The formation of western Europe seems something of the past, but even today, with conflict in many areas, Spain is still being defined.
Even before the XV Century, the Spanish territory was organised by separate kingdoms, each having their own set of rules, traditions and privileges (“fueros”). After the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, Spain was unified under one sole kingdom.
Since then, the different regions of Spain have felt entitled to regain their autonomy, and to this date, they are still trying to find ways to save their own traditions and customs, with some even considering and acting towards independence.
Catalonia has been the most talked-about region in Spain on the topic for a long time, and especially over the last week, with a call from Carles Puigdemont, the region’s president, last week for an up-coming referendum on independence. The call was met with a disappointing response for Catalonia, with the Spanish government rejecting the idea, which an apparent 80% of Catalans are said to be favouring.
Although Spain has seen a recent economic climb, Catalans are still finding reasons for a secession. Some of those reasons are said to be: to retain their own tradition, language, and to secure their economy. Nowadays, Catalonia is a critical contributor to the Spanish economy, and if it were to declare independence, it could take a large portion of the country’s economic power with it. Catalonia has reportedly suffered tax deficit for many years by reportedly contributing 8% of its annual GDP to infrastructures and services in the rest of Spain.
After Catalonia, the Basque Country is the second strongest remaining nationalism in the country. A quarter of the Basque people have said to also be supporting a push for a referendum on independence. There has been less talk in recent years from this region about leaving Spain, but a long-term goal was set, by left pro-independence party, Sortu, to be independent by 2026.
The Basque Country, though, is said to be in a slightly stronger position than Catalonia. After the Basque country regained their “fueros” (own laws and conventions) in 1978, the autonomous region became the only one able to levy and regulate their own taxes. Catalonia’s own laws were taken away in 1714, in the process of centralisation, and the citizens and political parties of that region are now looking to retain their own “fueros” again too.
Although not as often spoken about, other regions in Spain, such as Galicia and Valencia, have political movements towards independence too. Galicia, has the Galician Independence Movement, which supports leaving Spain, and the Galicia Estremeira movement, which supports unification with Portugal. Valencia also has political movements for independence and conservation of the Valencian culture and language, although not as strong as Galicia. It is said that, Valencia could even seek to join Catalonia if it leaves Spain.
With Catalonia being one of the most industrial and innovative regions, and the Basque Country being one of the wealthiest, it is understandable why the Spanish government is discouraging any talk of independence from either one. There have been no clear signs of the Basque Country, Galicia or Valencia pushing for independence anytime soon, like Catalonia, but this may be due to strategic plans based on stability and economic recovery after Spain’s severe economic crisis.