Friday

23rd Jun 2017

Catalonia still asking for independence

  • Half a million people gathered in Barcelona on Sunday for the Diada, the National Day of Catalonia (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Catalonia on Sunday (11 September) in a call for independence from Spain, amid efforts by local authorities to raise the region’s profile abroad and a domestic row over the budget.

According to local police around 850,000 people marched across five cities, including 540,000 in Barcelona to commemorate the fall of Barcelona and the subsequent loss of Catalan liberties, institutions and laws in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Organisers claim over a million participants, the Spanish government delegation in the region said they were 350,000.

Two civil society groups, National Catalan Assembly and Omnium, organised the gatherings under the slogan “Ready”. Most people were dressed up in either T-shirts bearing the slogan or with the Catalan independence flag tied around their shoulders.

Among them was Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont, the first regional leader to do so.

Speaking to journalists before the demonstration, he said he feared that Catalans “will never be listened to” by the authorities in Madrid.

He said he was “willing to accept any kind of result of a referendum, unlike Madrid”, and that a referendum would have had to be agreed to with the Spanish government.

The People's Party government in Madrid has ruled out any kind of referendum or consultation and has taken legal steps against move towards independence, saying that it is against the Spanish constitution.

The issue is still very contentious both in Spain and in the region itself. A recent poll suggested that 47 percent of Catalans are in favour of Catalonia becoming an independent state while 42 percent are against.

In the crowd Griselda Valverde and Adriana Pla, two students, told EUobserver they were there “because we want to promote the wish for independence”.

But others were less enthusiastic.

“I don’t like all this patriotism and showing of flags,” said 20-year-old student Miriam Vargas, who was not taking part in the demonstration. “I would like Catalonia to become independent but not if things continue as they are. I want Catalan politics to change as well.”

“I think this national day has been turned into a circus of independence,” Roberto Blanco a Barcelona taxi driver on duty said, adding that not all Catalans want independence.

Scottish example?

A St Andrew's Cross was also to be found among participants. Robert McNair celebrated his first Diada, as the celebration is called in Catalonia, with Catalan friends.

“These Catalans were there for the Scottish independence referendum and we are returning them the favour two years later,” said the 65 year-old Scot from the Glasgow area.

The British vote and Scotland’s warning that it could leave the UK after Brexit have been followed in Catalonia.

“Understandably, there are pro-independence Catalans who are excited about the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum,” Daniel Cetrà, research fellow at the Centre on Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh, told EUobserver.

But he said events in Scotland were “unlikely to affect the evolution of the Catalan independence process, just like the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement [to organise the referendum] and the 2014 Scottish referendum did not have a significant effect”.

Edinburgh and Barcelona, he explained, are in two very different situations with the first risking being pulled out of the EU while the other has a political agenda that calls for the right to decide.

Not all agree though. “Clearly a Scottish secession could have an impact since it would show the viability of secession in Western Europe and within the European Union,” a Catalan academic, told EUobserver, asking not to be named because he doesn’t want to appear to take sides.

He said an agreement between Barcelona and Madrid that would give Catalonia full fiscal powers could be “an example of accommodation without secession”.

Since winning the Catalan election last year, the pro-independence Junts pel Si coalition (Together for Yes), and with the support of far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), has begun preparing legal steps for independence by designing a tax collection authority, a social security system and a foreign affairs department. The government in Madrid has protested against all of these steps.

Internationalising the cause

Another move, announced last week, will be to open four new Catalan delegations in EU countries, in Copenhagen, Geneva, Warsaw and Zagreb. They will work as a hub for the region of the Nordic countries; Switzerland and the international organisations; Poland and the Baltic region; and the Balkan region respectively.

A delegation was inaugurated in Lisbon last week, one year after it was approved by the region’s government.

Once opened, the four new delegations will eventually bring the number of unofficial Catalan embassies to 12. Delegations already exist in Brussels, Berlin, London, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Lisbon and in Washington.

“Catalonia should have a proper external representation suitable to what we are as a country and to the mission of this government,” Catalan foreign affairs minister Raul Romeva said at a press conference.

The move shows that “in the last four or five years it has become more important to internationalise the Catalan cause for independence”, Ferran Requejo professor of political science at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, told EUobserver.

“What they can actually do in these delegations is very restricted.”

Confidence vote

“They are very controlled by the Spanish authorities and have less room for manoeuvre than the delegations of, for example, Quebec or the Belgian regions,” he said.

Romeva himself also admitted in a radio interview on Thursday that “we are not a state, that is why our communication is often discreet”.

The opening of the new delegations, and of others planned outside Europe in the future, will have to be agreed in the 2017 budget.

But the Catalan parliament still has to approve the 2016 budget. Earlier this year, CUP – whose support is needed for a majority in the Parliament’s independence camp - decided not to back the regional spending plan because it did not support enough social and pro-secession programs.

Puigdemont has called for a confidence vote on 28 September. If he fails to get enough support, it could lead to the fourth election in the last six years.

Interview

Statehood is Catalonia's 'only option'

The new Catalan government wants independence from Spain, but it also wants to convince Europe it can be "an asset, not a problem", says its foreign minister Raul Romeva.

Catalonia separatists on EU charm offensive

Catalan authorities are trying to garner support from EU states and institutions, after nationalists swept to election victory on promise to hold independence referendum.

Catalan parliament backs independence vote

Lawmakers in Catalonia voted to set up a referendum for independence, next September, in defiance of Madrid and a recent constitutional court ruling.

Analysis

Hard days ahead for Serbia's gay PM

The nomination of Brnabic as Serbia's first gay prime minister is linked to party politics and pinkwashing rather than civil rights.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement