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Catalan Independence: Covid-19 the latest chapter in saga

Written by on 5 mai 2020

For most experts the Catalan independence push was a movement that was losing momentum. A turbulent 2019 saw nine of the independence leaders given jail sentences of as high as 13 years. However, for Dominic Keown, professor of Catalan studies at the University of Cambridge, Spain’s poor handling of the crisis may yet give a breath of new life to the independence movement. 

<< The Spanish central authorities have done themselves no favours in this. Their dreadful handling of the situation can only be a political weapon which will be used by dissident political groupings. I have always been convinced that Catalan independence, if it comes about, will owe as much to bundling in Madrid as to good political leadership in Catalonia. >>

But for Professor Keown, pressure that will come from outside Spain, particularly the European justice system, is far more powerful. 

“The best way to do it is just to say “we would have done things better.” I think the Catalans would do well to keep this quiet as well – I think they have better areas to fight their own political battles. However, if the Spanish government does go there, then I think this is an area which, I wouldn’t say could kickstart the independence recovery but I think the independence recovery will continue because of the international pressure which will be heaped on the Spanish government from the justice system in Europe.”

One issue that remains, the potential invocation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. If invoked, this would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, giving total control to the central government. Professor Keown believes this approach is far more likely than the respective governments taking to the negotiation table. 

“155 is just returning again and again. Spanish centralism is getting used to rein in any independentist aspirations. Negotiation pays dividends and solves problems, confrontation doesn’t. 155, the confrontational approach, I think is the one that Spanish centralism is going to revert to. This is the way it behaves.”

A reinvigoration of the independence movement remains to be realised, but the coronavirus crisis is no doubt the latest complication in an already very complicated series of event.

“You might say that independence won’t happen, but the problem of independence will remain until a negotiated settlement.”


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