In some conflicts, you don’t need to pick a side. Because sometimes, both sides are wrong. Between the Catalan and the Spanish governments, it’s impossible to keep tabs on who has committed more grave mistakes.
Even for supporters of self-determination, it’s hard to take the Catalan independence referendum seriously because its proponents didn’t have any plan for the day after. They blatantly mislead Catalans about the prospect of remaining in the EU, which shows complete ignorance about how the EU – or indeed any international body – works.
If a member state of the EU could split in two and then have two seats and votes in the Council of the European Union, then what’s to prevent Germany from splitting into two again? Or France into 100 regions in order to gain a super-majority in the EU?
That’s not how international law works. Countries as political entities are members of the EU, not a certain stretch of land. If you leave that country, you are out. If, on the other hand, a country grows, it doesn’t require a new application for membership, as seen after German reunification in 1990. [Hint for Romania and Moldova. ;-)]
Second, as anyone can look up in the EU Treaty, admission of a new member requires unanimous consent of all existing members. Unanimous! Yes, that includes Spain. Even before the central government unleashed Inquisition 2.0 in Catalonia, nobody could have expected Spain to consent. Any such hope is naive. Just ask Kosovo.
But things can get even more depressing from Catalonia’s viewpoint. Because there is a village in Greece which is also called Katalonia.
As the Republic of Macedonia can tell you, Greece won’t allow anyone into the EU as long as they have a name that resembles that of any Greek region, district, county, city, village or restaurant. (Greece even refuses academic ties with the University of Georgia because it’s in a town called Athens.)
So if – and that’s a big if – an independent Catalonia were ever to advance in EU membership talks, it couldn’t do so under the name of Catalonia. It would either need to resort to an ancient name like Aragon, but that sounds too much like Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it? Or like Macedonia, the new entity would be known under an abbreviation. FACOC for Former Autonomous Community of Catalonia is almost as catchy as FYROM.