(Dis)Integration?

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Why Catalan nationalism and European policies are so close

 

There is an odd relationship between Catalan nationalism and the latest European policies, especially those concerning the distribution of migrants among the EU member states. Proud of its own identity, Catalonia is not only one of the most industrialized regions of Spain, but also one of the most independent-minded. This has produced different and contrasting spirits all over the region. Firstly, European economic and humanitarian crises have suddenly generated a renovated willingness in the separatists’ hearts, who now think of renewing their claims of independence in order to free Catalonia from Spain’s corrupted politics. Secondly, on the other hand, the uncertain European policies about the managing of the regional financial system and the unresolved issue of immigration have brought Catalans to react in a more bustling way. That is to say: while countries like Hungary are using every possible means to obstruct the arrival of refugees from war zones and other distressed zones around the world, Catalonia is positing itself as one of the most welcoming regions in Europe.

The European Commission has submitted a proposal to find a fairer way of admitting and distributing asylum seekers in the EU. Despite this, it is up to the member states to decide, and many do not accept the proposed distribution of migrants. To give a clearer illustration, the Spanish government has initially rejected the Commission’s proposal to place refugees on its territory, yet Catalonia did not do that. As unbelievable as it sounds, this has created a paradox. On the one hand, Catalan separatists are harshly criticizing the EU’s economic policies for managing the crisis and their interference in national politics. On the other hand, they are proving to be the most enthusiastic supporters of an issue as debated as migrant integration.

Nevertheless there are few doubts: the Catalan path towards independence passes through the output from the European Union. Generalitat‘s leader, president Artur Màs, said so after the regional elections of 27th September. Catalan separatists repeated this slogan as a successful sign of a new political unrest in Catalonia. This way, contradictions appear more explicable by using a deeper level of analysis.

In other words, we cannot underestimate the strong Catalan-centrism of those living in the northeast corner of Spain. Each political issue seems to stem from their hearts, and every political debate is steeped with passion. When referring to Catalonia, every man, woman or child seems to make this feeling real with the enthusiasm that he or she transmits. This is nothing short of the passion shown by the fans at Camp Nou, when Barcelona play their football matches. In political terms, everyone should perfectly understand that even the adoption of unpopular EU policies in Spain could be considered as a way of emphasizing Catalonia as a good example of a welcoming “country” in front of the international community. Even Barcelona Football Club supported humanitarian campaigns in the managing of migrants.

All things considered, the relation between Catalan nationalism and EU humanitarian policies seems less odd than appearances might suggest. The aftermath of this relationship is as unpredictable for the Catalan people as for the European Union. The latter is heavily affected by a series of humanitarian emergencies that are compromising the original goals of the organization. The mistrust between some European member states certainly doesn’t help. And this is why the EU should look at the example Catalonia is setting with much interest, as it could prove the only possible solution for the never-ending flow of migrants towards the old continent.

twitta@LolloNicolao