In a nutshell: What is Catalonia and why it wants independence
Catalonia is one of the oldest European nations. Located on the north eastern side of the Iberian peninsula with a current population if 7.5 million people. It has its own culture, language and traditions. Until 1714 was an independent state with its own government, laws, constitution and institutions. It has one of the oldest democratic traditions having created the first Parliament in mainland Europe during the middle ages.
In 1714, after the defeat in the succession war the Castilians imposed their language, dismantled the Catalan institutions and committed a cultural and historical genocide attempting to erase any historical traces that portrayed Catalonia as a leading nation in Europe and the Mediterranean.
Catalonia has throughout history played an important role as one of the richest areas commercially thanks to its privileged location and during the 19th century becoming the first industrialised area in Southern Europe and continuing to this day thanks to its long entrepreneurial tradition. It is also a cultural pole with decisive contributions to western culture.
The 20th century brought a civil war, two dictatorships and even further efforts to make Catalonia become a Castillian (Spanish) province by actively prosecuting and illegalizing public use of the language and culture and banning Catalonia’s claims for self-rule. Fortunately, the Catalan nation has resisted all efforts to make it disappear.
Since the death of Franco in 1975, with the Bourbon restoration and Spain closely watched by western countries, Spain attempted to clean their image (that of a developing, poor, old-fashioned and backwards country) and to project an image of a democratic country which respects the nations that compose it. Unfortunately, this was only a mirage.
The restoration of the Spanish monarchy never led to a prosecution of the fascist regime that preceded it and therefore the foundations of the state and its Constitution are heavily rooted in the previous regime. The current Spanish constitution only recognises the existence of one nation, the Spanish one and doesn’t give Catalan language an official status. Amongst other things, it gives the army permission to act against secession attempts. The Spanish legal system is heavily politicized and dependent of the Castillian interests creating a de facto first class nation, (the Castillian-Spanish one) and several second class nations: Catalan, Basque and Galician. Catalonia is currently an Autonomous Community inside the Spanish state and has the same status and degree of self-government as the Spanish provinces which are not nations.
Catalonia currently sustains an unparalleled fiscal plundering of 10% of its GDP, around 22000 million Euros every year, which equates to about 3000 Euros per Catalan citizen. There are no control mechanisms or possibilities of negotiation for wealth redistribution inside of Spain and the process lacks transparency since the latest official data available is from 2005. After wealth redistribution Catalonia loses 8 positions in the Spanish welfare ranking starting as 3rd and ending up below the Spanish average on the 11th position. In federal countries this redistribution is limited and controlled, ranging from 2% (ie Canada) to 4% (Germany) of the GDP of the richest regions. Unlike in Spain, wealth redistribution in federal countries is generally limited so that rich regions don’t go down in welfare status because of this.
Catalan, though it is the 10th European language in number of speakers is not official in Europe, even though languages with less speakers such as Danish, Finnish, Norwegian or even Maltese with only a few thousand are. Spain actively lobbies and bans Catalan national teams from entering official competitions and coerces Catalan players to play in Spanish national teams with the threat of disqualification from official competitions if they don’t. Spain holds bilateral agreements which ban flights to Barcelona airport from more than 30 international destinations. The list is endless.
The chronic lack of infrastructures in Catalonia caused by the fiscal plundering is now, in a crisis environment, heavily damaging the possibilities of the Catalan economy to recover. Examples of this are a third class airport, most of the toll motorways in the Spanish state and no railway that links the Mediterranean coast with Europe.
The financial plundering is unsustainable and the impoverishment rate is alarming with 20% unemployment and all important economical decisions are made 700km away in Madrid not only ignoring Catalonia’s interests but against them.
Catalan institutions are equivalent to a Colonial Parliament where almost any law approved at the Catalan Parliament can be overridden by a Spanish law if they don’t like it and the attributions are mostly limited to the management of certain public services such as education, healthcare and the police with no real decision power. As an example, Spain are currently looking for a formula to counter the recent bullfighting ban in Catalonia voted by the Catalan Parliament.
