Friday, February 28, 2014
Catalonia and Ukraine: similarities and differences
Some days ago the speaker of the Catalan government had to backpedal because a report he had commissioned compared the secessionist movement in Catalonia with the protest movement in Ukraine that led to the fall of the Yanukovitch regime and to a very uncertain and volatile situation (that includes the use of violence and serious financial and monetary problems). The speaker Mr. Homs said that the report was quoted out of context and that the cases were very different. Indeed they are different, and the main difference is that Catalonia is part of a member state of the European Union and the euro zone, and it is thanks to this membership that peace, democracy and the rule of law are well anchored in Catalonia. However, there are similarities in the arguments used by some of the activists. In Ucraine, both the opposition to Yanukovitch and the opposition to the new revolutionary rulers use nationalist arguments like the "right to decide our own future" through a mixture of referenda and "democratic radicalism." Ukraine split from Russia through a referendum in 1991. The chronicles report that the country is divided between a pro-European west and a pro-Russian east, but I am sure than many people would like to live together and do not see these identities as incompatible (Russian and Ukranian are possibly as close as Catalan and Spanish). I am also sure that these peaceful people (the federalists?) are today silenced and ridiculed by radical groups who become more "central," although perhaps the peaceful are a silent majority. In the autonomous region of Crimea, a radical group took the Parliament building violently and proclaimed the right of Crimea to celebrate a referendum to become a state (with a concrete question and a fixed date, but without legal coverage, like the nationalists have done in Catalonia). How long will non-Russian minorities in Crimea wait until they proclaim their own "right to decide their future"? Either we build a united Europe, a big and diverse democracy using the words of Paul Krugman to distance himself from Scottish secessionists, or we keep fragmenting it so that it degenerates into a set of competing ethnocracies. It is just our membership in the European Union that makes it impossible that Catalonia and Spain fall into that. Let's hope it lasts and becomes even more integrated.