e.g. army, ministries) and so valuing this is complicated. As well, the Spanish central government appears not to make available all necessary data, although it is in theory obliged to do so according to a resolution from the Spanish Parliament. However a number of studies in recent years have estimated the Catalan fiscal balance with Spain, showing not only a deficit (i.e. pays more than it receives back) but one of the highest of any region in the European Union. I refer to this situation as the fiscal imbalance.
These studies estimate the Catalan fiscal imbalance with Spain to be between 7.5 percent and 10 percent of the Catalan GDP i.e. for every 100 euros of income created yearly in Catalonia, between 7.5 and ten never return. In absolute terms, the deficit is between about 6.7 billion and about 9 billion euros or around 1,240 euros annually per capita (using the median of the estimates, 7.9 billion euros).
This is a highly abnormal situation when comparing Catalonia to similar regions in other E.U countries. First, if we compare it to regions that have similar levels of per capita GDP, we find that it has by far the largest fiscal imbalance among its E.U. peers. Nine out of fourteen comparable regions - e.g. Aquitaine in France; Scotland in the United Kingdom; Umbria in Italy; and the Southern region in Sweden - enjoy fiscal surpluses in their respective states. In those carrying a fiscal imbalance (e.g. Lisboa-Vale do Tajo in Portugal), it is nowhere higher than 3 percent. A second useful exercise is to compare Catalonia to regions whose income per capita is approximately 20 percent higher than the average of their respective state, as is Catalonia's. These areas include Ile-de-France, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, South East England, Stockholm, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. In this case, only the two Italian regions have a comparable fiscal imbalance - a situation that has created an unprecedented political uproar, mainly articulated through the Lega Nord political party, which is resulting in the reorganization of the Italian Republic through the process of so-called devolution.
The fiscal imbalance has been sustainable in the past because of Spain's relatively closed economy. However, it is not sustainable in the context of globalization. Catalonia will never be globally competitive if it has to carry such a heavy fiscal burden. Catalan companies pay high taxes, only to receive few public services and low infrastructure investment. High taxes result in making the region less competitive, the low level of investment in infrastructure lowers productivity. Not only does it hamper economic growth and the modernization of the Catalan economy, but it also impoverishes Catalan citizens and damages their social and territorial cohesion. As Columbia University professor Xavier Sala-i-Martín puts it: the fiscal imbalance is "the major challenge facing the Catalan economy for its development in the next 25 years."
Sala-i-Martín has shown that if the Catalan fiscal imbalance had been reduced by one-third over the last 25 years, assuming that the freed funds had been fully invested in infrastructure and education (leading to a higher growth rate), Catalonia would now be a frontrunner in Europe in per capita income - second only to Hamburg, London and Luxembourg. These are missed opportunities. Today, the independence question aside, the unfair fiscal treatment remains an enormous problem for Catalonia. As such it needs to be addressed in an open and informed way. Unfortunately, this is not happening. On the one hand, many people seem to have lost their sense of reality after so many years of permanent centralism. On the other hand, many politicians and commentators fear openly talking about an issue that has become 'politically incorrect' in Spain. They do not want to be compared with the Italian right-wing xenophobic Lega Nord, which has used such type of arguments in a highly demagogical manner.
In any case, one thing is clear: the fiscal imbalance is a key argument supporting secession. A fully independent Catalonia would not have to pay taxes to Madrid that are invested elsewhere. Instead, it could invest them to the benefit of Catalonia.

What solidarity?

