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Europe: oh, dear!

If the independence movement says "No" to Spain but "Yes" to Europe, unionism says "Yes" to Spain and "Yes" to Europe, too. It is a curious coincidence, even more so when you consider that in 1714, 1936, and 1944-- that is, whenever it was necessary-- Europe favored Spain more than Catalonia.

We´re certainly not speaking about the same Europe --or in any case, we shouldn't. There are also two Europes, as with Spain and perhaps everywhere. To begin with, while Europe is a mosaic of people and cultures, the European Union has been, since its inception, an affair of states and a harmonizing entity for the benefit of the single market. We can, therefore, clearly identify our place within the European mosaic, but it would be necessary to define it much better with respect to the EU, and not content ourselves with believing that becoming an independent country will suffice. First of all, because --once again-- they will not make it easy for us. Secondly, because within the council of European states, there are states and then there are states. There are the key players, with France and Germany as the parents who came up with it as a means to stop their own quarreling, and perhaps to satisfy their own expansion by dividing up the continent; and there is the periphery, whose voices are heard depending on how close or far from the center they are, whether geographically or conceptually. And this is where it´s necessary to define our own profile.

For example: do we want the same European fiscal union as Madrid is arguing for these days? That is, a fiscal union that, in the end, means recurring fiscal deficits that, as we know well, bleed some regions while others are stuck in their underdevelopment? Can we refuse to believe in a federal Spain while we support a federal Europe? Wouldn't a confederate design be much better? One that enshrined devolution and the management of common affairs overseen both by the European Parliament and by the national Parliaments?

Just look at how belonging to the EU and being a part of the European Council has served Greece! Let’s look into, for example, who benefited from the low interest rates set by the ECB when there was a credit bubble. And look how the British cozy up to the EU or shun it as it suits them. Greece surrendered trustingly; the UK, never. Aren’t we being too naive in our approach to the EU?

Despite the fact that it has yet to be formalized, Catalonia has already cut off its moorings with Spain, and its citizens and businesses are sailing towards new horizons. Nevertheless, we are still paying more attention to the formalization of the farewell to Spain than to setting our own course and port of destination, in spite of the fact that the definitive formalization of this farewell depends on the visibility of the future that we are painting for ourselves!

In addition, the EU, as it is today, does not allow us to envision a future as promising as it seemed when Spain joined. In fact, the current EU is still not much more than a single market; that is to say, a space where competition reigns on all levels: to attract talent and reject asylum seekers, appealing if necessary to exceptions to the Treaties, or to attract capital and businesses by using agreements for fiscal privileges (tax rulings) if necessary, or strategies for social dumping. To join this EU, then, and not end up like Greece today, requires being in a position to compete; i.e. to be competitive enough. This is true whether we want to build and maintain a social state, as we do, or if you want to become one massive sweat shop or a tourist destination, as some may end up being.

This is precisely the current Greek drama. Syriza is completely, or mostly, in the right, but it doesn't have the money. The payments of the debt could be delayed or even restructured, but it would be difficult to borrow any more. Inversely, the Troika perhaps isn't in the right, but it has the money. It´s certainly not fair, but as regards the relations between countries: when has justice presided and not the interplay of power? Even revolutions and national emancipations have had to count on sufficient funds and strength-- being right has never been enough! This is something that the radical left here in Catalonia must keep in mind. The budget cuts of Mas and Rajoy, even if applied gladly, have their origin in the austerity decreed by Europe, an austerity justified by our accumulation of foreign deficits to the point of having a colossal foreign debt.

There are alternatives, of course. Debt can be mutualized and a mechanism can be established to recycle surpluses, as Varufakis has proposed, but who will persuade the creditors? Furthermore: is this a viable plan, mid- to long-term? Isn't that precisely the scheme we want to get out of?

Catalonia must begin to make its own voice heard in Europe and the EU, and not only to ask for help and recognition, but also to participate in its construction. And this must be done from Parliament and from civil society. In the same way that we have cut our moorings with Spain, so must we begin to configure our port of destination. Otherwise, perhaps we´ll never get there.

* The author is President of the Commission for Innovation of the Board of Economists.