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University of Copenhagen students from Spain are debating a vote that is actually a referendum on Catalan independence. The University Post talked to them about whether only Catalans should decide
Is Catalonia saying goodbye to Spain?
Sunday 27 September, Catalans are called to vote in their regional parliamentary elections. Commentators call it an actual vote on the region’s independence.
Recent surveys point out that the main pro-independence political group ‘Junts pel Sí’ (‘Together for Yes’) will obtain a clear and consistent victory gathering up to 40 per cent of the vote. The second party on the polls ‘Ciudadanos’ (‘Citizens’), which is contrary to independence, would obtain 15 per cent.
Given this political panorama, we asked Spanish students at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) to share their thoughts on the possibility of Catalonia breaking apart from Spain. Catalan independence is a sensitive issue in Spain and some of the students interviewed preferred that we not reveal their surnames.
Maria: “In my opinion, however, there are issues in Catalonia that require a stronger attention, as for example the economic debt or the high unemployment rate”
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen”, says Esther, a 22-year-old Catalan master’s student at the Faculty of Humanities, “it is clear that the main pro-independence party will obtain the victory but … what will happen next? I think it will be a long process and it will even require several years.”
“One of the main principles under international law is state’s recognition,” says Carlos, a 23-year-old law student at UCPH who is from Madrid, Spain. ”If a new state is not acknowledged by other states, it will have slim chances of succeeding in economic terms,” he reckons.
“The European Commission has confirmed that if a territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of it, it will no longer be subject to the EU’s treaties,” Carlos continues. “In other words, it will leave the European Union. Of course then Catalonia will be able to apply to become again part of the Union. However, it won’t be that simple since, in order to be accepted, the applicant state needs the approval of all of the EU’s member states. Will Spain vote in favour? I don’t think so!” he concludes.
María is a 21-year-old political science student from Valencia, Spain, and she believes there are more important issues that should be addressed first instead of independence. “I’m neither in favour nor against independence. I’d prefer them to stay in Spain but I do think that they have the right to decide. In my opinion, however, there are issues in Catalonia that require a stronger attention, as for example the economic debt or the high unemployment rate,” says María.
Alexander: “Why should I decide something about Madrid or Andalusia? I don’t have the right to decide on other regions, but I do have it to decide in mine.”
Esther agrees that the upcoming elections are not only about independence. ‘”Of course the main focus is on Catalan sovereignty, but political parties also include in their programs measures to fight other problems that we have in the region,” she says.
Carlos, the Madrid law student, says that Catalan independence is a distraction. “It’s a political tactic. Catalan leaders are using independence as a way to distract people from the real problems. Of course there’s a large percentage of the population who desires to be independent, but I don’t really believe it is their number one priority.”
Catalan independence or not, another question is on who should decide, just Catalonian voters or all Spanish voters? In the recent referendum on Scottish independence that would have split the UK, English voters were, controversially, left out of the vote.
Carlos: “Catalonia is under the jurisdiction of Spain. Therefore, it is bound to the Spanish rules and, specially, to the Spanish Constitution.”
Alexander Paez García, is a 24-year-old Catalan film and media student. He believes that the right to decide belongs to Catalans.
“Why should I decide something about Madrid or Andalusia? I don’t have the right to decide on other regions, but I do have it to decide in mine. Consequently, Catalans are the ones to decide on their own future and not Spain as a whole. It is not a political movement, it is the people who are claiming this.”
Alexander believes that the Spanish government has led a campaign of hatred towards the Catalans: ”The Spanish central government’s attitude is largely responsible for the increase of the independence desire in Catalonia,” he says.
Carlos has a different opinion on the matter:
”It’s very simple. From a legal perspective Catalonia is under the jurisdiction of Spain. Therefore, it is bound to the Spanish rules and, specially, to the Spanish Constitution, which clearly states that the national sovereignty rests with the Spanish people.”
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