Monday 19 February 2018

Dan O'Brien: Europe's now immovable map risks heightening emotions of nationalism

The Catalan crisis is likely to come to a head this week, and one way or the other, there will consequences for the entire continent, writes Dan O'Brien

A Catalan separatist flag hangs from a balcony in Barcelona, Spain October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera
A Catalan separatist flag hangs from a balcony in Barcelona, Spain October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

I moved from Rome to Madrid in the 1990s. I didn't expect a huge change - Italy and Spain are both big southern European countries with Latin cultures and languages. Along with many other similarities, both have well-known rivalries between their two biggest, similar-sized cities.

But what quickly becomes clear to anyone who spends time in the two countries is that while the Milanese may resent the politicking of less economically dynamic Rome, and the Romans bridle at the aloofness of the Lombards, there is an altogether darker dynamic in the relationship between Madrid and the Catalans. Two-way resentments and suspicions are much more deeply held. Among those Catalans - around half of the population - who feel more Catalan than Spanish, disaffection is particularly deep.

All of this is playing out now in the most serious constitutional crisis in a western European country in decades. Matters will come to a head in the coming days - Madrid has given the Catalan regional government until tomorrow morning to clarify its position on a less-than-clear declaration of independence announced last week.

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