Wake-up Call. The politicians are leading Catalonia into international isolation and political suicide.

Many inhabitants of Catalonia do not consider themselves merely part of a region but an independent nation that has no state of its own. As a foreign observer living in Barcelona, I have followed closely the inflation of the nationalistic movement in Catalonia.

ship of fools
Ship of Fools painting by Hieronymus Bosch

During the last 10 years I have seen how the movement has transformed into an adventure cruise on a “ship of fools”. There is an unpopular captain, who is a little deaf and has similar infirmity in strategical sight. The sailors are quarrelling with one and other about the steering. Finally the passengers are getting fed up with the situation and are in a state of mutiny.

As a Finnish citizen I understand the meaning of nationalism and independence. Just like the Catalan nationalists, I know how it feels to belong to a small stubborn nation. But I also understand what it takes to build an independent state.

Building an independent and internationally recognised country is difficult and dangerous business. To be successful, a territory needs charismatic leaders who are supported by patriots and a clear majority of nationalistic followers. Nations come into being through the unification of people within the state so that they remain politically stable and viable in the long run. Legitimate authority in modern national states is bound to popular rule and to clear majority.

In my opinion Catalan politicians have failed especially in the nation-building process in their territory. But still the Catalan government is closing their eyes in the fact that their time has run out and that they are leading their territory into a political dead-end and a major crisis.

The problem in Catalonia is that there are not enough nationalists and no true patriots.

Nationalism is a hollow statement in Catalonia. According to most opinion polls, the Catalan population is divided fifty-fifty for and against the independence. It seems that the Catalan independence movement was created by rulers in order to rule the ruled and not by the people.

The whole independence adventure is failing because the weak and negligent rulers can’t make the nationalistic community in Catalonia bigger, stronger and closer together. After years of failed nation-building the nationalists have fallen short to get a clear majority for independence.

Four Colums

One of the reasons for this failure is linked to an acute lack of true patriots. Successful nations need true heroes willing to carry weapons, protect the power and defend the territorial interests with their lives if necessary. You also need patriotic politicians who are ready to go to jail or even stop eating for their nationalistic beliefs. It’s essential that the followers admire and love their leaders. A great leader is also respected by the opposition. It is the only way to get independent.

Here in Catalonia even the nationalists themselves don’t seem to admire their own leaders. There are even doubts of who’s really in charge – who’s the real king of the jungle. Without true patriots and charismatic leaders the independence movement has no real power.

Many people believe that getting a country independent is as simple as casting a vote. If you are one of those people, wake up. There is too much money and too many business interests at stake. A respected state needs an army of well-trained soldiers (patriots or mercenaries) able to protect the wealth and interests of a country in all possible situations. If a country cannot protect their wealth, there are plenty of pirates who will take their share of it. Catalonia has only 17 000 Mossos (Catalan police officers) and it is not enough to protect a state of 7.5 million people.

We are sucked into a big mess…

As the unilateral and illegal referendum (according to Spanish government) is imminent, I can’t help but wonder at the mess we will be sucked into.

Firstly, I am really amazed by a surprising lack of information about the economic costs in remaining part of Spain and the potential economic benefits of independence. The only manifest that I hear every day is the “religious” argument of a democratic “right” to vote. I have to ask myself: for what are we exactly voting? Is the referendum legal? I have lived in Barcelona for more than 10 years… What’s in it for me?  Should I vote? Can I vote?

Secondly, I am more than surprised by the utopian formula that the Catalan government has chosen. They are forcing us to follow them to political suicide. The Catalan government is totally alone with the referendum. They really seem to have faith that after winning a unilateral referendum they hold the authority to declare Catalonia independent without a friendly agreement with the Spanish government or the international community.

They don’t seem to understand, that no country in the European Union or in the international community is supporting them. The international community consider the Catalan independence movement as an internal issue of Spain. But still, despite the nonexistent support, the Catalan government is going on with the adventure and threatening Spain with a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Catalonia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence

If the Spanish government fails to stop the referendum in Catalonia, and should the referendum result support independence, the only option for the Catalan government is unilateral declaration of independence.

The history of modern politics doesn’t have many examples of countries making a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. As a matter of fact there are 23 cases, from which only 10 countries succeeded in their declaration and gained international recognition.

What these 10 successful countries (U.S.A 1776, Philippines 1898, Albania 1912, Irish Republic 1919, Egypt 1922, Bangladesh 1971, Palestine 1988, Croatia 1991, Slovenia 1991 and Kosovo 2008 ‘partial’) have in common is that all of them have gained their independence through war or armed resistance.

Three of the territories have returned to their old rulers (Katanga to Republic of Congo 1960, Anguilla to U.K. 1967, Biafra to Nigeria 1967). Rhodesia had to rename their state and change their government to gain international recognition (renamed Zimbabwe in 1980). Finally the rest have become failed states without international recognition (Cabinada 1975, Northern Cyprus 1983, Transnistria 1990, Somaliland 1991, Republic of Ichkeria 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh 1991, South Ossetia 1991, Abkhazia 1991 and Crimea 2014)

The day when Catalonia becomes a failed state.

After Party

So what would happen if the referendum planned for October 1st 2017 is a clear win for the independence movement?

According to the Catalan government, after winning the referendum, the administration  is ready to go “all the way”. Without a friendly agreement with the Spanish government, they will declare Catalonia unilaterally independent. The administration will also abandon loyalty to the King of Spain if it declares itself a republic.

A Unilateral Declaration of Independence is going to be the most probable outcome. The Spanish government has continuously stated that it considers a unilateral referendum as non-constitutional and therefore illegal. After the unilateral referendum the Spanish government will not negotiate with the “independent” Catalans.

According to the traditions of international relations, without a friendly succession from Spain, no independent country will recognize Catalonia as an independent state. Also the European Union, the NATO and the United Nations will condemn Catalonia.

From day one after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, the Catalan government will have to face economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Amid complete isolation, Catalonia will become an unrecognized failed state facing an imminent economic crisis and political catastrophe.

Considering that no foreign state and no international institution will recognize the Unilaterally independent Catalonia, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia would be the only institution who could declare the post-Unilateral Declaration of Independence government legal and de jure. If the Spanish government lets this political charade continue this far, this is the moment when the independence movement hits the rocks. The members of the High Court are judges and not true patriots. They will not let this show continue any further.

The End

Until then, we are sailing in a Ship of Fools and waiting for someone to lead us back to sanity.  But we are not in a hurry, because it is summer. The sun is shining, wine is flowing, the vacations are beginning and the Fiesta without bulls is about to start…