Best columns: Europe
Seceding from the secessionists
David Alandete and Camilo Baquero
Catalan separatists now know what it’s like to face a secessionist rebellion, said David Alandete and Camilo Baquero. In October, they rejoiced when they won an illegal independence referendum and the separatist-dominated Catalan Parliament announced that Catalonia would break away from Spain. In retaliation, Madrid began rounding up the secessionist movement’s leaders and ordered new elections in the region—a decision that backfired on Dec. 21 when Catalonia’s three pro-independence parties together won 70 of the parliament’s 135 seats. Yet the pro-Spain party Ciudadanos took the most seats of any single party—37—and much of its support came from Catalonia’s two major cities, Barcelona and Tarragona, where large majorities oppose secession. Ciudadanos’ success led to the birth of the satirical Free Tabarnia movement, which has declared that the two cities belong to the fictitious region of Tabarnia and should remain part of Spain. Over the Christmas holidays, social media enthusiasts riffed on the same slogans the pro-independence crowd once used against Spain. Catalonia has ignored Tabarnia, they proclaimed, and Tabarnians should have the right to decide their future. Ciudadanos’ leaders intend “to keep the prank going” to make their point: Why should Barcelona be torn out of Spain against the will of Barcelonans?
Germany’s shameful selfishness
Germany is refusing to accept its new role as leader of the West, said Edward Lucas. While German leaders revile U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and bemoan his abdication of America’s global responsibilities, they are unwilling to step up and take charge themselves. It’s plain now that Europe, which is “bigger and richer than the U.S.,” must provide for its own defense. That means above all confronting the “ xenophobic kleptocracy in Russia,” which has invaded eastern Ukraine and menaces other former Soviet satellites. Yet at the same time Germans denounce Trump’s America First policy, they are hypocritically pursuing their own Germany First policy. Just look at the Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal, which will bring Russian natural gas to Germany across the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine. The pipeline, which Germany says is just a neutral business deal, is the Kremlin’s political dream come true, as it will make Russia the main energy supplier to Germany while allowing it to deny gas to Ukraine at will. Germany is ruthlessly focusing on its national interest—cheap gas—at the expense of European security. Europe needs Berlin to demonstrate solidarity and mutual responsibility by standing up to Moscow. But for Berlin, “bashing the distant evils of Trump’s America is so much easier.”