The Art of Foreign Policy: Catalonian Independence Vote Representative of Widespread Sentiment

Oct 3, 2017

Supporters of independence in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region have taken to the streets, blocking roads and calling for a general strike to protest a crackdown by the country's central government.  The regional government has backed the the strike effort, which came after a contested independence referendum.  The Spanish government opposed the vote and police in some areas fought with citizens who were trying to cast ballots.

Catalans' desire to secede from Spain is representative of movements that exist in other parts of Europe, says foreign policy analyst Art Cyr.  Cyr, a professor of political economy and world business at Carthage College, says such independence movements often arise in countries without a strong central government.

Art Cyr teaches political economy and world business at Carthage College.
Credit Carthage College

"This reflects a wider, region-wide - throughout Europe - phenomenon," Cyr says.  "Religion has faded - an important basis for party politics in Europe.  Ideology has faded with post-war prosperity and the end of the Cold War.

"To me, it's kind of understandable and natural, especially in nation-states that do not have a strong tradition of long-term centralization," Cyr says.  "So I think we can expect more bubbling up of regional sentiment."

But Cyr says independence movements - like in Catalonia and in Scotland - come with risks.  "I think it's a highly emotional sentiment," he says.  But places like Scotland, he adds, "would have heavy defense, security, and police expenditures that are currently subsidized by the central [British] government. 

"I think - like a lot of political decisions - it's not a particularly rational sentiment.  I would hope they'll work things out, and it won't turn into a violent armed conflict in Spain."