Image courtesy of Day Donaldson via Flickr
Every year thousands of Catalans take to the streets on September 11 in a day-long festival, the National Day of Catalonia. The event often serves as a rally for the independent-minded region, located in northeast Spain, to gather support for its plans to break free of Spanish leadership.
In September 2015, pro-independence Catalans plan to use the regional elections as a platform toward official secession from Spain, as past attempts at referendums on the issue have failed.
Why does Catalonia want to secede from Spain?
- To preserve Catalan culture:
The culture of Catalonia dates back to the early middle ages. After surviving the oppressive Franco dictatorship of the mid-1900s, which attempted to eradicate Catalan culture, pro-independence Catalans want their nationality to remain distinct, lest it be absorbed.
Independence from Spain would allow Catalonia to promote its own culture, including its language, Catalan. While many Catalans also speak Spanish (Castilian), they often do not identify as Spanish. Laws in Catalonia require that Catalan be spoken in many professions.
- To manage its own economy and resources:
Catalonia makes up an area slightly larger than Belgium, and is one of Spain’s wealthiest autonomous communities. The Catalan National Assembly writes that the region is experiencing fiscal discrimination from Spain. On top of its own debt burden, Catalonia contributes about 8 percent of its annual GDP to Spain.
Catalonia’s pro-independence supporters wish see larger investments in infrastructure, which are purportedly neglected. This could be achieved under its own management, and without
the financial obligations to Spain’s central government.
What will happen if Catalonia does gain independence?
Catalonia makes up about 20 percent of Spain’s GDP, and breaking away could dramatically weaken Spain’s economy. As a major transport hub, handling roughly 70 percent of Spain’s exports, moving products through Catalonia as an independent nation would cause cost increases for Spain.
New borders and regulations may also hinder Catalonia’s own economy, especially if Spain were to discontinue its trading ties with the region. As a separate nation, Catalonia would also have to reapply for membership in the European Union.
On the reverse side, pro-independence supporters argue that the GDP percentage normally contributed to Madrid would be reinvested to boost Catalonia’s economy.
Is independence plausible?
Under the Spanish constitution, it is illegal for Catalonia to become independent.
[contextly_sidebar id=”hAGOVlhIDz33idCpUgHZdBuLHHvMqoUd”]The constitution allows for some degree of autonomy, but does not grant the right to self-determination to any of the regions.
A similar referendum was rejected by the Spanish parliament in 2014, and the Prime Minister argued that “referendums on sovereignty must be held nationally and not regionally,” according to the BBC. The referendum earned disobedience and abuse of power charges, amongst others, against Catalan president Artur Mas.
Despite legal obstacles, the pro-independence campaign continues in hopes that a regional election will turn things around. If the independence coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) wins a majority of the parliamentary seats in September 2015, President Mas will have the authority to declare independence by 2017.