The central argument supporting the past and present fiscal imbalance is a so-called inter-regional solidarity. There are also other less convincing arguments such as the populist claim that Catalonia has a historical debt to the rest of Spain, or the economically mistaken opinion that such a fiscal imbalance is necessary as a means to finance Catalonia's large trade surplus with the rest of Spain. Let us focus on solidarity. The current inter-regional solidarity system has major structural flaws that have to be recognized. First and foremost, no solidarity system can compromise the economic health of the 'donor,' as the current one is doing. Second, the current system was designed when disparities between Spanish regions were much higher. Now, after 20 years in the European Union, this has changed significantly. Indeed, in comparing Spain to other E.U. countries we see that the regional differences in Spain are not as abysmal as claimed. Countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy have more substantial inter-regional disparities. Third, supporters of the status quo ignore that Catalonia, though rich, has one of the highest rates of intra-regional income disparity in Spain, both territorially and socially. These disparities are not tackled effectively under the current system. In this respect, it is important to highlight that if Catalonia were an independent state within the European Union, roughly half of its territory would be designated as a preferential area for E.U. structural funds. Catalonia is currently considered as a single unitary entity by the European Union and thus, given its overall level of income, is not eligible for these funds. It is in this predicament that significant parts of Catalonia that require public investment do not receive public aid neither from Madrid nor from Brussels.
Sala-i-Martín has referred to an interesting example that illustrates well the character of the present Spanish solidarity system. In 2000, the GDP per person in Catalonia was 21.9 percent higher than the Spanish average. In comparison, the GDP per person of the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León was 7.6 percent lower than the Spanish average. On the basis of this income differential, one could argue that there is a need for some kind of inter-regional transfer. The surprise comes when we assess the extent of these transfers: Catalonia's Income per capita (after redistributions) was 4.3 percent higher than Spain's average, while Castilla y León's was 9 percent higher. In other words, despite producing over 30 percent more, the redistribution system results in Catalans ending up with a lower income per capita than Castilian-Leonese people. This supports the argument that the Spanish inter-regional transfer system is neither fair nor economically beneficial, but creates a welfare dependency that harms entrepreneurship and growth in the poorer regions.

The viability of an independent Catalonia

As mentioned before, many Catalans do not support secession because they believe that it would not be economically viable. Yet thus far, there are no convincing arguments to support such a statement.
The argument that Catalonia is too small to be an economically sustainable independent state is incorrect. Not only is there no serious economic theory arguing that a country's economic success requires a minimum size, but the evidence suggests a different reality. Looking at the ten countries with the highest GDP per person in the world shows that the Catalan proverb "the good marmalade is in the small pot" is applicable to economics: Eight out of the ten richest countries in the world (measured by GDP per capita) have a population equal or lower to that of Catalonia's six and a half million inhabitants. Another element of the economic inviability speech refers to the availability of natural resources: An independent Catalonia will not be able to prosper because it does not have sufficient natural resources. Again, this logic is flawed. There is no established correlation between natural resources and economic prosperity: Though there are examples supporting this relationship, such as Norway; there are others refuting it. Oil-rich Venezuela has proved that abundant resources can lead to economic disaster if improperly managed, while a relatively poor country in terms of resources, such as Japan, is one of the richest in the world. The use of natural resources is indispensable for economic development and a country that wants to grow will need to obtain them. The way to do so efficiently is through international trade, not giving up political independence to a larger country.
A central theme in the anti-secessionist economic discourse is based on the fact that Spain is the main market of Catalonia. Thus, seceding from Spain would result in an economic catastrophe because Catalonia would lose its main market. The flaw in this argument is that there is no reason to expect Spanish trade embargoes or a boycott of Catalan products, particularly in the E.U. context. Secondly, Spanish citizens buy Catalan products due to their quality and price and not for some abstract Spanish national solidarity. Therefore, as long as secession does not increase the prices or lower the quality of Catalan products, no loss of market should occur. Finally, this argument overlooks an important reality: It is normal for a country that its main market is a neighboring country, particularly in the case of small countries. The Netherlands and Denmark's largest trading partner is Germany; Belgium's is France; Portugal's largest market is Spain, yet there is no suggestion that Portugal reunite with Spain.
Critics of secession can rightly argue that being part of Spain makes economic sense because it allows Catalonia to share the costs of public goods of the military, diplomatic representations, etc, among forty million people instead of six and a half million. Although this is undeniable, it overlooks two facts. First, the huge regional fiscal imbalance shows that today Catalans are paying for these services twice what they would pay in a separate Catalan state. Second, the cost of some of these public goods (e.g. monetary system, antitrust regulation) is being transferred to the E.U. supranational level (i.e. financed by all E.U. citizens).
In conclusion, there is no objective economic reason to believe that a hypothetical Catalan state should not be viable from an economic perspective. If Slovenia has performed well since seceding from Yugoslavia with its much smaller and less diversified post-communist economy, an independent Catalonia should also be able to do well economically. In the end, the success of a Catalan state will depend on its own government. Independence will be good for Catalans only if the Catalan state would be able to pursue sound macroeconomic policies that foster growth and economic welfare. While it is uncertain how well a Catalan government could manage its economy, we know that the performance of the Spanish government over the last century has been overall poor. Moreover, as independence would mean getting rid of the aforementioned fiscal imbalance with Spain at once, a Catalan state would enjoy significant room to maneuver.

