Catalonia’s drive for an ‘impossible’ and sometimes called ‘irrational’ independence from Spain is a story of persistence, protest, violence, and catastrophe.
- Barcelona is under a violent protest and on the verge of catastrophe.
- Torra said that jail sentences to Catalan leaders wouldn’t stop the fight of self-determination.
- Spanish government has rejected talks with Catalan President Torra inspite of the danger of amplifying protests.
- Catalonia is Spain’s richest region but is unhappy with how Madrid controls taxes which don’t benefit the region fairly.
Catalonia, home of the Catalans, is an autonomous region in the north-eastern part of Spain. With the historic city of Barcelona as its focal point, Catalonia is amid protests for another bid for independence from mainland Spain. In the last attempt back in 2017, Catalans tried so through a referendum in 2017 which failed.
Consequently, Barcelona is under a violent protest and on the verge of catastrophe.
Catalonia President Quim Torra has called for talks with the Spanish government over the consecutive incidents of street violence across the region. Over 300 people have also been detained. At least 200 police officers have been injured in the protests. Over 170 vehicles have been vandalized.
The Torra Referendum Proposal
However, the Spanish government dismisses all calls for talks even at the risk of aggravating violence. Madrid opines that most people are not supporting Torra’s referendum proposal. Instead, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that President Torra needs to strongly condemn the violence.
Quim Torra was a close ally of the Former President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont was charged with igniting the independence rebellion movement in the region. However, President Torra condemned the violence and said he wouldn’t allow any such events. He urges Catalans to stop the violence, vandalism and burning vehicles.
Advocating Independence for Catalonia
After the Spanish Supreme Court’s judgement, Torra said that jail sentences to Catalan leaders wouldn’t stop the fight of self-determination. If all groups and parties join hands, then it will be possible to finish the cause through the legislative term and conditions by validating Catalonia’s independence.
The recent verdict by Spain’s Supreme Court prompted Catalonia to come out in fury, clash with police and destroy public property.
However, Spain’s Constitutional Court has warned the Catalan officers. If they indulge in any pro-independence activity, there may be legal repercussions. In October 2019, the Supreme Court of Spain sentenced 9 major politicians and activists to a jail term from 9 to 13 years. 3 others were fined.
Why Catalonia wants Independence?
Catalonia is not only Spain’s wealthiest region but also has a distinction from Madrid. It has its own language, police, parliament, flag, and anthem, making it a fully autonomous region. The region complains that Catalonia sends a massive amount of money to the other parts of Spain that are poor. Moreover, they claim this is because Madrid controls taxes.
Furthermore, there is also resentment against the Spanish government over the budget transfer. Agitation stems from the issue in the required amount of money to be invested in services such as schools and hospitals in the autonomous region.
From 2017 to 2019: An impossible struggle
On 1st October 2017, the referendum bidding for independence received momentum. 90% of the Catalan voters seconded it. However, only 43% of people had voted and more than 50% abstained. Consequently, Spain’s constitutional court declared this referendum unconstitutional along with a massive police crackdown.
However, despite this the Catalan parliament declared independence on 27th October 2017. The move was a blow to Madrid’s superiority and authority. Consequently, Madrid invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and imposed direct rule on the autonomous region. It dissolved the Catalan parliament and sacked their leaders.
Runaway Campaign and Remote Leadership
Former President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont and his other party members involved in the rebellion had to flee to other countries. Puigdemont remains under self-imposed exile. Spain also sentenced former Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras to jail for 13 years on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.
Right after, the Spanish government held regional elections on 21st December 2017. However, the nationalist parties emerged victorious with Quim Torra becoming the new president. So, Torra has become the new face of the separatist thousand.
Keeping Barcelona in its grasp is crucial for Madrid
Catalonia is pivotal to Spain’s economy. 25.6% of Spain’s total exports are from the region. Catalonia also accounts for 19% of Spain’s GDP. However, the Catalonia economy has suffered a lot because of this prolonged crisis and protest against Spain. Major businesses, companies, banks, and energy firms have succumbed to the fueling hysteria. Therefore, they moved their headquarters out of Catalonia.
Moreover, this crisis has been damaging to the democratic credentials of Spain in front of the world. In 2017, the Economist Intelligence Unit, that conducts democracy ranking around the globe downgraded Spain from a ‘full democracy’ to a ‘flawed’ one. Madrid’s inability to solve the Catalonia crisis is to blame.
- 300 people have been detained, 200 police officers injured, and 170 vehicles vandalised in the protests.
- In October 2019, the Supreme Court of Spain sentenced 9 major politicians and activists to a jail term from 9 to 13 years.
- Catalonia’s economy has suffered a lot because of the prolonged crisis and protest against Spain with several major businesses moving out of the region.
- Madrid’s inability to solve the Catalonia crisis has resulted in Spain’s democracy ranking downgraded from ‘full’ to ‘flawed’.