The Catalan regional flag is red and yellow stripes, but add a blue triangle and a star, and it becomes an independence banner. More and more of them are appearing all across the city, sometimes right next to the regional flag. Spain’s worst economic crisis in a generation has sparked renewed interest in independence among people in the prosperous northeastern region of Catalonia. On the shores of the Mediterranean, Barcelona is a beautiful and prosperous city. Polls indicate its people are increasingly unhappy, however, about having their tax money go to support poorer parts of Spain, and a quick walk down a main street confirms the findings.
The Spanish region of Catalonia's Parliament on 28 September 2012 approved the holding of a referendum on independence from the rest of Spain during the forthcoming regional elections on November 25. The independence referendum was voted for by 84 deputies, with 45 voting against. The Socialist Party abstained. The call for an independence vote was announced at a Catalan government meeting by regional government head Artur Mas. He said he decided a vote on independence must be taken following a meeting with Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who turned down a Catalan proposal to set the amount of tax it pays to national coffers. Catalonia is Spain's richest region. Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the government would use any legal mechanism to prevent Catalonia seceding from Spain.
Exit polls from elections in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia showed the majority of local parliamentary seats would go to nationalist parties that favor independence from Spain. Early returns from Sunday's vote show the national alliance of incumbent regional president and pro-independence candidate Artur Mas has taken at least 48 seats in the 135-seat parliament, down from its current total of 62. The separatist Republican Left (ERC) doubled its share to around 20 seats. Both parties have pledged to hold a referendum asking Catalans if they wish to split from Spain, a move the central government says would be unconstitutional.
On January 23, 2013 Catalonia's parliament approved a declaration of sovereignty signalling a referendum to separate the northeastern region from Spain. The non-binding and largely symbolic resolution - which states that the people of Catalonia have a democratic right to decide on their sovereignty - was passed with 85 votes for, 41 against and two abstentions in the 135-seat legislature. Two deputies were absent and five refused to vote. The ruling Convergence and Union (CiU) political alliance and the leftist separatist Republican Left (ERC) party supported the declaration, which they had presented jointly. A few smaller parties also supported it, after the ERC and CiU softened some wording and eliminated a reference to a "new state". But it was opposed by the Catalan Socialist Party and the center-right People's Party.
The Spanish government cannot allow Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence since that procedure is not provided for by the law, Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has said 30 March 2014. While the current government is in power, such a law will not be passed, as “a part of the population cannot decide the question of national sovereignty for others,” she added. The official was speaking in Barcelona at a demonstration of the ruling party on Sunday. Saenz noted though that the government is ready for dialogue with Catalonia on various issues, as long as it is in line with the constitution. She reiterated that if Catalonia quits Spain, it will also stop being a member of the EU, may have to quit the euro zone as well as the Schengen area.
The Catalan parliament passed a law giving its regional president the power to carry out a non-binding consultation vote on secession from Spain. Catalan nationalists believe this law enables them to hold the long-awaited independence referendum. On 19 September 2014, the Catalan parliament voted in favor of the new law, with 106 MPs supporting it and 28 voting against. The MPs hope it will bring Catalan President Artur Mas a step closer to the planned independence referendum on November 9. The president of Spain's Catalonia region signed a decree on 27 September 2014 calling for a referendum on independence to be held on November 9.
Spain’s Constitutional Court decided 29 September 2014 that Catalonia had no right to vote for its independence. The independence referendum planned by Catalonia’s President for this November was unanimously suspended by 12 judges.
The Catalan government gave up plans to hold a November 9 referendum on independence from Spain, a regional party leader told AFP 13 Ocober 2014. Catalan President Artur Mas announced the cancellation of the November 9 referendum at a meeting between the parties seeking Catalonia’s independence and the regional government. The cancellation is because of a lack of legal guarantees, El Pais newspaper reported. Instead, the government will hold a public participation process - a series of town hall meetings and debates - on the political future of the province.
More than 2.3 million people out of 5.4 million eligible voters in Catalonia voted on 09 November 2014 in the unofficial independence poll, with more than 80 percent of voters, or some 1.86 million people, supporting independence from Spain. The Spanish government dismissed the vote as unconstitutional, having filed complaints with the Constitutional Court.
The Madrid government said it will fight on constitutional grounds any attempt to hold a referendum on secession from Spain. It is widely believed that if Catalonia holds a referendum, the Basque Country and Galicia would follow, potentially breaking up Spain.
On 27 September 2015, pro-separatists in Catalonia claimed victory in local parliamentary polls. The result were expected to potentially push the region toward a faceoff with the central government over its independence. Initial results showed the combined pro-independence alliance 'Together for Yes' and smaller leftist secession party known as CUP gathering enough seats to allow them to unilaterally declare independence within 18 months; something which both parties had argued for ahead of the elections. Under that plan, Catalan authorities envisioned approving their own constitution, and eventually creating a Catalan central bank and judiciary.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised in October 2015 to use "all political and legal means" to stop an independence push, including taking the matter to the country's Constitutional Court. He called desires for Catalonia to break away "an act of provocation." On November 09, 2015 Lawmakers in Catalonia approved a measure for a renewed effort to seek independence. A majority in the regional parliament backed the plan to launch a roadmap put forth by the Together for Yes coalition and leftist CUP party, which together control 72 of 135 seats. They hoped the process will lead to secession within 18 months.
The pro-independence lawmakers agreed on an 18-months "roadmap" to full independence in November 2015. The conflict, however, arose around the previous separatist leader Artur Mas, when the far-left CUP party refused to back him over his support for austerity and corruption scandals linked to his party. In an last minute move, Mas agreed to step aside and proposed the lesser-known Carles Puigdemont as his successor.
Catalan lawmakers voted in Carles Puigdemont as the new head of the parliament on 10 January 2016, set to spearhead the region's drive for independence from Madrid. Puigdemontstated that he wante to "chase the invaders out." Puigdemont was sworn in late after months of quarrelling between the separatist parties holding the majority in the regional parliament. The lawmakers only had one more day to chose a new Catalan leader, in order to avoid going back to the polls.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|