The referendum held for Catalonia’s independence is showing signs of political turmoil that is likely to last for some time. It is the result of years of Catalonia’s uneasy relationship with Madrid. Now with the referendum the ‘centre-state’ relations are likely to deteriorate further if adequate and timely measures are not taken by Madrid. The administrative divisions in Spain are called ‘Autonomous Communities’ (like states in India). Catalonia is one of the 17 Autonomous Communities of Spain. It is located in the northeast of Spain. It accounts for 16% of Spain’s population. This region contributes 19% to Spain’s GDP. Catalonia is the richest region of Spain. The size of Catalonia’s economy is equivalent to the economy of Portugal.
The call for independence has gained momentum in the past few years and more so in the past two to three years. However the roots of this independence movement lie in the era when General Francisco Franco ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. Catalonia faced severe suppression during his reign. It was in 1978, three years after his rule ended, that Catalonia was granted autonomy in its administration. Further in 2006 more powers were given to the region in terms of finance and taxation.
Economy and culture are the factors which according to Catalonians make them eligible to be an independent nation. However economy remains the main bone of contention between the Catalan Government and the Spanish Government. Catalonia has been contributing to national revenues more than it receives for its own region. Further the region is also opposing use of its contribution by Madrid to reduce the deficit of the poorer regions of Spain. In addition to these issues the burden of debt on Catalonia has been increasing for the past few years. This is coupled with reduction in investments in businesses in the region. The economic slowdown faced by Europe has had its fallout on Spain but more on Catalonia since it is the economic backbone of the country. Those in favour of independence feel that Catalonia would prosper more should it have entire control over its economy.
Culture is quoted as another strong factor in support of independence. Catalonia has its own culture and own Catalan language. Catalonians are also very sensitive about their football. So much that the El Clásico (Football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is called El Clásico or The Classic because of intense rivalry between two regions) has crossed the football field and is evident in politics also.
(This is the first part of the article and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)
(The author is an Independent Researcher based in Vadodara and can be reached at – [email protected])
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)