Globalization

It is often heard in Europe that it does not make sense to talk about the secession of stateless nations in the context of globalization. It is claimed that in an era of fading borders and boundaries, it is not the time to build new ones. This type of conventional discourse results in avoiding an open and objective discussion about the possibility of an independent Catalonia, Basque Country, Scotland, Flanders or any other European stateless nation.
As shown by Harvard University professor Alberto Alesina and his colleagues, the reality is rather the opposite: "Trade liberalization and political separatism appear to go hand in hand." The increase in free international trade directly relates to the economic viability of new states. Globalization makes the independence of Catalonia more viable because it guarantees access to international markets. Likewise, it makes secession much more desirable for the health of its economy, as fewer bureaucratic layers would increase Catalan competitiveness in global markets. In a context of international trade restrictions, large countries enjoy economic benefits because political borders determine the size of the market. In this context, small nations such as Catalonia find belonging to a larger state such as Spain to be in their economic interest because it gives them access to a larger market. Thus, from a purely economic point of view, being part of Spain has benefited Catalonia.
In a world of increasingly free trade and global markets, this rationale is no longer valid. Relatively small cultural, linguistic or ethnic groups have the possibility to benefit from creating new political entities that trade in economically integrated wider areas. With its own state, Catalonia could benefit from improved administrative efficiency and still have access to foreign markets in which to sell its products. In other words, free trade is a good substitute for a political union as a way to access bigger markets in the context of globalization.
It is important to highlight here that small countries appear to be among the main beneficiaries of freer trade. That should not surprise us if we look at the small European countries that have traditionally been active traders, like the Northern Italian city-states and the Low Countries. Professor Alesina has suggested that population explains a third of a country's openness to trade (i.e. trade relative to GDP). A study by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of 127 countries (both developed and developing) finds a clear relationship between the size of a country and its openness to trade. While the benefits of being a small country (e.g. easier to manage, greater homogeneity, specialization) remain, the drawbacks are decreasing with free trade and new technologies.
In addition, globalization is also compromising many of the traditional functions of mid-sized countries such as Spain, making them less desirable to their citizens - in particular, to differentiated groups such as the Catalans. On the one hand, these states are not big enough to solve global problems involving issues like international terrorism, international capital movements, regulation of transnational corporations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic or global warming. On the other hand, they are still too large to solve local problems. If Spain is not big enough to tackle global problems and not small enough to properly deal with Catalan specificity, then it should change or disappear. So far, it has shown no willingness to change. As professor Sala-i-Martín puts it: "at the end of the day, states and governments should serve the people and not the other way around."

