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Map - Column by Peter van der Heiden

A couple of weeks ago I found my old world map and showed it to my children. With ‘my old world map’ I mean the map that was accurate during the first 25 years of my life, the map that formed my image of the world. My children found it really funny to find lots of countries on that map that they had never heard of. The Soviet Union rang a bell, but Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia? They really thought the map was fake, made up with funny names. The German Democratic Republic was the bomb – that could not be a real country, that was just ordinary Germany.

It’s the same feeling I have sometimes when I look at the current world map. I really can’t memorize all those new countries that arose after the Cold War ended. And I can understand why the Moldavias, Uzbekistans and Tadzhikistans wanted to be independent countries – they suffered for decennia under a dictatorial regime, they were occupied by the communists. Most of the residents of those countries are not better off now – a small warning to separatists – but anyway, I understand them. My extend of understanding decreases with the former Yugoslavian republics and even more with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and it comes to a screeching halt in Spain.

The Basques – well, they may have a point. They are a people living in two countries, and not really appreciated in either one of them. With a bit of fantasy they are the Kurds of Europe. But Catalonia? Come on! That’s Spain! For everyone in the world it is even the main part of Spain – except for the Catalonians, who still think it is the main part, but not of Spain. But, in which city did Columbus report he found America – and annexed that continent for the Spanish king? In Barcelona – the capital of the so called independent state to be of Catalonia. Was Mexico a Catalonian colony? I don’t think so. Who did we fight in the Eighty Years War – the Spanish! – and did we exclude Catalonia? – no way!

And what is the most famous Spanish – not Catalonian – quote? Of course, the famous phrase from Fawlty Towers: ‘I know nothing, I am from Barcelona’. Ergo – Catalonia is Spain, as is the rest of that country. In fact, I find it unbelievable that there are parts of the Iberian peninsula that are not parts of Spain. I say annex Portugal – that funny part of Spain where they speak a really incomprehensible language and that gave us that terrible Ronaldo – and of course Gibraltar, which, after the Brexit, should of course stay in the EU, at least for its monkeys.

If there is going to be a separation in Europe, I can think of another region that should come first. It’s a region that’s made fun of in the rest of its mother country, no one understands the language they are speaking, the inhabitants trust their neighbors abroad more than they trust their fellow countrymen and they live at the outskirts of their country. So, open the ballots from Maastricht to Molenhoek for a referendum on an independent Limburgian state. Or better still, let’s start a referendum in the rest of Holland. Then it’s surely Goodbye zachte g, goodbye Limburgse vlaai, goodbye corrupt politicians. I can’t wait for the new world map!

Parliamentary historian Peter van der Heiden opened the Current Affairs Lecture: Will Catalonia become Independent? with this column.