Catalonia: The European Union’s Growing Nationalism Problem

Confrontations between Catalonian Nationalists and the government of the Spanish Republic have recently garnered significant attention and sympathy from news outlets across the globe. Although the issue of Catalonian independence has plagued Spanish unionists for many years, the Catalonian separatists, taking example from events such as Brexit, have gained enough support and international attention to put significant pressure on Spain and the European Union. Why, then, is this nationalist struggle in Spain only now reaching its climax and what factors are contributing to the emboldenment of other nationalist movements across Europe?

Contradictorily, the primary catalyst for the growth of European nationalism is the European Union itself. From its inception, the European Union’s purpose has been to unite the various nations of its auspices under a unified multinational, almost globalist, central government seated in Brussels. The Union’s attempts at strengthening such a government through the obscurement of national character and suppression of national autonomy has lead not towards integration, but to nationalist resistance. Nationalist movements’ disdain for the European Parliament was made especially evident following the imposition of economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, during which many nationalists, such as Marine Le Penn in France and Jussi Halla-aho in Finland, publicly denounced this act of Western Imperialism in favor of Russian self-determination. For Catalonian Nationalists, unilateral actions to suppress national expression have only emboldened the movement to take stronger measures in securing autonomy.

As if the European Union’s coercive attempts at cross-national integration have not sufficiently instigated nationalist sentiment across the continent, its double standard with regard to the acceptance of national state-hood claims has only further embittered regions like Catalonia. This double standard has historically been defined by NATO’s imperialist interventions in politically unstable countries experiencing nationalist uprisings, such as Yugoslavia in 1991 and Ukraine in 2014. Although both politically tumultuous situations concerned the issue of nations vying for self determination, NATO, the supposed vanguard of freedom in Europe, supported Kosovo’s claim to nationhood as legitimate while denouncing similar claims from the Peoples’ Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk as an orchestration of the Russian government. Unsurprisingly, the European Union unilaterally supported these NATO interventions, making apparent their support for Western Imperialism in the East and selective protection of the rights of autonomous nations. In reality, the European Union is interested only in fostering nationalism that will facilitate the spread of Western Europe’s political influence and curtailing movements which challenge Pan-European authority.

In short, the problem of Catalonian Nationalism which now threatens the European Union’s unity represents not an accidental outburst of nationalist sentiment, but a singe component of the larger political issue of European resentment towards the Union. As a consequence of such widespread of the European Union’s policy on national self determination, rectification of Spain’s Catalonian Nationalist crisis will not put an end to nationalist uprisings in Europe. The recent surge in media attention surrounding Catalonia has only encouraged other nationalist movements in provinces such as Brittany, Corsica, Savoy, and Occitan, to take bolder steps towards separatism. If the European Union’s leaders fail to alter the current course of policies towards nationalists and countries attempting to defend their right to self determination, their imperialist ambitions will continue to contradict the interests of the Union’s member states and, eventually, risk its utter dissolution.

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