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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catalonia independence: the views of foreigners who live there

Foreigners who live in the region often have a different take on the issue compared with many Catalans. Here's a selection of their views

Among the many responses I got to my request for Catalan independence views were those of foreigners who live in Catalonia, some of them for many years. They often have a very different take on the question than many Catalans – although not always.

Peter Selman, British: I live in Barcelona, and while I'd support a referendum to allow the Catalans to vote on independence, I'm not entirely sure the economic arguments are sound for the following reasons: Catalonia receives less than one sixth the foreign investment of Madrid; it has the same credit rating as Bangladesh; it has a smaller GDP than Greece; it has the same unemployment levels as Sudan and Gabon; it will face a massive boycott of its products from its main market, Spain; it would probably start independence with over 100% of its GDP in national debt; and it is highly likely the biggest Catalan businesses will leave. Granted, Catalonia's fiscal deficit is a tad unfair, but to me that suggests negotiating a new fiscal deal (similar to the Basque Country) would be a more sensible step in the middle of a massive financial crisis, which would be made far worse if Catalonia gained independence.

Louise Philip, Scottish: I've lived and worked in Catalonia for 15 years, and I now live in a small town called Cubelles south of Barcelona. Many Catalans (including my husband) are the children or grandchildren of immigrants from Andalusia and Extremadura during the Franco regime. They may speak Catalan at work but Spanish at home; many do not want independence as they still have family ties in the rest of Spain. Then there is the question of independence being used as a smoke-screen to distract attention from the real issues in Catalonia - high unemployment (especially among young people), lack of affordable housing, extreme cuts to education and healthcare, and corruption in government. Personally, I can't see independence working, although Catalonia is very different to the rest of Spain. I think they should concentrate on getting Spain back on its feet and deal with the real issues.

Ted Krasny, American: I lived in Barcelona for about 25 years. I speak a fair Catalan, and of course I detest the petty anti-Catalan sentiment one finds around Spain. But there a few points that the whole referendum debate may be skating over. One, the context of economic crisis (which is not to say that the independence movement didn't exist already, but things are just now coming to this head). Two, the CiU party leading this drive is unlikely to do away with the liberalism that has put Catalonia, and Spain, in its current economic straits. Three, there is no doubt that Catalonia has suffered oppression at the hands of Madrid – but who's doing the numbers of what it has gained? Four, what does an independent Catalonia actually mean: how does it translate into greater welfare for its citizens, how does it meet the expectations of the various nationalist currents? I sympathise with certain aspects of Catalan nationalism: language, education, maybe even the right to collect its own taxes. But if everything works out for Artur Mas, we'll have a new European state dominated by a Catholic conservative elite.

Brian Cutts, British: I came from the UK to live in Catalonia in 1988, at the age of 21, and have lived in Tortosa - south Catalonia - ever since. I have always had the feeling from talking to people that the Catalans in general wanted "out" of Spain, and to get back their own freedoms and rights which have been taken away from them over the years. However, the Catalan stereotype is one of a person of extreme caution and common-sense, and this has always held them back from taking the vital step. I believe, also, that the feeling is clearer away from Barcelona – in Tortosa, for example, and other small towns people don't have as many reservations as in the capital. I think that social, cultural, and historical reasons support their bid for independence. Now, of course, economic ones also. I think the president has made a brave decision, but the right one - the time has finally come to ask the people what they want. What is there to fear with a democratic decision? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds