Living in Spain does give you a different perspective. The Ukraine situation dominates TV and radio news here, as elsewhere, yet in this country the main concern seems to be the ridiculous plebiscite held in the Crimea: a vote where maintaining the status quo was not even an option. And why should that be of such interest? Because in this crazy vote the Catalan separatists see an opportunity to push their obsession: an independent Catalonia. This sideshow serves to deflect attention from the real issues in the world at large where Putin’s Russia seems to be challenging the west to step up or shut up. Meanwhile, in the background Spain possesses a number of semi-autonomous ‘states’, the Basque Country amongst them, waiting on the side lines and watching the Catalonia/Crimea story with great interest. The Spanish Prime Minister has even felt it necessary to point out that Spain is not Russia, which we all knew because Russians wear funny hats (don’t they?)
I am no expert on Spanish politics, but did observe the delight with which my (sort of) son-in-law greeted the news of the Scottish independence vote. Previously he had maintained that the Catalans, of which he is one, did not require independence; they merely wanted to be like Scotland - whatever that meant to him. Now that the Scots are going to get a vote on independence, the Catalans want that too. Whichever way the Scottish vote goes, and it is, of course, a legal vote with two contrasting choices, the Catalans and other separatists in Spain’s loosely coupled democracy will use it to bellow their ‘nationalistic’ fires.
Catalonia is on the east side of northern Spain, bordering the Med (e.g. the Costa Brava), and its capital is Barcelona. Here the natives do not wear funny hats: sombreros are solely for sale to English tourists. An independence vote is planned there for November and this is an illegal one in the sense that, in contrast to the UK and Scotland, the democratically elected central government have not agreed to it and therefore would not recognise a ‘yes’ result. Nor, I’m told, would the EU, including, no doubt, the UK.
By the way, as a bit of background, besides the usual chauvinism fuelling the Catalan separatists cause (food, music, language, history, poetry, etc) there is a rather selfish economic argument too. Catalonia, with a large slice of industry located there, is one of the richest ‘states’ in Spain: separatists want the largess this provides for themselves, rather than subsidising the predominantly agrarian economy of, say, Galicia.
I expect it’s pretty obvious that I am generally against separatism. I do not think that nationalist zeal is good for global peace, nor that is good for the separated and it is certainly unlikely to achieve their dreams (except those of the separatist rulers), furthermore, where does it all end – should the rich South-East of England separate from the poorer parts?
I have a particular and personal interest in the Catalonian situation. In Spain, we live in Aragón, just on the edge where it joins Catalonia. And within that frontier area, we live in Matarraña which is mostly Catalan speaking. It is just possible that we could, in some variant of the future, become part of a “Free Catalonia”, where the local children would have to be taught in Catalan and all official correspondence would be in that language. So, having spent fifteen years or so trying (not too successfully) to learn Spain I would have to start again with Catalan. Phew!