The European Union

The process of European integration, supposedly based on the principle of subsidiarity, has long been at the center of the European stateless nations' ambitions to increase their degree of political autonomy. It is argued that talking about secession in the context of European integration is senseless because this process should lead to the disappearance of current borders and nation-states as we know them today. It is claimed that Europe will naturally become a loose confederation of independent regions.
These expectations are, however, proving unrealistic. Indeed, the principle of subsidiarity creates a perception problem: While for the majority of E.U. states (with the notable exception of Germany) it applies only to the relationship between the European Union and its member states, for these stateless nations it also fully applies to their administrative relationship with their respective states. Thus, in Catalonia the process of European integration has raised expectations of higher levels of political power that are not being matched by reality. In fact, expressions such as "Europe of the regions," so often heard in Barcelona, are rarely used in Madrid. Because for virtually all state governments, the E.U. project is to be built on the existing nation-states and the transfer of political power to the regions should never undermine the pivotal role of these central governments. The development of the current European Convention, which is drafting an E.U. Constitution, appears to confirm such position. Plus ça change ...
Even though the E.U. nation-states are not willing to give more power to their regions in the name of the principle of subsidiarity, the process of elevating state responsibilities to the European supranational level is clearly undermining their own raison d'être. The Spanish state has given up its sovereignty in key areas such as trade policy, antitrust regulation, environmental legislation and - through the European Monetary Union - monetary policy. Today, the number of functions that it undertakes for Catalan citizens has significantly diminished. In this context, it is legitimate for Catalans to ask themselves whether the remaining attributes of the Spanish central government (e.g. fiscal policy) could not be better managed by the Catalan government, one closer to them, with greater knowledge of their needs. The evidence shown above in relation to the fiscal imbalance seems to indicate that Catalonia would be better off if it could undertake those directly itself.
The process of European integration also provides a significant argument for the independence of Catalonia, Flanders or Scotland: administrative efficiency. The maintenance of the state's intermediary role between the European and local powers results in higher transaction costs that hamper economic development. Particularly in federal or semi-federal states like Spain or Belgium, keeping a central state that has less and less to offer to its citizens is becoming more expensive to maintain and very complex to manage. Thus, secession appears as an economically desirable option because it would result in lower costs and complexity that would reduce the burden carried by the Catalan economy.
We have seen how the European Union is calling into question the existence of old centralized European states such as Spain. In this context, becoming a small less bureaucratic state within the European Union would result in increased economic efficiency. It would also be the best way for Catalan interests to be represented in the process of European construction - as opposed to being represented by a Spanish government that has repeatedly refrained from defending important Catalan interests (e.g. language official recognition). Finally, the European Union is de facto lowering the potential cost of independence by providing Catalonia with a free trade area, as well as saving the need to incur costs such as creating a new currency.

Final reflections

Unlike many nations in Europe that have flourished due to the creation of a nation-state, Catalonia exists despite a unitary and centralist Spanish state that has repeatedly tried to eliminate it as a separate cultural entity. In this context, the mainstream Catalan nationalist movement - in particular, since the end of Franco's dictatorship's attempt at linguistic genocide - has traditionally focused on cultural and linguistic promotion. At the same time, it has allowed a damaging fiscal relationship with Spain to develop that might have led to a civil uproar in other countries. Years of permanent centralism have atrophied the perception of reality of many Catalans, making them accept this administrative relationship as perfectly normal even when it goes against their interests. Today, culturally-focused policies are insufficient. Catalan politicians need to ensure the continuity of the culture and language, but they also need to inform Catalans openly that they are paying a high price to be part of a unitary Spanish state. They have to make all Catalan citizens aware of the fact that, in the name of a questionable solidarity, the current fiscal imbalance results in serious public under-investment that will hurt their economy. And, more importantly, they need to tell them that this is a problem that affects all Catalans equally: first-generation and tenth-generation Catalans; Catalan-speakers, Spanish-speakers and Arabic-speakers; employers and employees; men and women; students and retirees. It is urgent that Catalans realize that only with a new administrative structure can Catalonia be competitive in the international markets and guarantee better public services, modernization of its infrastructure, social cohesion and economic growth. Among all possible options, it is independence that makes more sense economically, particularly in the context of globalization and the European Union. Why? First, secession would guarantee that the existing unfair fiscal imbalance would be eliminated. Second, an independent Catalonia would result in a smaller more efficient public administration. Third, a Catalan state would still have access to international markets in a free-trade world. Finally, full independence would mean a direct voice in the international forums that so much influence their lives.
No referendum on the question of independence will be a fully rational exercise. Independence from Spain is not simply a matter of economics or administrative rationality. Identity issues, in Catalonia and elsewhere, are highly complex. Some might want to be part of Spain even with an unfair fiscal treatment; others might want independence even if the cost is high. However, this does not negate the fact that economically, independence would not only be viable, but also significantly advantageous. Catalans might want to vote from their pockets rather than from their hearts.

Combatent
Saturday, June 5th, 2004, 03:57 PM
There have been further developments on Spanish government decision at the inter-governmental conference (IGC) for recognition at the EU level of the official languages in Spain other than Spanish, that is Basque, Catalan and Galician. The aim is to give these languages a similar status to Irish. While European Parliament leader Pat Cox warmly welcomed the proposal in Catalonia yesterday, French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, warned against the “reopening of difficult issues”.

At the IGC, the body responsible for matters relating to the Draft Constitution, the Spanish Prime Minister presented to other state leaders the text named “Statute of Spanish state languages in the EU, other than Spanish”. It proposes that the future Constitutional treaty will be translated into Catalan, Galician and Basque, and that citizens will have the right to address the institutions, and receive information from them, in these languages.

