THE BLOG
18/10/2017 08:25 BST | Updated 18/10/2017 08:25 BST

Catalan Independence: Knowing Spain, Knowing Catalonia?

For sure there is something sad about breaking up. Certainly, as humans, as social beings, we develop a nostalgia and a fondness for unity - if, of course, both sides are happy in the union. But what if one wants out? Then the relationship is less salubrious. And Carles Puigdemont and Mariano Rajoy may just have to face it, it's time they're through.

Albert Gea / Reuters

For sure there is something sad about breaking up. Certainly, as humans, as social beings, we develop a nostalgia and a fondness for unity - if, of course, both sides are happy in the union.

But what if one wants out? Then the relationship is less salubrious. And Carles Puigdemont and Mariano Rajoy may just have to face it, it's time they're through.

And the sad truth is there is a high chance that Catalonia will get its independence - one day, at some point. We may or may not necessarily be around to see it, of course.

Because if history has taught us anything, borders are fluid. National and regional boundaries are in a constant state of flux, as we view them over time. They are artificial. They ebb and flow, bend and flex, depending on who says what and why new spaces need to be created.

The Roman Empire, a defining foundation of Europe, was centred around the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. The 6th century migrations split the unified, Roman Europe into a patchwork of tribal fiefdoms of Goths, Vandals, Lombards, Suebi, Frisii, Jutes, Burgundians, Franks, Huns, Avars, slavs and Bulgars - to name but a few. In fact, whether we take Charlemagne, the 843 Treaty of Verdun, the Habsburgs, the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, Strahlenberg in 1725, Napoleon, Bismark, Gariboli, the USSR, the 1985 Schengen Agreement, you name it, however we cut it, the European story is one long continuum of ever-shifting borders.

And that's simply because European identity politics is a complex conundrum. Looking back over European history, European communities differ among themselves - as much as they do from non-European communities - with respect to language (Basque, Finns, Hungarians), for example, or territory or law (Roman, Germanic), religion (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Islam), as well as in terms of ethnicity and culture, to name just a few. Indeed, the EU motto itself celebrates diversity not homogeneity.

And we're kidding ourselves if we somehow think that this will change any time soon. There is no destination at which European communities will feel as one. There is no Hegelian sprit taking Europe's communities to an end point.

We are simply living through one short moment in a story that goes on forever. Where it was all different a thousand years ago, no doubt it will all be different again in a thousand years from now. Whether is it the European Union, Brexit or Catalonian independence, whether it is Scotland, the Basque Country, South Tyrol, The German Community in Belgium, regions grow and shrink, unite and dissolve in accordance to how they define what is common between themselves and how they differ from an 'other. The lines on the map simply won't look the same forever. It is sad, and breaking up is never easy, but the coming together and the breaking apart is all part of the European story.

The question is not so much whether Catalonia will become independent from Spain. But rather, with nationalism and regionalism on the rise, what is actually keeping them together? And for how much longer? Knowing Spain, knowing Catalonia might just be the best they can do.