Weekly Geopolitical Report – The Situation in Catalonia: Part II (November 13, 2017)

by Thomas Wash

In Part I of our report, we examined the historical background of the Catalan independence movement.  This week, we will continue our discussion by summarizing the constitutional crisis, identifying the significant players and their motives, noting the possible outcomes and concluding with market ramifications.

Constitutional Crisis: A Summary
In addition to the historical differences mentioned in Part I, the Catalan separatist movement can be partially attributed to the vagueness of the Spanish constitution.  Although the constitution states that Spain is made up of 17 autonomous communities, the term “autonomous community” is loosely defined.  According to the constitution, an autonomous community is a self-governing region in which people share “…common historic, cultural and economic characteristics.”[1]  Furthermore, the preamble of the Spanish constitution fails to group people under the same nationality.  For example, the preamble of the U.S. constitution states, “We the people of the United States,” whereas the Spanish preamble states that the constitution “protects all Spaniards and peoples of Spain.”  As a result, the constitution’s recognition of ethnic regions and its failure to establish a unified Spanish identity have bolstered ethnic pride at the expense of national identity.

The constitution’s vagueness has also led to tensions between the autonomous community governments and the central government.  Autonomous communities like Catalonia frequently ask for additional powers and greater independence from the central government.  To the Catalan separatists, Catalans are not “Spaniards” but rather a “people of Spain.”  This sentiment is expressed in the Catalan constitution, which refers to Catalans and Spaniards as separate groups, although both groups have the same rights.

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[1] Spanish Constitution, Section 143, Part 1