Opinion

REP. ROONEY: Spain Is One With Catalonia — And It Should Stay That Way

Rep. Francis Rooney Florida Congressman

The autonomous region of Catalonia first combined with the Kingdom of Aragon in 1137 to create the Crown of Aragon. Today, Spain has several autonomous regions like Catalonia. Later, in 1469, the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, brought all of these regions together to create the Spain we know today. They also defeated the Moors at Granada and completed the Reconquista.

Despite the recent demonstrations and agitations in Catalonia, it is an incontrovertible fact that Catalonia is Spain, it is a region of Spain like Castilla La Mancha, Andalucía or any other. Catalonia has been an integral part of Spanish sovereignty and culture for 550 years and cannot be separated from this identity.

After the recent verdict in the trial of Catalan secessionist leaders, some critics say Catalonia has been denied its communal rights and freedoms. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Insurrection and criminality have nothing to do with communal rights and freedoms. Catalonia already has significant authority to chart its own economic and social course within the autonomous regional governance of Spain.

As a result of its long history as a part of Spain, Catalonia has a pluralistic society made up of a mix of Catalans and other Spaniards, and where both cultures’ languages are regularly spoken. A 2013 study by the government of Catalonia revealed that 55 percent of the people in the region have Spanish as their first language, while for 31 percent of the region, Catalan is their first language.

Catalonia also has deep economic ties to Spain. It relies heavily on Madrid for its financial sector, infrastructure, and social security deficit. To see the economic impact the independence movement has caused, one needs to look no further than decisions by major banks to relocate their headquarters outside Catalonia.

The “autonomous community” of Catalonia enjoys rights and authorities that few other regional governments in the world find available to them. This flexible autonomy has been protected by the Spanish Constitution since it was approved in 1978 by a vote which included 90 percent of Catalan voters.

Despite these realities, Catalan secessionist leaders held an illegal vote for Catalan independence in October 2017. While the movement’s leaders said that the community overwhelmingly supported independence because 90 percent of those voting, voted in favor, in actuality only 43 percent of the population really voted. So, 90 percent support by 43 percent of voters equals 36 percent who voted for independence. Hardly a mandate. In fact, last Sunday there were protest marches in Catalonia opposing the secessionist movement. The “silent majority” in Catalonia is mobilizing to oppose this disastrous movement.

The independence movement is about a populist minority trying to impose its will on their fellow Spaniards. The secession supporters are claiming that they represent the will of the people of Catalonia, but the realities and vote history show that this is false.

Catalans and Spaniards are at a crucial juncture. It is critical that the real facts be openly discussed and vetted. The imperfect agendas of insurrectionists must be exposed for the power grab that they are. Catalonia has been a significant part of Spain for 550 years, about twice as long as the United States has been a nation or Venice ruled the Adriatic. Catalonia must remain where it is, as a part of Spain, contributing significantly to the great cultural diversity of the nation.

Francis Rooney (@RepRooney) has represented Florida’s 19th congressional district since 2017 and is the ranking member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He previously served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.


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