Cataluña, with its great port of Barcelona as the hub, has always been a region (or community) known for diligence, hard work, initiative and brains. It used to form part of the Kingdom of Aragon, and was once a Roman colony; invaded by the Visigoths in the 5th century, it became independent under the Condes de Barcelona from around 874 a.d. Marriage alliances typical of the epoch united Cataluña to Aragon in 1137, and to Castilla in 1479.
Catalans are natural rebels, and did not find to odd to appeal to the French for help against the rest of Spain in the seventeenth century. The result was a Gallic invasion from 1689 to 1697. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) Cataluña sided with the Austrian candidate, which led to losses of privilege under the Borbón kings of Spain.
It was hardly a surprise when the region rooted for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, some time after which an autonomous government was re-established in the area. Throughout Franco’s forty years in power it was equally not a surprise that Cataluña remained a centre of relentless opposition.
For the rest of Spain, mention of Cataluña brings pursed lips and a sigh. Whereas the Basque Country has ETA in all its political institutions, robbing its citizens and killing them too, Cataluña has its language, which is placed above Spanish in all walks of life, though every Catalan speaks perfect Spanish and very possibly, a fractured Catalan. Forms of Catalan are spoken in Cataluña, Andorra, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. For the English reader, try to imagine the Cornish insisting on the paramountcy of the Cornish language in school, university, courtroom, post office, radio/ TV, rural/urban district council, and Parliament. Here each MP has a plug in the ear running instantanteous translation of Cornish and English to the other, though every MP is fluent in both.
The Community is governed by staunchly independent political parties. These ensure that Catalan is used in the police courts and tribunals, that Catalan is the main language taught in school, institute and university, though the official European view in both Brussels and Strasbourg is that Catalan is merely – I will whisper the words – ‘a dialect of Castellano’. This will bring trouble heaped on our head, but listen to a politician like Artur Mas speaking in public. I guarantee at least half his monologue (Mas is fond of monologues) is in pure Spanish, leaving secondary verbs, adjectives, modifiers, and colloquial expressions to the mercy of Catalan.
Cataluña claims total independence from Spain every day in the calendar. If only the ‘government’ of Rodríguez Z. and Pérez R. would agree to a referendum to be held in SPAIN, not in Cataluña. Then we might learn something worth hearing. The Spanish people know full well how valuable it would be for Cataluña to secede, declare unilateral independence, create their own Republic – call it what you will. An independent Cataluña could be like Tunis or Morocco. She would have to apply for membership of the EU, having proved that she has all the requirements. I am sure she has, but the application would take light years to expedite. Meanwhile, Cataluña must invent her own currency (the ‘Cato’?), dismissing the euro from banks and pocket. Unless you are Great Britain, you cannot be a EU member without embracing the single currency. Britain is a special case however: even after ninety years of socialism she remains more important in the world’s view than Cataluña.
Spain could close her frontiers with Cataluña and open doors only where Customs Laws dominate. It would also amuse some people that in order to earn her partnership in the EU, Cataluña would have to solicit the help of Spain! Now that is funny, since Catalan leaders do little else except offend and insult Spain. And they do it in Spanish too. Spaniards could keep Cataluña out of the Union for as long as De Gaulle’s France kept Britain out.
I cannot see much difference occurring in the matter of Spanish exiles living and working in Cataluña, now or after unilateral independence. As it is, Spanish nationals living there have to accept that their children’s education will be in Catalan first, Spanish second. If they want to start a business, they must do it in Catalan. If they need a sign outside a shop telling potential clients it sells bread, the sign must be in Catalan. If they commit a crime, they must be defended in Catalan, by a Catalan. If they have the remarkable luck to become an MP, they must address parliament in Catalan. They will receive notice of speeding fines in Catalan, and they will be charged for their water, gas and electricity in Catalan. Some banks insist on transactions being made in Catalan, including the paying in or drawing out of cash.
Well, after independence, any Catalan who wishes to keep his Spanish ID for some reason must prove ownership or rental of a property in Spain. He must also prove he pays taxes in Spain. As he will undoubtedly be paying full taxes in Cataluña, this might prove unpopular. The same applies to his Spanish driving licence and his national insurance card. Spain must also insist on an official entry Visa every time the Catalan wants to cross the border into Spain for a visit.
Spain, on the other hand, will be laughing. She will no longer have to finance Catalan social security, pensions, unemployment and pregnancy benefits. Nor will Spain have to support the millions of immigrants who have already taken up shaky residence in Cataluña. These multiply by the week.
All Catalan companies/individuals with investments in purely Spanish businesses will have to return, sell or give away their shares, as they are not members of the EU. Spain could (if she wished) ‘nationalize’ the shares at will. That would set the Cat among the pichones all right.
After independence, the Spanish people would no longer have to pay (through taxes) the salaries and expenses of numerous Catalan MPs and Senators, who spend their time anyway deprecating the Spanish. These politicians would have to finance their own flights to Madrid, being a foreign capital, and finance their stay in Madrid hotels, and finance their own food and wine. If they own a bodyguard, he must be financed by the eminence he guards. If he travels by car, bus or train the Catalan must finance his own journey Let us pray it is worth it. The luxury years of allowing the Spanish taxpayer to finance everything will be over.
In Madrid’s Congress, the Spanish people can save a lot because those expensive instantaneous translators can take themselves off somewhere else. Then we can be spared the ludicrous vision of a fellow from Andalucía who is also President of Cataluña conversing in public with a Spanish gentleman. Both have translation plugs firmly placed in the ear. Please do not laugh so violently – you might do yourself a mischief.
In Barcelona and other major cities, those flamboyantly uniformed Mozos de Escuadra can, after independence, be paid by Cataluña – not the Spanish taxpayer. No, they are at present not paid by the Generalitad but by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, didn’t you know? It is the same with the Guardia Civil and the National Police incidentally, but perhaps the reader did not know that either.
It strikes me that Spanish rivers could, after Cataluña’s independence, be suitably diverted so that vast, dry Spanish plains can be irrigated by Spanish water. At present Spanish water is diverted into Cataluña, and whenever the Spanish ask for their water back, permission is denied.
And now Cava, which is champagne only we must not call it that. Exportation from independent Cataluña might well remain the same as now, in that 80% of Cava produced in Cataluña is sold in Spain. After independence Cataluña will have to pay export taxes on her principal product, and Spaniards will have to pay import duties, which will hike up the prices in Spain, perhaps causing a huge drop in sales. The Spanish might as well drink the always excellent cider from Asturias, much cheaper and less alcoholic.
And now futbol: Barcelona has a miraculous football team called Barça. After independence, those very expensive players might find life on the field a trifle boring, as their new League can only produce the the boots and shorts from Nastic, or Reus or Sabadell. Perhaps the Catalans can apply to play within the Spanish League table, but they will have to pay of course. Barcelona might see (after independence) athletic and very rich young gentlemen called Messi, Pujol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedrito (actually from the Canary Islands, but that’s Spain too) etc. leaving to play elsewhere where there is more competition. Of course the pay won’t be the same, but will Barça itself be the same after independence?
Finally, full independence for Cataluña will liberate the Spanish people from a community which has no appreciation for them, hold feelings only for their own, think of the Spanish as a collection of nerds stupid enough to finance Catalan excesses through their taxes, and prefer speaking Spanish to Catalan.
I raise my glass of cava to an imminent Referendum! Let us pray the Catalans will not have second thoughts and decide, like Fagin, to think it out again.