The Identity Awakening: Catalonia, Europe And Beyond

It is the great challenge (and paradox) of our time: Far from erasing identity claims, globalization reinforces them. From Spain to Myanmar to Trump's America, it must be confronted head-on.

Pro-Catalonian independence in Barcelona on Oct. 3
Renaud Girard


PARIS — Considered anti-constitutional by Spanish courts (and denounced by the King), the Oct. 1 independence referendum in Catalonia fits in with a much broader, global trend: the identity awakening. Everywhere we see regionalism, nationalism as well as religious devotion growing in intensity, sometimes morphing into intolerance. It's the great paradox of globalization: Far from erasing the peoples' identitarian and cultural claims, it reinforces them.

This groundswell is patent in faraway lands such as Myanmar or Nigeria, but it doesn't spare Europe either. From the French and Dutch saying "no" in referendums on the European Constitution in 2005 to Brexit, from the rise of the far-right National Front in France to Hungary and Poland's rejection of multiculturalism, from Catalan and Scottish separatists to the rise of Salafism among Muslim communities, the identity awakening, be it ethnic or religious, is the great challenge of our time.

In his speech at the Sorbonne University, Emmanuel Macron brought forward the new political concept of "European sovereignty." But the identity awakening is a serious obstacle standing in the president's way. For there can be no sovereignty without nation. And 60 years after the Treaty of Rome, there is still no such thing as even a beginning of a European nation.

Withdrawal would be suicidal.

Europe is still just a civilization, not a nation. Although they share that civilization (fed by the legacy of the Ancient Greek-Roman times, Judeo-Christian heritage and the Enlightenment) Estonians, Greeks, Germans, Italians, Portuguese and Irishmen will never share this "community of experience" which makes a nation, as the French political scientist Pierre Manent has defined it.

Similarly, the definition of a nation according to 19th-century philosopher Ernest Renan — the will to live together — doesn't really fit Europe. France is a nation because a Parisian can accept to pay taxes for his fellow Frenchmen in Guadeloupe, in southern France or in Corsica. Europe isn't a nation because a German will never accept to pay taxes for a Greek. If Catalans and Castilians can no longer form a Spanish nation, it's hard to see how all the peoples of Europe could form a European nation together.


Macron at the Sorbonne University on Sept. 26 — Photo: monsieurlepresidentem via Instagram

The identity awakening in Europe is bound to undermine the prospect of a European nation. It makes peoples suspicious regarding supranational constructions. Rightly or wrongly, the peoples have the impression that the European institutions had denied their identities instead of defending them. They feel that instead of favoring European industrial producers and the European economic identity, these institutions' orders to open European markets has favored Chinese and Indian exports. They consider that instead of asserting European culture loud and clear, they swept it under the carpet (when former French president Jacques Chirac blocked attempts to include a reference to Europe's obvious "Christian roots' in the 2005 Treaty). Finally, the European institutions are accused of having promoted uncontrolled Muslim immigration and multiculturalism.

And yet, the European project evidently is in the interests of European citizens. Against such a demographic, industrial and commercial power such as China, against the U.S." technological might and its legal, financial and monetary hegemony, no European nation can compete alone. Any withdrawal would be suicidal.

The Europe we must build is therefore a Europe of nations, one that respects the peoples, their identities and sovereignties. It must cease to be a technocratic machine producing stacks of internal norms but incapable of opposing the machine from across the Atlantic. It must distinguish itself with great projects, such as the creation of a European Amazon, or navigation system, something similar to Airbus and Ariane.

Instead of a fanciful "European sovereignty," what Emmanuel Macron is looking for is probably better defined as "European might" capable of promoting industrial champions and of resisting legal and financial constraints from overseas, as well as social, economic or environmental dumping. Only by refocusing its attention on the great projects that make it stronger will Europe spark the enthusiasm of all the many European peoples so busy worrying about their identity.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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