Tensions are high in Spain as Catalonia’s fight for independence rages on. The rumblings for an independent Catalonia have been brought to the forefront of the world’s attention after the landslide victory for the Yes voters in the controversial referendum on the first of this month. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has made some tentative moves towards declaring independence, but the effects have been suspended to allow for a dialogue to be established with prime minister Mariano Rajoy.
This isn’t looking likely as Rajoy is maintaining the position that the referendum is illegal so there’s nothing to discuss. Èric Lluent, a freelance journalist from Catalonia living in Reykjavík supports a legal referendum. He says that he’s “quite moderate” on whether Catalonia should be independent, but thinks it’s most important to focus on the improvement of democracy behind this movement.
“75% of Catalans want to decide on this matter,” says Èric. “They’re not all supporting an independence of Catalonia. The most important movement is supporting the referendum—the right to decide.”
Èric is not a Catalan separatist as such, but is critical of the current Spanish constitution. “The referendum is illegal because of the law. But the law was passed under the Constitution of Spain in 1978, which was written mainly by former members of the dictatorship.”
He feels that this constitution is not compatible with a truly democratic society. “The idea of Spanish nationalism is that everybody in Spain feels Spanish, speaking Spanish and so on,” he says. “They do not realise that Catalonia is quite different—different literature, different history, different way of thinking about politics. It is not open minded. Does an Icelander feel Danish?”
But Óttar M. Norðfjörd, an Icelandic writer living in Barcelona, says he thinks that Catalonia should stay with Spain. “This story has so many angles,” he says. “I think everyone benefits from the region staying with Spain. But I’m not Catalan and I come from a country which got independence 70 years ago. So I understand what is happening.”
Still, the uncertainty that a split might bring about is a worry for Óttar. He expresses concern that the financial security of Spain and Catalonia could be compromised and that Catalonia would become isolated. “In our more industrialised world, agricultural regions are way poorer. I feel that countries should stick together to distribute the wealth equally,” says Óttar. “I think if Catalonia left Spain, prices would go up and companies would leave. I think people will also leave and some kind of brain drain might even happen. What makes Catalonia and Barcelona a city I love is all the opposites that come together there.”
Moving forward from here
Now, we must wait for the outcome. For Éric, the best scenario would be consent for a legal referendum, but he isn’t hopeful. “The Spanish government will take over. There’ll be new elections and we’ll wind up at the starting point again,” he reflects.
“Our only option is international support from democratic countries supporting a legal referendum. This should be an issue for every democratic European country—there is a group of the population that wants to vote and this is not legal.” He concludes, “If we do not get the support from abroad, nothing will happen.”