Catalan culture is also threatened, even though historically the Catalan language has been the best tool for integration of the immigration lack of power to enforce its use is making it quickly lose shares of usage with a growth of immigration from practically 0 to more than 10% of the Catalan population in the last 10 years causing social unrest and unbalances.
Catalonia has tried all possible ways to improve its situation and now, after 150 years of attempting to fit inside of Spain, having decisively contributed to Spain’s development to become the 8th biggest economy in the world Catalonia has seen any attempt of greater self-governance to improve its situation frustrated by the lack of democratic culture in Spain.
The last chapter of the new Statute from 2006, the law that defines Catalonia’s self-government within Spain, which granted slightly improved self governance, was approved by 90% of the Catalan Parliament. It was heavily watered down by the Spanish Parliament but later was approved in a referendum by the Catalans. Finally, it was appealed by the Spanish parties to the Spanish Constitutional Court and further cut by this highly politically biased court acting like a de facto legislative chamber rather than as an independent law court. This has cut any aspirations of greater self-government inside of Spain forever, leaving the new Statute even worse in most aspects than the previous one. Even the most conservative layers of society in Catalonia have been disappointed, leaving independence as the only way forward for Catalonia.
For all these reasons we believe that it is not only a matter of identity but also a matter of pure survival for Catalonia to achieve independence democratically and to become a state within the European Union as soon as possible.
The benefits are multiple. Europe will gain a rich, stable and democratic commercial ally in Southern Europe that has the potential to become the 4th richest state in the European Union. It would also be a pole of stability in the Southern European area and the gate to commerce with Asia in Europe with (once the fiscal plundering is over) first class infrastructures and an economy based in added value activities achieved through excellence in education.
Catalonia has all the ingredients to become, once independent, an advanced country with a high degree of democracy and social welfare rivaling the most advanced countries in the world and that is why we ask you to spread the word about our democratic struggle to regain our independence. Thank you.
Picture courtesy of Xavi Bassols
I’ll start posting the sources to the data, I’ll try to find them in english but most times the sources will only be available in Catalan or Spanish.
- The Spanish Constitution – 1978 PDF in English. Section 2, Section 3 articles 1 and 8
- Wikipedia article on the Nueva Planta decrees that abolished Catalan institutions and government in 1714 in English
- Spain’s legal system rates 60 out of 133 in judicial independence just after Nigeria in the Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010 by the World Economic Forum
- Latest data (from 2005) published in 2008 by the Spanish Government on the fiscal balances PDF in Spanish
- Fundació Josep Irla – Estimation of the fiscal balances between the autonomous communities and the Spanish State 1979-2005 PDF in Catalan
- Summary of results of the report on the Catalan fiscal balances of the period 1986-2001 by the experts group of the Catalan Government PDF in Catalan
- Summary of results of the report on the Catalan fiscal balances of the period 2002-2005 by the experts group of the Catalan Government PDF in Catalan
- The Spanish Ombudsman appeals to the Spanish Constitutional Court the Catalan Welcoming and Integration Law that says Immigrants in Catalonia will be welcomed in Catalan so that they are welcomed in Castilian-Spanish instead Link to news in Catalan
- PP will promote a law in the Spanish Parliament to overturn the Catalan Bullfighting Ban approved by the Catalan Parliament Link to news in Spanish
- Spanish Consitutional Court’s sentence on the Catalan Statute PDF in Spanish
- Fresno Case of Spanish lobbying against Catalan national teams Link in English and in Catalan
- Cercle d’Estudis Sobiranistes – Economic studies, graphs and data about Catalonia Link in Catalan
- Cercle Català de Negocis – PDF presentations and data with sources about Catalonia’s fiscal plundering and the economic viability of a Catalan State within the EU Link in Catalan
- Barcelona airport is banned from flying to 23 countries Link in Catalan and article in CataloniaDirect in english
- Sample of Spanish media promoting anti Catalan racism Link to my article and to the original poll in Spanish