The Andalusian nation

Never heard of it? Me neither. Only 4% of Andalusian Spaniards think of themselves as a “nation”, and another seven as a “historic nationality”, the quite inaccurate term used in the current regional statute. (Al-Andalús was simply the name of Moslem Spain, whatever its area; as it shrank during the Reconquest, it corresponded roughly to present-day Andalusia only for a few decades around 1220 CE.) The overwhelming majority of Andalusians (63%) are content with the name and status of “autonomous region”. (Data from an editorial in the May 25 English-language edition of “El Pais”, no link I can find.). But the proposal on the table for the regional statute is to upgrade from “historic nationality” to “national reality”, only a semantic whisker away from “nation”.

The depressing competition to give the Andalusians something they don’t want or need results from two things. One is an accident of regional coalition politics. The Socialists (with 61 seats) are bidding for the support of two splinter parties, the far left (7 seats) and regional nationalists (6 seats); it’s unclear why, since they have a working majority over the PP (37 seats) anyway. The other, and more significant, factor is jealousy of the ever greater privileges won by the Catalans and Basques, many of whom really do aim at ultimate independence. It could only ever be a Disneyland independence. The assumption of the regionalists, who have succeeded in breaking up Belgium, is that real policy – on defence, envrironment, immigration, the economy – will be made in Brussels.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

4 thoughts on “The Andalusian nation”

  1. Isn't regionalism simply the product of the success of the EU and the PAX of the last 60 years?
    The regions have always been there, but the costs and risks of the expression of regional identity in political organization have been reduced by the success of the EU. The EU guarantees economic integration with the whole of Europe, and it guarantees civil rights, and it guarantees peace (or seems to). So, if Flanders or Scotland or Slovenia or Slovakia or Catalonia or Brittany or some other postage stamp wants to express its cultural identity in political organization, what the heck! Its cheap, or it seems so, for the moment.
    Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Britain — aside from the benefits from economic integration and the dubious value of their elevated status as great and belligerant powers, were those nation-states really such a great idea?

  2. The reason the regionalists are getting somewhere is that they in general have the facts on their side. The national governments do oppress them culturally and in many ways economically, and they would benefit from getting out from under all that.
    What big country in Europe faces essentially no regionalist or independence agitation? Germany, precisely because it already has a great degree of regionalism and this is accepted and valued across the political spectrum.
    The Basques and the Catalonians want to break away from the rest of Spain because they feel themselves to be a distinct nation, they don't like the authoritarian detritus of the Franco era (like the Guardia Civil), and they know that the Popular Party and the rest of the Spanish right as current constitued will _never_ accomodate themselves to their linguistic and regionalist desires. They also are richer than Spain and know they can do fine by themselves in the European Union. And they are right, in the main.
    The important comparison to be made here is between Ireland and Scotland. Ireland escaped the British yoke, managed to get into the EU, and is now a prosperous, civilized country that doesn't have its sons and daughters dying in Iraq. Scotland has none of those things, and watches its best and brightest decamp for London while the nation rots. Staying in the UK has been disastrous both economically and socially for Scotland.
    France is another example. Brittany and the Basque and Catalan-speaking regions and Strassburg as well have been deliberately underfunded relative to the capital, and this is deliberate French policy. As independent countries, or joined to their ethnic neighbors, these areas would probably do better as well.
    Finally, I'd be very careful of saying things like Disneyland independence. At least independent Catalonia would have only one master (Brussels) as opposed to the UK, which has two (Brussels and Washington). If anything, Washington vis a vis the UK is a far harsher taskmaster than the US.

  3. Precisely which linguistic desires of the Basques and Catalans are thwarted by the Spanish government? Catalan is the official language of Catalonis; it enjoys strong affirmative action in education, including higher education. The main Basque leader makes speeches in Basque in the Cortes, though of course nobody else can understand without interpretation.
    The problem these "small" languages face has nothing to do with Spanish law and everything to do with globalisation, science, and the Internet.

  4. The Popular Party is constitutionally anti-Basque. That's why you have the ridiculous situation in Navarre, where there are three linguistic zones in the province. It's set up precisely to inhibit the teaching and readoption of Basque in Navarre. The Popular Party lacks the power to take away the linguistic rights the regions now have, but they have made it pretty clear they wish to do so. That's why they supported the troglodyte general who threatened a coup if the Catalans pushed ahead with autonomy. People in the regions did not fail to appreciate the implied threat.
    The problem in Spain is that a significant number of people have not accepted even the present regional situation, so this generates ill will all around, and serves to spur the regionalists to greater efforts.

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