Catalan Independence Bid Raises Spectre of Civil War

Regional elections in Catalonia have returned a majority for separatist parties favouring a break with Spain. Since becoming embroiled in the economic crisis gripping Spain, and perceiving an unfair levy of taxes and austerity measures being forced upon their region by Madrid, many Catalans have called for independence. Whilst hoping for a peaceful referendum sanctioned by Madrid, some Catalans are prepared for the prospect of armed struggle to break free of the bonds of austerity.

Will we one day see this flag in the EU?

Indeed, some now see this as the only possibility for an independent Catalonia and there are also those within the armed forces not opposed to crushing the separatist movement through violent means. Mariano Rajoy’s government is almost certainly going to reject any formal claim for independence, especially given that Catalonia is one of the few regions of Spain experiencing economic growth and an inkling of renewed prosperity.

The prospect of armed conflict arising over the Catalonia issue seems distant, yet it is concerning nonetheless. The last time Spaniards turned on each other was during the Civil War of 1936-1939, during which over half a million people are likely to have perished. Catalan separatists have shown themselves willing to adopt violent methods in the past. The left-wing Terra Lliure organisation launched sporadic terrorist attacks during the 1980s and fears of an underground militant movement similar to the Basque separatists ETA gives cause for concern.

Perhaps just as significantly, the Catalan separatist movement is far from united. The centre-right party of Catalan President Artur Mas (Catalan nationalist coalition) is at loggerheads with the left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which has increased its representation in the Catalan Assembly. Memories of the Civil War, when not only did Republicans and Nationalists stand opposed but each side was riven with internal factions and dissent, loom large. Should the unthinkable happen and an armed separatist movement emerge, will the Catalans unite amongst themselves? Similarly, what would a “Spanish” response entail, given the general regional differences in culture, language and lifestyle?

Horrific memories of the Spanish Civil War should dissuade both sides from militarising the Catalan issue

As long as the Catalan issue is not militarised via unwise terrorist attacks or unnecessary intervention by the armed forces then there will be no immediate reason to fear conflict. However, given Spanish history and the turmoil of the Civil War, which was exacerbated by regional disunity and economic crisis, the sooner the issue is resolved peacefully the easier Europe will breathe.

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Morsi Powers Insult Egyptian “Spring”

Now that Mohammed Morsi’s presidential decisions can no longer be revoked by any authority, what is to stop Egypt from returning to the authoritarian days of the Hosni Mubarak regime? How has this been allowed to happen when so many thousands of people protested exhaustingly – several hundred giving their lives in the process – to help create a more democratic society in Egypt?

The “Egyptian Spring” garnered widespread support for political change

Morsi will no doubt use the same justification for his powers that Mubarak historically did; that a strong president can bring stability for the population. But this argument can no longer hold. Egyptian society is not stable. Many people campaigned for political and social freedoms that they thought would arrive after the fall of Mubarak. All they have received are empty promises, military repression and unrelenting violence. The angry response to the unveiling of Morsi’s new powers reveals how politically mobilised Egyptian society has become. People are fearless; they are accustomed to instability.

Therefore, why should Morsi’s claims that he is the guardian of stability matter? Even if he were to return stability to Egypt, it would be the same kind of tense stability that existed during the Mubarak years, one which encompassed little political or social freedom. The Egyptian people have almost unanimously vetoed this status. More worryingly, Morsi’s insistence that he is leading his country on a path to “freedom and democracy” is likely to be incendiary rather than relieving. Quite simply, all his actions since coming to office democratically have been undemocratic. He has strengthened his own position at the expense of the legislature, illegally removed potential opponents to his authority such as Mohamad Tantawi ¬†and Sami Anan, whilst simultaneously undermining religious minorities by associating himself with a searing brand of Islam that is far from democratic.

It is to be hoped that Morsi’s decisions are driven by the desire to establish a solid power base from which he can enact his democratic promises. The likelihood is, however, far more sinister. One thing is for sure. If Morsi reneges on his promises and attempts to kill the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, its proponents will let him know with all their might.