Until today the discussion about Catalonia becoming a new State in Europe has been limited to two positions. On the Catalan side, being a part of Europe is essential to the project of pro-sovereignty. On the Spanish side, the Catalans’ hypothetical request for membership is merely met with threats of a veto and the assumption that they will see a forced return to the peseta.
The Catalan pro-independence movement has displayed its will to be a part of Europe in every way imaginable. This deeply-rooted Europeanist tradition has existed in Catalonia since the birth of the common market, but it is also firmly engrained in popular opinion and is something that all pro-sovereignty political parties share. It was not by chance that the slogan for the September 11th demonstration was “Catalonia, new European State.” It is also not by chance that majority support for an independent Catalonia hinges on it belonging to the European Union, as shown by a recent poll in La Vanguardia. In addition, it is important to mention the key role that the Catalan MEPs Romeva and Tremosa —and until recently, Junqueras— have played to bring our dispute to the attention of the European institutions. President Artur Mas himself has also determined that the meaning and the success of our process is due to constitutional Europeanism of our right to decide: we are seeking sovereignty to have our own voice in Europe, and not to talk to ourselves with an autistic soliloquy. We do not want our own borders: the borders of Europe are sufficient. And in case a trace of doubt still remained, President Mas speaks of interdependence not out of cowardice but because the emancipation project has less to do with ending dependence on Spain than beginning close ties with Europe and obtaining international recognition, which for now means having a State of our own.
There is not must to say about the threats coming from the Spanish side. Numerous experts have spent a great deal of time consistently pointing out the falsehoods. The debate over whether or not Catalonia can join the EU will not be resolved with treaties, which have no provisions for this kind of situation, but instead with politics. I will cite a few ideas here. First, we only have to look at how the reunification of Germany was carried out to see that in a few days politics can solve what treaties would take years to regulate. Second, as the MEP Ramon Tremosa mentioned recently, it would be difficult for a Spain that has been bailed out – legally or de facto— could unilaterally decide if it wants us in or out without considering Europe’s own opinion. Third, and quite significantly, up until now no European State has positioned itself unequivocally in favor of the unity of Spain: the criterion of not entering into internal affairs can both be used to not defend our process of emancipation as well as to not endorse the anti-democratic threats against the Catalans’ right to decide.
Lastly, it is curious that no one has speculated –in public, at least— about the two very different advantages that might come from Catalonia’s pro-sovereignty project. One would be that a Spain with a reduced population and GDP would facilitate a rebalancing of power in Europe that would favor certain countries and their internal policies. And two, within the same European Union and many of the multinationals in Catalonia, it might be helpful to have a Holland in southern Europe as a motor driving a change in economic mentality, without which the European project cannot advance.
Nonetheless, declarations of Europeanism and the game of favorable versus unfavorable advantages of our sovereignty project will not be enough to see us through all the difficulties that will come our way. Thus, I would suggest doing the following. Firstly, if Catalonia were to become a new State within Europe, not only would it cause very few problems for the EU, but it should also be seen as an example for solving the problems Europe already has. I believe that Catalonia, with the advantage of starting practically from scratch, could present itself to Europe with a State model that is closely tailored to the needs that tend to be very difficult for traditional States to accommodate. We should define State structures that will fit like a glove to the European project. In other words: so that the Republic of Catalonia can be seen as a model for the consolidation of the process of the building of Europe.
But, secondly, Catalonia should not just passively join the current EU, but instead it is essential that it should present itself to Europe with an advanced project of a United States of Europe. It is likely that it will not be able to do this on its own, but no one could refrain us from spearheading a plan that would be designed by the best of international experts. Being prepared to innovate, being unencumbered by the past, and presenting a track record free from private interests – who can do this better than a newly-formed State?
The feasibility of the project of a Catalan state depends less on the difficulties of the separation with the past than on the capacity to create ties that look to the future. Only those who look to the past speak of borders and divisions of a small scale. Those of us who look to the future speak of cooperation and participation in projects that unite us on a higher level. We must state it loud and clear: it is not that Catalonia wants to stay within Europe, it is that Catalonia would enrich Europe.