Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo problem

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It smacks of rank hypocrisy for the British [who went to war to reinforce sovereignty over the Falkland Islands] to be denouncing the Serbs for merely threatening to go to war to reinforce sovereignty over Kosovo…

Kosovo embodies as much historical, cultural and religious significance for Serbs as Mecca holds for Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated right within Serbia’s universally recognized borders; i.e. not thousands of (imperial) miles away [as the Falklands are from Britain].

(“Kosovo: Wither Serbia’s Alamo,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2007)

This, in part, is how I criticized the double standard the United States and Europe were imposing on Serbia – not just by supporting, but by actually facilitating Kosovo’s independence. I was convinced that these Western powers were setting a precedent that would come home to roost (everywhere from Quebec to Cyprus). Now it has.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the Catalan region of Spain (Catalonia) emulated their counterparts in the Kosovo region of Serbia by voting to hold a referendum on independence.  It is noteworthy that three weeks of streets protests prompted this legislative move.

Except that a “Yes” vote in Kosovo was guaranteed. It is not in Catalonia. Frankly, Catalans seem more interested in escaping the  austerity measures (a.k.a. economic oppression) that have Greeks protesting in the streets than in gaining independence..

Generations-old grievances for more self-government and recognition of their culture are rising to the surface as the economic downturn bites…

Spain’s slump, which has led to a spike in unemployment and harsh austerity cuts, has proven to be the tipping point for many Catalans who used to be against or ambivalent about seeking their own state.

(Associated Press, September 30, 2012)

The real issue, though, is whether Western powers will support and facilitate independence for Catalonia the way they did for Kosovo. After all, Catalonia has an equally compelling case for independence. What’s more, its non-violent means stands in commendable and instructive contrast to the violence that attended Kosovo independence.

Not to mention how this Catalan movement stands in contrast to the more infamous, and perhaps more relevant, example its sister region of Basque set. It, you may recall, engaged in a decades-long (futile) struggle for independence – complete with ETA terrorists doing throughout Spain back then what Taliban terrorists are doing throughout Afghanistan today.

But the vested interest in holding Spain together (economically and politically) is such that, even if Catalonia were to vote “Yes,” Western powers would surely conspire to nullify it. Which brings me back to the double standard Kosovo represents.

Because, just as Serbia argued that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was illegal/unconstitutional, Spain is arguing that a vote for independence by Catalonia is illegal/unconstitutional. Yet, where Western powers rejected and undermined Serbia’s argument, they will undoubtedly embrace and champion Spain’s.

Notwithstanding this overweening double standard, however, Catalans themselves must know that their non-violent movement stands even less of a chance of leading to independence than the Basques’ violent movement. Nevertheless,  ‘autonomous’ regions in other countries – among them Iraq’s Kurdistan, Italy’s South Tyrol, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon, even China’s Uyghur – are bound to tempt fate (for political, cultural and/or economic reasons) by following the powder-keg precedent Kosovo set.

Related commentaries:
Kosovo

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