In this piece, ALDE IM Spain Coordinator, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, considers the situation of liberalism in his country, and the presence of nationalism in the Autonomous Communities.
Please note that this piece represents the personal views and opinions of Miguel Angel Sepulveda (ALDE IM Spain Coordinator)
We are one year away from the European polls. They will also coincide with autonomous regions and municipal elections, which will be an indicator (again) of the local and national agenda, not of the wider European one. Spain have only a recent liberal political tradition, and that is one of the reasons of the rising of the phenomenon of nationalism in our country, irrespective of whether the Spanish, Basque, Andalusian or Catalan adjectives are used. We, as convinced European liberals, must set a clear distinction between patriotism and nationalism, bringing the idea of the European Union closer to the way in which citizens perceive patriotic ideals.
We are one year away from the Spanish vote within the European polls on 26 May 2019. Looking to that day, all political parties are beginning to show signs of pre-campaign activity but, at least in the case of Spain, not for the light blue ballot, used to vote for the European Parliament, but for the white and light purple ballots, corresponding to the autonomous and municipal elections, respectively, that will also be held that day.
Europe is trying to get closer to the citizens, especially since the beginning of the economic crisis, which also resulted in a crisis of institutions and values, but that is still perceived as very distant by the citizens. In the last European elections in 2014, in Spain the focus was on the national agenda, also where white ballots associated with the Congress of Deputies were used; this time everything suggests that the vote will be more focused on the autonomous and local level. In short, whether they are held on their own or along with other elections, the the messages coming from these electoral campaigns never manage to either adopt the European perspective or give these elections the importance they truly deserve.
Furthermore, Spain only have a recent liberal political tradition. At least if it is understood as a vision of humanity and society based on the affirmation of the human personal condition; on individual freedom as the foundation of social and political freedom. The phenomenon of nationalism in our country has been, and is, clear evidence of this, regardless of whether the Spanish, Basque, Andalusian or Catalan adjectives are used. Because wearing the colours of a flag, showing them in complements or just flying the actual flag, and singing or humming the anthem of your region or your country, can be considered nationalism or patriotism depending exclusively on what it represents to whomever takes such action. The gesture itself carries no weight. The same applies to those watching. So what is the difference? Patriotism is the bond created with your homeland, an entity that represents all of us through the civic principles and the institutions that define it. Nationalism, however, is loyalty to the group to which you belong, with whom you envisage a common origin or language, regardless of the values they represent. Therefore, the more daily and tangible the territorial entity is, the more difficult it is to separate the attachment to these values from the feelings and emotions for what surrounds us and their people.
This is our reality and, in view of this situation, we, as convinced European liberals, must work to move the idea of the European Union away from state sovereignty and nationalism, and devote all our efforts to bring the idea of the European Union closer to the citizens themselves, collectively and individually, since European values are always relatively close but inevitably distant for what they represent: patriotic ideals to aspire to, a Europea as Homeland where we recognize ourselves. Nationalism has no part in – and can only be destructive too – our European Union.
Miguel Angel Sepulveda