Originally published in Spanish: «¿Europa como solución?». Sandra León. El País
Catalan nationalist parties who have embraced independence do not seek in Europe a space for participation, but for acknowledgement
“Spain is the problem. Europe is the solution”. This quote by Ortega y Gasset, which was pronounced at the beginning of the 20th century in regard to Spain, could easily serve today to illustrate the pro-independence parties’ determination to see the European Union as an ally to manage the conflict with the central government. But everything has not been so easy in the relationship between nationalist and regionalist parties and European institutions: in the last 30 years, these institutions have represented both a source of hope and a source of frustration.
Hope was prevalent during the 1980ies and 1990ies, a time when everybody spoke about the Europe of the regions: an old expression that Jacques Delors made popular and that was adopted by many nationalist and regionalist parties as a slogan. These parties hoped that the European integration would lead to a weakening of states’ power, and to a chance for regions and cities to contribute directly to the European decision making processes, like a sort of “third level” of government.
So, in the beginning of the 1990ies, regionalist and nationalist parties in Scotland, Bavaria, Flanders, Sardinia, Catalonia, Wales or Galicia supported the Europe of Regions as a way to advance their own demands of autonomy and self-government.
However, the idea of the Europe of the regions lost its vigor over time. First, because of the limited institutional role of the regions in the decision making processes and the poor advance that the unsuccessful constitutional project took with itself. Second, because of the constant importance of the states and the intergovernmental relations in the definition and evolution of the European integration.
Catalan nationalist parties who embraced independence do not seek in Europe a space for participation anymore, but for acknowledgement. But Europe will tackle its future challenges –Brexit, economic integration, coordination in the field of security or immigration- strengthening the weight of the states and the intergovernmental relations. It is a complicated context for pro-independence demands to find allies, at least formally, in the European institutions. Europe and the solution are far away.