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Independence Vote For Catalonia

  • December 20th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

catalonia-map.pngA new government has been formed in the Catalan region of Spain (19.1.212), pledged to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, the same year as a similar poll is expected in  Scotland.

Leaders of that government, sensitive that regional aspirations might come to be accommodated within the European Union, say EU law may help it the project through to a binding vote.


Elections in the large, and relatively prosperous North-eastern region, on 25.11.12, saw a reversal of support for the conservative nationalist party, Convergence and Union, headed by the regional Prime Minister, Artur Mas.

He has survived as head of government, but has had to go into coalition with the more radically nationalist party, Republican Left; and has taken on the commitment to push for the referendum.

That’ll be opposed by the conservative central government of Spain, which says it will use its constitutional power to ensure there is no move to break up the country or weaken its national structure.


In reply the government at Barcelona is consulting legal opinion on a possible challenge to such rulings form Madrid, through EU law, or international law.

No EU member has “lost” part of itself to date, but  senior officials in Brussels say “break away” countries from member states would not get automatic membership of the presently 27-member body; they would need to apply.

Some loose analogies might be found; moves to redefine your country are not that rare:-

Slovakia broke off from Czech Republic (together being Czechoslovakia) before either was in the EU; Kosovo disengaged itself from Serbia, a non-EU country; the Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were former republics in the Soviet Union, but again had successfully broken away before they applied to go into the EU. The five Eastern German lander, the former East Germany, came into the then European Community when they entered the Federal Republic of Germany – but they had already themselves formed a recognised state, and did not “break away” from any larger state entity.


The separatist issue in Spain has a long history of bitter conflict, most recently in the tragedy of the democratic government of the Spanish Republic, elected, then over-thrown by fascist military in the civil war of the 1930s.

The Republic had a policy of autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque country, both bastions of support for the failing government, and ultimately the last two military redoubts as fascist forces moved to victory, and took over national government.

homage-catalonia.jpgGeorge Orwell’s
non-fiction Homage to Catalonia identified the Republican cause strongly with aspirations of the working class in the Catalan region).

In 34 years since the restoration of democracy, with EU membership in 1986, attitudes have been slow to shift on fundamental points of difference, especially the burning issue of the Catalan language — use of which was suppressed during the years of military dictatorship.


catalonia-flag-svg.pngThe government in Madrid has now commenced moves to have classes taught in the classic, Castilian Spanish, whereas until now, under democracy, it was just an offering in separate subjects.

A sign of fervor was the reaction of Barcelona FC, the illustrious football club, which declared itself against the change and announced players would run on in Catalan colours for a selection of their matches.

If Barcelona took their round-ball home, it would have likely devastating effects on Spain’s current dominance in the international game – recently named Number One in the FIFA world ratings for national teams, (versus lesser lights such as Australia’s Socceroos, just relegated three places to 36th).


The push for autonomy, and / or a new country, does not stop at history or the Beautiful Game.

europe-hols-resize-roses-31.jpgIn a country suffering harsh economic circumstances, with joblessness now in the area of 25%, Catalonia is relatively prosperous.

europe-hols-resize-roses1.jpgWith 7.6 million people, 16% of the population of Spain, it makes a disproportionate contribution to Gross Domestic Product, based on a financial industry, agriculture and its large-scale tourism.

As a key economic region, its GDP last year was ranked 50th largest in the world, against other regional entities such as the Australian mining state, Queensland, at 49th, and Rio de Janiero, at 51st.


Catalans might hope that disadvantages of breaking away, like making it in the world as a smaller national economy, might be counter-balanced by keeping more of the wealth at home, not going in taxes to Madrid; and might be made up for, also, by being in the single market and borderless world of the EU.

Similar arguments have been engaged in, in Scotland, since the British government announced this year it would assent to a binding referendum on Scottish independence, to be conducted alone within that country.


Europe On Line Magazine, Weiden,  “Spain’s Catalonia plans referendum on independence in 2014”, 19.12.12., (20.12.12).

Jonathan House,   “Catalonia Sets Independence Referendum”, WSJ, NY, 19.12.12., (20.12.12).

Wikipedia, SF, “Catalonia”., (20.12.12).