Come From Away: “It’s getting to the families”: UNB student on Catalonia

Alex Rodriquez, fourth-year University of New Brunswick student and native of Granada, Spain, said that if Catalonia gains its independence from Spain, it will result in economic disaster.

Catalonia separating from Spain would mean the region would sever their ties with the European Union (EU). Unlike Great Britain, Rodriguez doesn’t believe that Catalonia would be able to compete with other countries.

“The European Union doesn’t approve what [the Catalonians are] trying to do,” Rodriguez says. “It doesn’t make sense for them to leave the European Union at this point because Europe is very important. The European Union is the greatest thing we have in Europe. Everything is covered, it works really well.”

Catalonians seem to disagree. A popular slogan of the secessionist movement is “Madrid nos roba” meaning “Madrid is robbing us.” The region is wealthy compared to other parts of the country, with 16 per cent of the Spanish population and 19 per cent of the gross domestic product. The region also brings in lots of revenue from tourism, as the primary destination for travellers in Spain.

Catalonia’s complaint is that it pays more taxes than it sees see benefits. Tensions have escalated this fall after a self-determination referendum and the Catalan regional parliament declared independence from Spain.

Rodriguez said he thinks rural areas of Catalonia are given large subsidies by the EU, so if the region left Spain and severed its ties with the EU, the people of those regions would lose that income. Farmers and other citizens who live in rural areas would suffer.

Catalonia is already witnessing a fall in their economy due to the decline in tourism and Rodriguez said the situation will only get worse. In addition to leaving the EU, Catalonia would also face the loss of a number of companies.

“Companies are already leaving Catalonia,” Rodriguez said. With the decline of the economy affecting the pockets of the Catalans, Rodriguez believes these protests will come to an end sometime soon.
“I think it will be over soon because I think the situation now is more under control. People are realizing we’re making a mess.”

Ideally, Rodriguez would like to see Catalonia and the government of Spain reach an agreement. However, if the government did make a deal with the region, Rodriguez said it would give the region an unfair advantage over other states since the endgame for Catalonia is to receive more money from the central government and gain greater freedom to do as they please. With this advantage, Catalonia would be free to build more infrastructure and companies, leaving the rest of Spain behind.

Since a deal has not been put into place, the tensions between the government of Spain and Catalonia are still high. The government has even resorted to using police force against the protesters on the street.

Rodriguez said he thinks the news is more on the side of the Catalans since “the Catalonians are better writers and better [at] TV and marketing than the government of Spain.” He said the government is not taking the media seriously enough and has let the situation grow larger than it should have. In his opinion, the government should have intervened much sooner.

Half of Rodriguez’s family live in Catalonia, and according to him, they’re split on the situation. Some of them are pro-independence while others are against it. This difference in opinion has created a rift between family members, to the point where some members are no longer speaking to each other because they’re so mad.

“That’s the real problem with the situation,” Rodriguez said. “It’s getting to the families.”

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