[October 5, 2017] Who is Carles Puigdemont and what is Catalonia? Until just recently, Mr. Puigdemont was an unknown outside Spain and parts of Europe. He is currently the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, a province of northeastern Spain and the person leading the Catalonia independence movement.
This independence movement of Catalonia to secede from Spain is a good study in the success and failure of leadership across Spain, European countries, the European Union (EU), the United States, and most of the Western world. By declaring its independence – which Mr. Puigdemont is prepared to do this coming Monday (or later or sooner?) – it is claimed that Catalonia will put the EU on the track to ruin; a falling of the dominoes, so to speak.
Strong words and actions are in the making; the government of Spain arresting Catalonian government officials, violence in the streets of Catalonia, and strong words from both sides in the disagreement. The origins of this conflict go back centuries and are beyond the scope of this blog. A good summary of the movement, the cultural and social differences, and political foundations can be found here (see link).
Here’s something important that we do know today. What has been considered a recent major tactical error by the government of Spain, orders were sent out to the police to stop voting in Catalonia for its independence. The heavy-handed approach turned many Catalonians into pro-independence voters and may have ultimately been the incident that pushed this whole issue to a head and the region into independence.
Leadership at the highest offices in many nations will now be tested. The one with the best leadership and foresight, Spanish or Catalonian, will win the political contest. But the ramifications outside Spain, regardless of outcome, will be unpredictable and must be quickly and firmly addressed by nations in the wake of any change in the political structure in Spain.
The United States, for example, has predictably come down on the side of Spain and against independence (see this good article in Foreign Policy Group on why the U.S. adopted such a policy, link here). In fact, most nations support the Spanish government over Catalonia.
But independence, while it sounds good emotionally is not always a good solution economically. The world is a tough place and small yet independent nations exist at a distinct disadvantage. Yet, it is economics (and to a degree cultural issues) that plays the big hand in the poker game being played out.
Over the next few months, I’ll write about Catalonia’s independence movement from the perspective of the leaders of Spain and its province. The best lessons I learned about leadership were from the mistakes of others. All the more reason we pay attention to what’s happening there.
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