Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Cosmopolitanism: The Catalan Independence Process, the EU, and the Framework Convention for National Minorities

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Cosmopolitanism: The Catalan Independence Process, the EU, and the Framework Convention for National Minorities

Article excerpt


Public sentiments towards independence in Catalonia are arguably most forcefully expressed during the diada. This national Catalan holiday commemorates, each September 11th, Barcelona's surrender to the Spanish and French in 1714 and the end of an independent Catalonia. On the diada of 2013, some demonstrators brought a banner which showed their support for independence. The banner reads, in English, 'Catalonia - the next independent state in Europe.' With their English message, independence supporters are engaging in a cosmopolitan gesture, reaching out to the world at large and making their cause known globally. This new form of cosmopolitanism, expressed by a Western European national minority, the Catalans, is the focus of this article. I am interested in pursuing the concrete character and effects of such gestures of globality, with a particular eye towards transnational institutions. Concretely, I consider the relations of Catalans to two specific transnational entities, the Framework Convention for National Minorities (FCNM) and the European Union. I also consider what effects the Catalan (non-)relations to these entities have had on Catalan public discourses about independence and how these discourses have in turn influenced Catalan efforts to engage with these entities.

The relationship between Catalonia and the FCNM is one of missed encounters and opportunities; in a sense, this relationship is defined by its lack of relation. This is surprising, given the success of the Catalan minority; a success that is unique in several aspects. Catalans, as a minority, constitute an unusual case - among other things because of their highly successful language revitalization program (cf. Strubell and Foix 2011). Catalonia is also unique in Europe for achieving near-statehood- no other region, including Scotland, has come this far (Bourne 2014). The time might indeed have come to seriously consider the possibility of Catalonia breaking away from Spain, and the text at hand investigates some transnational aspects of how Catalonia and Spain have arrived at this point of impending divorce.

In discussing Catalonia, I contribute to scholarly debates about the future of minority rights as laid down in the Framework Convention on National Minorities (FCNM). I consider the following hypothesis: Catalonia's success in nearing independence might be due to the fact that it has not joined the FCNM. What possible lessons could be learned from this refusal for reconsidering the role of the FCNM in the changing political landscape of Europe? We may think especially of the ongoing crisis in the borderlands of Russia, immigration issues in Europe, or the growth of populist movements in Western democracies and elsewhere. All of these processes and events will impact the ways in which national minorities are perceived and treated and open or close possibilities for their own future agency.

To understand how Catalonia, specifically, is connected to these multifaceted processes, I explore some historical dimensions of the Catalan-Spanish conflict. Anderson, Hobsbawm, and others have shown extensively how minorities and nation states regularly employ history and traditions to legitimate their claims for national collectivity. History allows nation states and minorities alike to ground the longevity of the community in manifold events of a rich and, ideally, captivating and successful historical narrative (Anderson, 1991; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). In this reaching out into the past, Catalans, like most minorities, aim to root themselves within their own traditions, history, and territory (cf. Crameri 2014). Many Catalans reach out to further the world's understanding of their cause but Catalans are equally invested in linking their local traditions to these global activities.

In what follows, I investigate the role transnational organizations such as the EU and minority protection mechanisms like the FCNM play in this context. …

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