If the proposal succeeds, upon unanimity of the European Council, these languages would then have official status, although they would not be working languages. The status they would gain would be at the discretion of each state’s government, making it similar, although not equal to, Irish.

Irish is not one of the 20 official EU languages but has been recognised as a special case. For example, the public can use it to correspond with European institutions.

The plan, from Spain's new government, headed by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, aims to add a clause to the EU's draft constitution allowing each member state to nominate the languages into which documents would be translated, at that state’s expense.

Presently there are already some reactions to the Spanish Prime Minister’s decision. The European Commission considers that this linguistic issue only concerns the member states, even if the European executive has in the past, to a certain extent, co-funded the translation of European treaties. The Commission has asked for a protocol to be attached to the Constitution saying that member states should provide help with the financial costs.

In addition, according to yesterday’s Catalan press, Mr. Michel Barnier, the French Foreign Minister and former EU commissioner, said that it was important to ‘avoid to re-opening difficult issues’ in the run-up to the final approval of the EU Constitution. Mr. Barnier asked for ‘prudence’ from EU member states when making proposals on EU linguistic rules. It suggests that France may prove to be an obstacle to future progressive language measures.

Meanwhile in Barcelona yesterday European Parliament President Pat Cox met Catalan President Ernest Benach and confirmed that Catalan should have EU official status if the Spanish Government agrees.

While Catalan, Basque and Galician have been put forward by the new Spanish government it is certain that other governments in Europe will face pressure to give the same rights to their minoritised languages. For example, there have already been calls for Welsh to have official status.

Gil
Friday, October 1st, 2004, 02:34 PM
Manvatara: Não, meu amigo castelhano, não li o artigo. Se eu compreendo espanhol espero que tu compreendas portugues... ;)

Combatent: I would never put in the same category the galicians the basques and the catalans simply because where Galicia and the Basque Country have completely different cultures who share some traits with their mother nation (spain), catalunya is simply a province who is a mix of french and spanish influences. I'm not discussing racial affinity since racially we the iberian peoples are very coherent (exceptions apart of course) but culturally, well, you can say that you have your own culture, that's fine mate, but that doesn't invalidate the right that Spain has over your land. After all , Navarra, Aragon, Galicia, etc, they were once independent regions (more or less) who simply could not resist the Castillian-Leonese might in the field of battle. Heck, even Portugal was (due to a dinastic cause) joined to Spain, sure, not as a province but as two kingdoms under one ruler and we later on regained our rightfull independence. What would catalunya be without spain, hum? A poor county dominated by the french and spanish....which after all would be worse then how you are now.

Cheers ;)

Riscus
Saturday, October 16th, 2004, 02:30 PM
I do NOT understand why this thread was entitled "Catalan, Basque and Galician Nationalism" if the topic is Catalonia.

I have noticed it is a trademark of many so called Catalan nationalists to speak for and about Basques and Gallegans when exposing their fantasies. Surpisingly, they feel qualified to do so. They also think that any Galician or Basque, for the mere fact of being Galician or Basque, should understand them and support them.

I cannot understand why someone should define himself as "extreme European nationalist" while having a strong anti-nationalist position in practice. If you want Europa to regenerate and unite, it is a contradiction to be a separatist. Is Spain not Europa? Can you disintegrate and integrate at the same time? Is it necessary to disintegrate Spain to be a Catalan or to regenerate Catalonia? Is the arm more than the body, the body more than the soul, the country more than the Empire? If you are not able to be yourself within Spain, do you think you would be worth and able to be in Europa? Letting aside historical fictions and marxist-liberal victimism, why do you feel yourself worth of greater enterprises if you are not even worth of Spain?

Please get rid of the adjective "Galician" off your thread's title if you or any Galician are not going to deal with Galicia, which in your case I doubt possible. Gallegans know how to speak by themselves.

My salutes

PS.- Your avatar is quite aggressive, for you're telling people out of their nation. I even think it is insulting and therefore I am not sure if it observes this forum's rules: even if you consider Spaniards another nation there is the rule not to insult other European nations. Some more thinking about integrative and integral Catalanism: http://www.lesclat.com/ (in Catalan)