The separatist government of Catalonia recently declared independence from Spain following a referendum vote. The problem is, the national government of Spain has imposed direct rule over the region and won’t acknowledge its independence. It’s unsure if Catalonia will actually break away from Spain, but the region’s government is already making preparations for its independence.
Legality of Catalan Independence
One of the biggest issues is the legality of Catalonia’s possible separation. The national government has already declared the recent referendum illegal and won’t accept the results. Spain’s constitution allows Madrid to suspend the Catalan government’s authority to rule, which has already happened.
In order to effectively be independent, the Catalan government must find legal backing to its decision. Government officials are putting together a case that will allow it to be independent while still staying in the bounds of the law. However, some reports say that even if it can’t find legal backing, the region will still move towards independence.
Currency and Local Coin Issues
The basis of an independent government is a strong currency and economic system, which is one of the first issues Catalonia needs to address. For years, Bank of Spain officials have warned that if Catalonia became independent, it would automatically lose access to the European Central Bank and not be able to use the euro. However, the region’s assets and debts are in euros throughout the rest of Spain, which could make it harder to break away from the euro.
The Catalan government is already creating plans so that it can venture out on its own and be separate from the Spanish banking system. Government officials are interested in creating a cryptocurrency system, especially given Barcelona’s status as a fintech hub that could potentially make it easier to create a national blockchain currency out of the control of the Spanish state and ECB.
However, a potential move to cryptocurrency could come up against some difficulties—ECB chief Mario Draghi recently said that no member can introduce its own currency because everyone within the eurozone must use the euro. There are also concerns about how to scale a widespread cryptocurrency system and what it would mean for people to not have an everyday currency in their pocket. Experts have compared Catalan’s future economy to a developing economy in other parts of the world. Its own currency could take time to develop and gain value alongside the euro, but it could eventually get there if managed properly.
There are also logistical issues involved to developing new currency, such as printing new money quickly enough to be used by the time Catalan is officially independent and then distributing it calmly and securely.
Unity Within Catalonia
Catalans also face the issue of uniting people after a polarising vote where turn out was low and irregularities were high. Although the official results had 90% of voters supporting independence from Spain, a more widespread poll found the split to be more even, with about half of Catalans supporting independence and the other half wanting to stay with Spain. Some polls found that only 41% of Catalans want independence. As has been seen with Brexit, a close decision can lead to difficulty uniting people moving forward.
Representatives from Catalonia’s government are quick to point out the mistreatment of the region by the national government, which it hopes can rally the people together and unify them for independence. The national government took drastic action to stop the vote, which may swing more people in the favour of leaving. Officials are also quick to point out that the region had its budget cut and pays more taxes than other parts of the country. So far, it seems the main strategy to unite the people is to find a common enemy in the national government.
Catalonia’s road to independence is anything but easy. Although the government is preparing contingencies to be on its own, time will tell if it will actually be able to put any of those plans into action.
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