by Ramon Riera

There is no shortage of debate about how the situation in Catalonia is affecting the European Union, Spain and the region itself. A lot of topics could be covered regarding this issue, but I think it is interesting to show the danger of nationalism for democracy and for the rule of law and its negative economic consequences. 

First, there is no doubt that the last events occurred in Catalonia have affected the region in several ways. Not only the so called “referendum of 1 October” has been a problematic situation for the rule of law in the region but also different incidents such as the one that occurred on 6-7 September in the Parliament of Catalonia. In that case the secessionist movement started to move clearly against the Spanish courts and Constitution by passing two laws where the intentions were to repeal the application of the Spanish Constitution in Catalonia. All of these movements, which are clearly explained in the “Third Report on Deficits of Democratic Quality in Catalonia” written by Societat Civil Catalana1, were seen with concern by the business community and the whole society. 

The secessionist movement has become a huge legal and political risk in the region, due to the creation of legal uncertainty. The huge uncertainty, as was expected, generated a “company flight” effect of several companies from the region, this effect has still not stopped, but luckily it has diminished during the last months. Data shows that between January and July of the last year (2018), nearly 2.000 companies left Catalonia, some companies that have left the region are of such importance as the bank “Banc Sabadell” or the gas company “Gas Natural”. Also, as a matter of fact, Catalonia is the region that has destroyed more business fabric in the whole country. This data of course, has affected the growth of the region (below the average national growth) or tax revenues. All in all, it is impossible to hide how harmful the secessionist movement has been for the Catalan economy and all the business opportunities that have been lost due to the legal uncertainty. 

Another key point that has damaged the Catalan economy is that the political debate has not been focused on generating employment opportunities, support business or discussing the tax policies. The political debate has been focused solely on the secessionist movement for months, whereas any other topic was considered “not important”. This is an evidence of how nationalism has had as a consequence, the lack of discussion of any other issues, especially in a rational way, as there is no way to agree or to focus on different topics if politicians of other parties are considered “enemies” rather than colleagues with different opinions but a same goal: economic and social growth.  

Having summarized some of the consequences in which nationalism has in one way or another affected citizens of Catalonia, here comes the positive part: What unites us is more than what divides us, and that it is in everyone’s interest that we work together. It is a loss of resources and time to fight between citizens of the same country, in a highly globalised world with so much competition out there. It is ridiculous to sacrifice our economic strength for a nationalist project that is driving a region to social confrontation and economic challenges. In order to stop this, it is time to say loud and clear that the independence of a region is not possible. It is time to think about promoting the reconciliation of a deeply divided society and to take the responsibility to do so. It is time to stop hating each other and start working with each other to again be the locomotive of the Spanish economy. There should be no place for nationalist philosophies anymore, the rule of law and freedom must be the cornerstones of our societies. Let’s get back to work, we have no time to lose. 

05 February 2019
This text was published in Bullseye issue 75