Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
IT has several times been pointed out in these columns that there would be hardly any difference in the ground situation were the Catalonian people to be granted the right of self-government. It is in Barcelona rather than in Madrid that the power to administer a region containing an enlightened people should vest, and yet the human right to do away with rules by an alien authority continues to be ignored by the European Union. Bureaucrats respond and protect only other bureaucrats, never the people, which is why the Eurocrats in Brussels have done nothing while the people of Catalonia continue to be oppressed by a people separate from themselves. The rights of the people were trampled into the dust during the civil war in Spain during the 1930s. The DNA of General Francisco Franco, the military dictator who ruled Spain for decades as a personal fiefdom, is now part of the Spanish Royal Family, and it should not therefore be a surprise that the present King of Spain (who was given his job and his privileges by his father-in-law, General Franco) regards himself as protecting the rights of a Spanish else to dominate Catalonia, a region that for long has thirsted for independence.
In a commentary on the reality of vestiges of dictatorship remaining present in several of the institutions of modern-day Spain, the judicial system in that country regards itself as the protectors of Spanish privilege over Catalonian rights. The manner in which the highest court in Spain has sought to bury the atrocities against democracy being committed by Madrid against Barcelona should have given rise to a protest from the other members of the EU. However, thus far there has only been silence. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose formative years were suffused with the atmosphere and values of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) autocracy, even sought penal measures against Carles Puidgemont, the acknowledged and acclaimed leader of the Catalan people. During her life in the GDR, not once did Angela Merkel seek to even protest against the autocratic state, until of course it became safe to do so. She was comfortable in an autocracy, and it was that trait within her that impelled the Chancellor of Germany to admit two million individuals from a wholly different culture and region into Germany, without any consultation with even her own colleagues in the government. Merkel’s decision, made in the expectation that she would be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, has changed the future of Germany for generations to come.
A move as consequential as the instant admission of two million extra people into a country that is small by Asian standards ought to have been preceded by a referendum, or the Chancellor ought to have called an election on the issue and secured a mandate to implement the mass immigration policy she embraced. Instead,she consulted nobody, but went ahead the way she saw East German Communist Party bosses do for decades which was to take decisions by themselves, without even a semblance of popular or even broad-based governmental consultation. Angela Merkel is now at the leadership core of the EU, so it is no surprise that a Union that talks every day about human rights and values is silent in the face of the discrimination and repression unleashed by a government of, by and for the Spanish people against the ancient and distinct Catalan people.
A free people would be far more productive of overall welfare than an oppressed nationality. Within the European Union, there are several nationalities that would be able to express themselves better and thereby make a higher contribution to the EU than is the case when they are dominated by other groups. An example is Bavaria, a German-speaking region that for long had a separate existence under the Wittelsbach monarchy. Another is the Basque region which could form a separate country out of parts of France and Spain. A third is North Italy which would develop much faster were to be freed of the stifling influence of other regions of Italy on the north. The Northern League Party is now in government in Italy, but now that it has been given a few ministerships, it has forgotten its principles and has abandoned the battle even for autonomy, much less freedom. In this, it is similar to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany. For the sake of a few ministerships, the SPD (a Party that had resisted even Hitler) has become a junior associate of Angela Merkel, and is at risk of losing its young and idealistic base to other parties.
The SPD made a blunder by forming a coalition with the Christian Democratic Union, but when politicians smell power, they forget principles. Concerning the struggle of the Catalan people for self-government, the fact is that the strongest argument in favour of the European Union is that the structure of the Federation makes it possible to seamlessly move to a situation where member states divide into smaller entities in accordance with the will of the people. Spain and Catalonia would continue to have open borders under the EU, even while people from Spain could live and work in Catalonia as they too would remain part of the EU. Rather than an artificial unity (a coalition of the unwilling), the Eurocrats at Brussels should make plans for referendums in those parts of Europe that seek self-rule and accept the mandate of the people.
In the case of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, even if Scotland separate and Northern Ireland remain part of the UK together with Wales and England, should the EU membership get restored, there would be no discomfort in such a situation. Indeed, it must be admitted that London responded to Scottish demands for freedom in a manner entirely different from that shown by Madrid. It was the difference between a democratic and an autocratic mindset. The spirit of Franco still dominates the Zarzuela Palace and the institutions functioning under it. The EU is letting not only the Catalan people but its very ideological foundations down by ignoring the agony of the Catalan people at the hands of an autocratic Spanish regime. The sooner the Catalan people are given the freedom to go their own way (within the EU), the better it will be for Europe including Spain.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.