Catalan Elections: The Ghosts that Won’t Go Away

Nationalism is an idea whose time has come, gone, and come back again

By Spengler and cross-posted from The Asia Times

Yesterday’s election victory for Catalan separatists, including humiliating losses for the ruling center-right Partido Popular, denotes yet another setback for the grand project of European unification and a challenge for a continent divided between a strong north and a lagging south. The Catalan separatists won a thin majority in the regional parliament, leaving them precisely where they were before the Oct. 1 referendum on secession from Spain – with a small plurality in favor of breaking away and a large minority determined to stay. The election result, though, has dire implications for Partido Popular leader Manuel Rajoy’s minority government, and for European cohesion in general.

Nationalism is a ghost that refuses to be exorcised. As Annette Prosinger wrote in a front-page commentary in the conservative German daily Die Welt. “This election was in reality a referendum on the independence movement. The result will astonish all of those who bet on the disenchantment of the Separatists. The magic is more tenacious than people thought: It has overcome everything: The drop in tourism and economic investment, the flight of enterprise from Catalonia, and the rejection that the independence movement received from the EC. The supporters of the independence movement were not unsettled by the fact that none of the glorious promises of Carlos Puigedemont and his group came true, and that prospering Catalonia has become a crisis region.”

To say that Europe faces a crisis of identity is a vast understatement. With total fertility rates below 1.4 births per woman in Germany, Italy, Spain and all of Eastern Europe, the nations of Europe are at a demographic turning point past which their cultures may become so diluted as to defy any future attempts at reconstruction. The Catalans speak their own language despite centuries of Spanish attempts to suppress it; the first Bible translation printed in Spain was in Catalan – not Spanish – in the year 1478, and the Inquisition burned every extant copy. They are the most productive and outward-looking Spanish region, and their capital Barcelona is one of the world’s great global cities, but a majority of Catalans will accept economic hardship in order to restore their identity

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