Liberté toujours ?

by Adam Strobejko

The financial crisis has undoubtedly caused numerous changes and tensions on governmental level across the globe. Its political impact provided a unique background for the actions of sovereignty movements. The most prominent actors of the recent events, Catalonia and Quebec, seem to be a step before a groundbreaking decision, independence.

It should be noted, that in both cases the problem is not a recent development as it has existed for a long time. Gradual distribution of autonomic power sufficed in the past. It seems to be no longer an option, however, never has the situation been so strained.

The history of Catalan separatism can be traced back to the beginning of 20th century, when the first sovereignty-oriented parties and organisations emerged. The tradition of fighting for freedom goes even further, as the first Catalan Republic was proclaimed in 1641 by Pau Claris. Thereafter, three attempts of declaring independence have been executed. Unsuccessful in its primary goals, these actions show the determination of the Catalans and the lust for self-determination. The last century stands for the repetitive oscillation of atmosphere.:  l;l The Statute of Autonomy was issued in 1932, whereas the end of the Spanish Civil War saw the suppression of every effort, due to Franco’s regime policy of oppression and increasing unification of the state. However, the re-establishment of Kingdom of Spain brought many changes, alongside with decentralisation and providing Catalonia with autonomy. The people (whom Catalan nationality is now officially recognized) are represented by the Generalitat, which consists of the Parliament, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Government of Catalonia. The region is the wealthiest part of Spain, as it provides around 20% of the state’s GDP. Unsurprisingly, Catalans are fed up with paying for less economically effective regions in the age of the omnipresent crisis. Massive demonstrations take place (with about 1.5 million participants during the National Day of Catalonia) and there is one word on everyone’s lips, meaningly, Independencia. The tendency is getting stronger and stronger with every second of Spain’s economic problems. The ambiance has never been so tense, as king Juan Carlos had to interfere in politics with his unprecedented appeal for unity. The Spanish parliament blocked the referendum initiatives and is doing its best to stop the secession. Question arises: is this even possible?

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the question of sovereignty is equally ‘au courant’. Quebec, the only part of Canada with French as the sole official language on the provincial level, does not have an impressive legacy of “freedom-fighting”. However, numerous differences resulting from cultural heritage of French colonization, with language and religion being the most noticeable examples, have strengthened the feeling of separateness. The Quiet Revolution in 1960 marked the breakthrough in popular attitude. This was the time when Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale (RIN) was founded and the idea of independent Quebec became known world-wide. The sovereignty movement has gained in popularity ever since, which was reflected in the executed referenda. Parti Québécois, quickly becoming the main promulgator and the embodiment of the idea has been snowballing over time. Recent times favour the division: this year, the party was elected to a minority government, with Pauline Marois as Premier of Quebec. Although the majority of French-speaking Québécois support the decisive solution, there is no absolute consensus about the question at stake. Opinion subdivisions and votes of the English-speaking minority led to narrow loses in the last referendum and may prove to be an obstacle on the way to independence. Other provinces of Canada oppose the striving of Quebec, whereas the federal government seem to accept the gravity of potential consequences flowing from the deepening subdivision and employs relatively mild ways of prevention. The question whether it is sooner or later we deal with in the case of the final movement remains open.

Change feeds on times like these. Everything suggests that we should expect subsequent political revolutions glowing before our very eyes. It is highly probable that the near future will see United Nations celebrating the acceptance of new members. One thing remains certain: the political world is marked by liquidity.

Adam Strobejko
Adam Strobejko
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