Catalonian Crackup; Troubles in Spain Highlight Value of Decentralized Government

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 4, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Catalonian Crackup; Troubles in Spain Highlight Value of Decentralized Government


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Spain is on the verge of splintering. The eurozone's fourth-largest economy is in the midst of a severe crisis. Unemployment exceeds 25 percent, and the country's massive debt threatens to bring about a Greece-style default. Madrid can now add the specter of secession to its list of woes.Recent local elections in Catalonia have given a major boost to the Spanish region's growing independence movement. The Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which champions social democracy and a sovereign Catalonian state, more than doubled its number of deputies to 21 in Catalonia's 135-seat assembly. The pro-separatist Catalan premier, Artur Mas, and his Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition did worse than expected, but the party's 50 seats become a majority when joined with the ERC. Mr. Mas is a fiscal conservative and government reformer. The CiU and the ERC differ on almost every key issue, except for one: breaking away from Spain.Mr. Mas has pledged to hold a referendum on Catalan independence within the next several years. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has made it clear that Barcelona will not be allowed to secede without Madrid's approval. Even if a majority of Catalans vote yes, Mr. Rajoy vows that Spain's parliament will block it. From Madrid's point of view, Catalan secession could encourage other restive regions - the Basque country and Galicia - to follow. Spain could potentially break up into several entities, causing economic chaos and ethnic conflict.For Madrid and Brussels, however, there is a deeper problem: The eurozone's debt crisis and severe recession are pushing wealthier regions - like Catalonia - to reject subsidizing poorer, less developed ones.

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