Bloomberg – To Keep Catalonia In, Spain Should Allow a Vote to Secede
It is a truth believed by nations around the world that their borders are God-given and immutable. It’s also false.
Frontiers change. The important question — as Standard & Poor’s downgrades Spanish debt to a grade above junk and Catalonia contemplates a referendum to secede — is when breaking up is right.
That’s hard even for outsiders to judge dispassionately, but as Europe’s debt crisis washes away some of the redistributive glue that has held together the continent for the past half-century, it’s also important. Scotland and Catalonia plan referendums on secession from two of Europe’s largest economies as soon as 2014, and others may follow — this weekend, a Flemish separatist won an election to become the mayor of Antwerp, Belgium.
In the case of Catalonia, there is a thicket of historical, legal and economic issues to cut through. Catalans speak a distinct language, were once separate from the rest of Spain, and contribute more in tax to Madrid than they receive back — a net annual loss of 8 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, according to the government in Barcelona, although that’s probably an overstatement.
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