“Catalonia’s way in Europe” a discussion, 25.05.2016 in Salzburg:
“The independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland are pro-European movements, even if independence means splitting-up from an EU member state,” said Jordi Solé, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the European Union of the Regional Government of Catalonia. Politicians and scientists have discussed the current situation of Catalonia in Spain and in the EU at a panel discussion on ” Catalonia’ way in Europe “, which was organized by the IRE on 25 May 2016 in the International Salzburg Association in Salzburg.
“The roots of the current independence movements in Europe are extremely complex and difficult to compare to one another. There are diverse ethnic, geographical, religious, historical, economic and linguistic reasons,” explained IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger. “The formation of new states in Europe is certainly nothing new for the 21st century. But increasing globalization, internationalization and, thus, the anonymization of the labor markets and economic relations causes a greater and stronger identification with the home region. In the past states have separated and unified. Europe has seen disintegrated states and empires in the last 150 years; many new, small states have emerged.”
The turning point for Catalonia was in 2006 when citizens have adopted the new Statute of Autonomy (with 74%) in a referendum. However, the decision of the Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid on 28 June 2010 brought no progress for the Catalan government, and even put it one step back. This and the lack of alternative proposals from Madrid were the trigger for increased independence movements in the past 10 years. In a non-binding public consultation on 9 November 2014, a large majority of 80.1% has voted for independence of Catalonia from Spain.
The refusal of negotiations of Madrid and the reinforced centralization pressure led to the belief that an independent state is the best for the citizens of Catalonia. An additional problem is the current absence of a full-functioning government in Spain. Since the last parliamentary elections in December 2015, no new government has been established, so that no calls can be made. New elections for the Spanish Parliament are scheduled for June 2016.
But talks with Madrid would not only include fiscal reforms, said Solé. The Catalan government is planning elections in 2017 to legitimize independence by a parliamentary majority, and by then prepare a plan for their own state including a constitution. The goal is to transform the region with 7.5 million inhabitants into an independent state by mid-2017.
Krystyna Schreiber is a German author and journalist and has been working on the independence movement in Catalonia for the past years. In her book “Die Übersetzung der Unabhängigkeit” she interviewed several personalities from Europe on this subject. In her research she found that independence movements are an European issue and not only a national or bilateral problem. Dr. Kai-Olaf Lang from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, German Institute for International Politics and Security, supports this idea and noted that independence movements have become a question of European domestic policy, which the EU must begin to deal with. A creative concept must be worked out because chances are high that Catalonia´s efforts will lead to further independence movements throughout Europe.
The region of Catalonia has already established contacts abroad and has opened an office in Vienna in June 2015. Austria is a very important location for Catalonia in order to have a representation in Central Europe and to build relationships with these countries, explained head of the office Adam Casals. The office functions as a Chamber of Commerce to expand business contacts with investors.