A few months ago, Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and former chief economist at the IMF, stated in an interview with a Spanish financial newspaper, ‘alone, Catalonia would be one of the richest countries in the world’. In the same interview, Professor Rogoff warned of the ‘high probability’ of a European intervention in Spain. For this reason, Rogoff claimed that Spain needed, ‘a profound structural reform’ of its economy and ‘significant measures are required’, especially in the labour market. He added that five years of economic stagnation is ‘a very realistic scenario’. In May, the journalist David Gardner wrote an article for the Financial Times which highlighted the success of the economic agreement enjoyed by the Basque Country and endorsed calls for a fiscal agreement (pacte fiscal) coming from Catalonia. Thus, Gardner warned that an intervention in a particular region could, ‘create a real political problem’ while stating that, ‘Spain’s problems need proper diagnosis, and devolution at its best should be seen as part of the solution’. Gardner therefore rejects the Spanish government’s version of events and emphasises that, ‘devolution as such is not the problem’.
The opinions of both these experts are extremely enlightening when it comes to examining Catalonia’s current position within the European and Mediterranean context. Beyond the evidence as to the advantages and economic benefits inherent in the independence process it is worth pointing out the advantages for a medium-sized state, with a solid economy and commercial potential, which is a reference for its culture, research and its democratic foundations.
At the end of the day, Europe needs a country in southern Europe and northern Mediterranean which can balance, calm and lead on a regional level an area which in central and northern Europe is seen as a continual source of problems thanks to the ‘usual suspects’: Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. Europe needs a space like Catalonia, which carries the culture of hard work and effort in its blood. A space with a democratic tradition and an entrepreneurial spirit, with a progressive attitude and a productive economy. A nation that had the first European parliament, in the eleventh century, which spoke of rights and duties; a nation with certain well-defined cultural and linguistic traits which form part of Europe’s cultural wealth. A nation similar to England, where the industrial revolution was made possible, allowing for a future welfare state incorporating the concepts of rights and duties. Indeed Catalonia’s was a unique industrial revolution in Europe, in that it took place in an area which does not produce raw materials.
When Europe listens to Catalonia’s voice calling for a new fiscal agreement, with its own treasury, or demanding it become a state within the European Community and the wider world, it would do well not to see it as a passing whim but rather to assess a unique national history and a new opportunity to rebuild southern Europe based on new political, economic and social paradigms.
Now that we know that mediumsized states are suited to Europe, now that we know that the Spanish crisis is not applicable to the rest of the European crises and requires specific ad hoc treatment, it is also time to appreciate that not only is Europe desirable for Catalonia, Catalonia is desirable for Europe.
In contrast to other nearby areas, Catalonia has implemented austerity measures for some years now, while also maintaining a commercial and industrial fabric which is uncommon at these latitudes, thanks to hard work, sacrifice and luck.
Europe already knows it. When Catalonia takes the next step, however, we also need them to acknowledge it.
Article publicat a: http://www.international-view.cat/pages/articles/numbers/issue12.html