US seen as a factor behind Catalonia crisis

AS the Catalonia’s declaration for independence from Spain is considered the biggest political crisis in Spain for 40 years and a major challenge for the European Union, Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, a former Thai Finance Minister, says in his Facebook page the US is considered one of the factors behind this crisis.

The controversy surrounding the struggle for Catalan independence from Spain has crossed over the border, as ‘Northern Catalans’ also demanded freedom from France.

With the struggle for Catalan independence from Spain continuing to venture into unknown territory, the French region across the border has demanded a united Catalan state with around 2,000 protesters taking to the streets in Perpignan, southwestern France, to demand their own independence referendum, creating fears of an independence domino effect in the EU.

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After years of mutual hostility, independence supporters have proclaimed Catalonia a republic – and Spain has responded by imposing direct rule on the autonomous region.

In the latest development, according to BBC, Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont and four former advisers just turned themselves in to Belgian police.

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The five were freed late on Sunday evening after being questioned.

An investigating judge will decide by Monday morning whether to execute an EU arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge last week.

Mr Puigdemont earlier fled to Belgium after Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia following an independence referendum.

He and his four associates are wanted on charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust following the referendum which a Spanish court deemed unconstitutional.

Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia, dissolved the regional parliament and called local elections for 21 December.

Mr. Thirachai expressed his thought of the reasons why Catalonia wants to leave Spain and why Scotland also supports the move.

In the economic and social dimension, he said Europe has lots of small groups of nationalities with different social structures as well as languages and behavior. In the past they were a separate independent entity but eventually being forced by armed forces of the central governments to be part of a country.

But now states like Catalonia, which have a better standard of living and economy, felt that they are being taken advantage of by having to subsidize other parts of the country.

Sixteen percent of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces 25 percent of Spain’s exports, 19 percent of Spain’s GDP and 20.7 percent of foreign investment.

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Scotland during the past decades also has the same feeling as it has found oil reserves in the North Sea but the revenue from oil has not benefited Scotland as much as it should have as the revenue has to go to the UK.

But Mr. Thirachai said another dimension of problems pertaining to their move for separation is the refugee and the terrorist problems.  Spain is close to Africa just crossing the Gibralta strait and in the past Arab used to occupy the southern part of Spain for a long period of time. Today Catalonia is a heaven for foreigners coming to find their work including those from Morocco causing higher unemployment for the Spaniards.

With weakening economy, unemployment rate in Spain has climbed up to 20-25 per cent and that together with fears over terrorism, Spanish people are more opposing to the refugees especially in Catalonia.

It’s the opposite in Scotland, where weather is cold, it’s not a popular destination for the refugees whereas quite a number of people in Scotland moved to England where finding jobs is easier for them.  So Scotland does not support Brexit, which is meant partly not to bear the burden of refugees with the EU, as Scotland still prefers to be in the EU, he said.

He stated that part of the root cause of formidable refugee problem which flared up during the past 15 years has been the US move to intervene and remove leaders in African and the Middle Eastern countries including in Iraq, Libya, Yemen as well as the proxy wars between the US and Iran and Russia in Syria and Lebanon.  These have caused huge number refugees moving into Europe.

The refugee problem has caused changes in politics in the EU as witnessed in the recent election in Austria where the candidate who supports anti-refugee policy won the election.  Popularity of the right-wing parties in many countries in the EU including Germany has surged, he said.

It now depends on US President Donald Trump whether he would help solve the problem or make it worse, he added.


Top: Independence supporters gather in Barcelona after Catalonia’s separatist government held a referendum to decide if the region should split from Spain on Oct. 1. Photo: CNN

First inset: People queue to vote at a school in Barcelona. Photo: CNN

Second inset: Ousted leader Carles Puigdemont says he’s in Belgium to gain support for Catalonia’s independence bid. Photo: CNN

Third inset: Thousands of people gather in Barcelona to rally for unity in Spain on Oct. 8. Photo: CNN

By Kowit Sanandang