Yesterday’s regional elections in Spain’s Basque region have demonstrated again the strength of blood ties and the resurgence of localism in a time of globalization. People are increasingly seeking protection close to home, an urge that seems light years away from the European Union’s postmodern supranational ambitions.
The good news is that, these days, the push for local autonomy comes without violence. But if the Basque country has moved beyond the separatist terrorism of the ETA, the strong showing by the pro-independence party Bildu means that assertive regionalism now means taking over real political responsibility. It is no longer a game or a claim without consequences, where being “against” the central power is the only goal and thus sufficient.
The question is whether the Basques, and Spain’s Catalonians, who are also pushing for a referendum on independence, know it. What drives the recent Catalonian claims for independence is the feeling that the region is oppressed by Madrid, in particular that it pays much too much in taxes to a dysfunctional central government, which then redistributes the region’s wealth to the rest of the country. Catalonians would be better off, they think, if they were to leave the Spanish state.