Senior Honors Thesis Abstract

The Fall of 2014 will test the borders of Europe. On September 18th and November 9th the regions of Scotland (UK) and Catalonia (Spain), respectively, plan to hold referendums on their independence from their larger states. Such referendums are unheard of in the history of both regions and largely possible due to the democratic norms that exist in Europe today. These votes for secession in Scotland and/or Catalonia will put the Westphalian nation-state model to the test and create a precedent which could change the continent for decades to come. As such, these events call for our acute attention. My senior honors thesis will compare and contrast the referendums taking place in both regions.

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Summary, Conclusions

My project in Catalonia was a success. Although the results of the interviews are showing a different situation than I before expected, what I discovered has shown me the value of field research as well as in depth analysis of a situation. Not only carrying out elite interviews but also observing my environment acutely allowed me to dive deeply into the grievances shaping the secessionist movement. I observed the primary grievances responsible for the growth in sentiment to be related to recent changes in the devolved power of Spain to Catalonia. Most interviews and conversations I had in the South evoked the 2010 ruling of the Spanish constitutional court as a major source of contention. The economic argument, which I had hypothesized to be the leading explanation for rising secessionism, proved important but not the sole or dominating opinion expressed in the interviews. The economics of the relationship between Spain and Catalonia is certainly not to be ignored.

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Perpignan

We left Spain on Thursday, July 11th. After an unforgettable experience in South Catalonia my interpreter and I made our way into the foot of the Pyrenees to cross into France. Having traveled across European borders before, between France and Germany for instance, I noticed something shocking about our crossing. Our slick renfe high speed train took us first to a frontier station near the French border. At this small station, officials asked all passengers to leave, cross the platform, and board a French SNCF train. I had discovered a few days earlier that no train lines connect Barcelona with Perpignan, the Catalan region’s second largest city. This to me seemed off considering the European Union’s free travel area, drafted in the ┬áSchengen agreements, which includes these two notable European states and the high demand there must be for this line of travel.

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Lleida

After touring the Catalan parliament, I was invited to visit the city of Lleida by a municipal representative. She explained to me that as one of Catalonia’s main cities, leaders of the movement there would be interested in speaking to me about secession. I agree to the visit for the next week.

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Girona

One of my three visits outside of Barcelona included a trip to Girona, in the northern part of Spain’s Catalan region. I had an interview planned with a former mayor of the city, MP, and minister.

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