The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Spain Reignites Catalan Secession Drive

Catalonia’s push for independence from Spain received some unexpected help this week: the Spanish minister of education proposed an attack on the system of Catalan-only instruction in core courses in the school curriculum. The FT reports:

Under the current “immersion” programme used in Catalonia, all core subjects are taught in Catalan. Primary schoolchildren study Spanish for three hours a week, similar to the time dedicated to a foreign language, such as English.

Under Mr Wert’s plans, any region that cannot satisfy the wish of parents who want their children taught core subjects in Spanish, would have to meet the costs of that child being educated privately.

The Education Minister’s proposition to “establish parity” between Spanish and Catalan has predictably sparked a backlash and inspired secessionist sentiment:

“The whole idea is mad,” Mrs Ruiz, a graphic designer, said at the school gate on Wednesday morning. “I want my daughters to speak and write correctly in Catalan.”

Like many Catalans, Mrs Ruiz was quick to see links with the current educational stand-off and the Catalan government’s determination to hold a referendum on independence from Spain.

“When they threaten us like this from Madrid, is it any wonder it’s making people here even more in favour of independence?”, she asked.

As the FT notes, the timing of Mr. Wert’s proposition could not have been better for Artur Mas, the independence-minded Catalan president who is eager to form a coalition government that can call the referendum on independence. With Catalans up in arms over this slight from Madrid, Wert may have given Mas the perfect opening to call his referendum.

Will this be the blunder that broke Spain? It could be. It’s still touch and go as to whether whether Catalans decide to call the referendum—which Spain says would be illegal. But this could be just the boost the pro-independence forces needed.

Published on December 8, 2012 3:00 pm