In an age of economic uncertainty and social unrest a growing trend of populist nationalism has emerged among sectors of European nations who no longer feel connected to their parent countries socially, economically, and politically. Significant portions of populaces typically designated under one nationality have come to the conclusion that they should no longer be inclined to answer to a government they do not agree with; to pay taxes towards an institution that undermines them as a people and to get lumped in with a culture that improperly portrays their heritage. The incentives behind these pleas certainly embody the spirit and qualifications that would designate a sovereign nation but how would the creation of a new country really affect its fledgling citizens and how will Catalonia fit into the grander scheme of the European Union?
Beaming for Balkanization
The movement has been not-so-affectionately dubbed "Balkanization", and represents the efforts of nation-states all around the world who oppose the rule of the larger countries to which they belong. Originating from the division of the Balkan Peninsula, which at one point was ruled in its entirety under the singular Ottoman Empire, the term carries an intrinsically negative connotation precipitated by its association with the unrest and instability that has persisted in the area ever since the end of World War I. The term Balkanization is generally resented by present day independence movements who don't want to be associated with the likes of the late Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires and rightfully so; while history has seen a great amount of disillusionment and chaos in the midst of previous Balkanizations the process can also be viewed in a positive light.
The USA itself was born from an intense push for independence and decentralization of tyrannical governments is a key element in peaceful nation-building. While events like the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the former kingdom of Yugoslavia may have occurred in the midst of great turmoil most political scientists and average observers alike agree that the change was necessary in order to maintain some level of political stability. Modern day independence movements aim for cooperation between involved parties and the ideal behind Balkanization crusades remains establishing a better standard of living for all.
Catalonia Makes Itself Known
Following in the footsteps of Scotland's push for sovereignty from Great Britain, the Catalan province of Spain has been stepping up its drive for independence with increased resolve. The small but prosperous region of Catalonia, located in the Northeast corner of Spain, held an independence poll last Sunday on November 9, 2014 that posed two questions to citizens of the region: "Should Catalonia be a state?", and consequently, "Should the Catalan state be independent?" Over 37% of qualified voters turned out to the election and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence with 81% answering "yes" to both questions. Although the vote was not an official referendum mandated or approved by the national parliament in Spain's capital of Madrid, proponents of Catalonia's nationalism push have declared the results a great victory despite the lack of actual legal implications.
The Spanish government has met the Catalan independence poll with disdain, spurning it as a possibly unconstitutional sham and nothing more than a mock campaign of intended propaganda. While Catalans argue that they deserve to govern themselves, citing an unequal partnership wherein they contribute far more resources to the rest of Spain than they receive credit or reciprocation for, members of the Spanish parliament contend that the Catalonia's nationalism push is "selfish" and that the deeply indebted Catalonia would be unable to cope with the economic pressures that establishing a sovereign nation would entail. Despite the perceived difficulties, inhabitants of the Catalan region, which includes the key trade center of the city of Barcelona, insist upon their economic and cultural distinction from Spain.
What Would Catalan Independence Mean for Travelers?
Although the recent vote in Spain was not an official or legally binding proceeding the astounding turnout and staggering popular support of Catalan autonomy deem it a considerable milestone in the movement's progress. Scotland's recent referendum officially declaring its independence from Britain, which took place just a few months ago in September, serves as an inspiration for would-be nestling nations like Catalonia and the Scottish victory proves that achieving sovereignty is indeed possible. Catalan freedom fighters maintain that, if the region were to break off as its own international entity, there would be no reason why the newfound Catalan Republic would not remain in the European Union and Schengen Zone. Although a separate country would be formed, Catalans still would honor and respect their Spanish roots and the split would be a smooth democratic process with minimal conflict or international disruption. The vision, in summation, would mean very little to travelers looking to tour the country of Spain and more to the inhabitants of Barcelona and its surrounding areas who want to take control of their own locale's economic future.