Pro-Sovereignty Processes Compared: Catalonia and the Basque Country

photo 1The first workshop of the Nationalisms in Spain project was held on 25th-26th September, organised by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray of the University of Liverpool and hosted by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).

The workshop addressed the complex dynamics affecting the nature of the Basque and Catalan nationalist movements in contemporary Spain, exploring the extent to which there has been continuity or change in these dynamics in recent decades. In this context, particular attention was paid to the behaviour of mainstream nationalist parties in relation to the wider nationalist movements. What has caused the return to prominence of national and sovereignty-based challenges to the Spanish state in recent years? What factors underlie shifts in the relationships of the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties with central government over time?

IMG_2469After a welcome address by CIDOB director Jordi Bacaria, Richard Gillespie opened the sessions with an introductory paper outlining the conceptual and analytical basis to inform the workshop. This provided a common point of departure for the series of presentations and contributions made by participants in the panels that followed over the two days. All presentations, whether they offered a case study or were comparative in nature, were designed to facilitate comparison between the Basque and Catalan cases while acknowledging significant differences in their circumstances and approaches.

Centre-periphery dynamics formed a key subject of analysis. Participants presented papers that investigated the strategic choices of nationalist parties as statewide parliamentary actors in relation to their territorial strategies in their home regions (Bonnie Field, Bentley University) and conflicts between central and regional governments over the IMG_2472evolution and conception of the regional financing models in Euskadi and Catalonia (Caroline Gray, University of Liverpool). Spanish state responses to the financial crisis in terms of recentralising dynamics perceived alternately as rationalisation were explored as part of a wider consideration of when and why decentralised countries seek to recentralise (Diego Muro, IBEI).

This focus was complemented by studies of internal dynamics within the Basque and Catalan regions themselves. Addressing party-society relations, participants explored the extent to which the choices, actions and discourse of political elites can be seen to influence societal preferences and identities in nationalist mobilisation processes (Astrid Barrio, Universidad de Valencia; Rafael Leonisio, Universidad del País Vasco; Alejandro Quiroga, Universidad de Alcalá) and examined what mobilises collective action (Meritxell Martínez, Universidad del País Vasco). The traditional reigning dichotomy in the existing literature between “top-down” and “bottom-up” dynamics was, however, also problematised to reconceive of these as processes of “co-construction” (Kathryn Crameri, University of Glasgow).

In addition to party-society relations, due consideration was given to the role and significance of party competition and relations (outbidding or reinforcing) between nationalist and pro-independence parties in determining their behavioural patterns, IMG_2473territorial strategies and degree of success (Anwen Elias, Aberystwyth University; Ludger Mees, Universidad del País Vasco; Stuart Durkin, Aberdeen University). This also involved an exploration of the relationship between the traditional left-right axis of competition and the territorial dimension in determining nationalist party strategies (Braulio Gómez, Universidad de Deusto).

A selection of papers and findings from the workshop will be published by Routledge as a special issue of the journal Nationalism and Ethnic Politics in early 2015, co-edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray.

The organisers would like to express their warm thanks to CIDOB for their collaboration to ensure the smooth running of the event and to all participants and their co-authors for providing a series of insightful studies that generated stimulating debate.