One effect of the financial crisis on Europe is its encouraging of the efforts of separatists who think their regions would be better off if they were not hindered by mistakes made at the centre; Scotland from London, northern Italy from Rome, and the Basque country and Catalonia from Madrid.
In Spain the pressure is acute as the economic risis has hit hard, and the Basques and Catalans have longstanding aspirations to self-rule. They feel they can do things better, within Europe, but independent of Spain.
The Basques, by avoiding property and tourism and sticking to their traditional manufacturing strengths have missed the worst of the burn-out. Their unemployment is Spain’s lowest, per capital GDP is the highest.
Catalonia also sits pretty by comparison but is feeling the pinch. How much better if Madrid did not need the wealthy region’s taxes to subsidise Spain’s poorest areas.
This growing nationalist sentiment is stretching the 1978 constitution on which post-Fascist Spain is based. Last week the King intervened, calling on people to remember the spirit in which the modern Spain was forged, while former prime minister Felipe Gonzalez said the constitution needed a more federalist mould.