BARCELONA, Spain — Supporters of Catalan independence are often asked
why they aren’t happy with their region’s level of autonomy. The short
answer is simple: We want to live in our own country, just like
Unionist politicians often rebuke their critics with the platitude
that Spain is already one of the most decentralized countries in the
world. But is it really? No American, Belgian or Scot would accept
devolved powers that could be overruled by a simple majority in the
national parliament without consequences, as happens here.
On paper, Catalonia has home rule. In reality, not much is left.
Thanks to Spain’s centralist zeal, Barcelona’s suburban trains, its
airport and even its harbor are tightly controlled by the government in
In Germany, by contrast, the city-state of Hamburg owns and controls
its suburban train network, airport and seaport, without calling into
question Germany’s unity. In the United States, the criminal code is
determined by all 50 states. In Catalonia, we can’t even have our own
High Council of the Judiciary. Every institution is tightly controlled
and limited by the central government.