The Spain of today is in a deep financial crisis. Rather than the country pulling together it is pulling apart. The core of Spain, still less than a year since it returned a Partido Popular government, is in revolt against Rajoy and his policies.
In the autonomous regions that revolt has gone a stage further with a stronger desire than ever to see a break with Madrid. Last week the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, met Rajoy in the Spanish capital determined to get a new deal for Cataluña. Not only did he leave empty handed it is likely he will call elections shortly that will in essence be a referendum on Cataluña’s links with Spain.
Under the Spanish Constitution Cataluña cannot hold a referendum to leave Spain. Neither can the Basque or any other region. However a constitution only holds good whilst it is accepted by the people. We have seen with the Arab Spring how by taking to the streets people have overturned governments and dictators. Make no mistake if the population of Cataluña, the Basque region, Galicia and other areas of Spain with their own distinct identity marched against the constitution and for independence Madrid would descend in to chaos: the Spanish State as we know it would cease to exist.
All of this is a very real possibility. The nation is already on the march against Rajoy and the Partido Popular because of his government’s handling of the economic crisis. They are angry at the high jobless levels especially amongst the young, the families loosing their homes and the cuts to education and the medical services. Add to that the widely held belief in Cataluña that the region is being unfairly discriminated against which fuels further the demand for its independence. Stir in the Basques, Galicians and other regions and you have an explosive mix.
This makes last week’s call by the socialist president of Andalucía, José Antonio Griñán, for a federal Spain all the more interesting. Speaking on Europa Press Televisión, Griñán called for the development of a federal Spain, co-operative, where all are equal before the law and at the same time full respect is shown for the nation’s diversity.
The Andalucía leader stated “I think that the Constitution, that is the fruit of consensus, is the road and the solution to our problems as well.” He wants to see the country’s Magna Cart changed so it now meets the realities of present day Spain as it did when it was first drawn up.
Griñán said Spain had the opportunity to construct a nation of autonomous regions, for a phase of co-operation that will lead directly to a federal model based on the objective of a place for all, where employment is the priority and which gives hope to all.
Whilst the radical Catalans and Basques want full on independence Griñán’s call is for a Spanish federation of independent regions. Needless to say both of these visions have the Partido Popular in panic because it is a centralist party and rather than cede power it would rather disband the regions with control returning to Madrid as in the days of Franco.
If Spain does disintegrate then it would work in Gibraltar’s favour. It is Spain that claims sovereignty over Gibraltar but if the Spanish State does not exist then there can be no claim. There can be no claim from Cataluña, the Basque region, Galicia, Valencia or even Andalucía. Any remaining claim from a rump “Spain” in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula would hardly ring true.
Hence the threat to the Partido Popular is that not only could it loose all the Spanish regions but also what it sees as its right to bully Gibraltar into submission. Gibraltar can easily build alliances with the separatist Basques, Catalans and so on: indeed the blocks already exist. It is in our interests to start this work sooner rather than later.
(Since the above article was written the secretary general of PSOE, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the former Minister of the Interior, has spoken in favour of a federal model for Spain in line with that found in Germany).