Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Catalonia separatists to lock horns with Madrid

  • Catalan Independence Day in 2014 (Photo: sba73)

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in the streets of Barcelona on Friday (11 September) to celebrate Catalan National Day in the lead-up to a plebiscite at the end of the month.

Catalan foreign affairs secretary Roger Albinyana told this website that the plebiscite on 27 September will help set in motion a mandate for independence of the prosperous northern region.

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  • 'Demonstrations not enough' says Albinyana (Photo: Government of Catalonia)

"The question of independence will be key, will be nuclear, because political parties will be dividing themselves among those who favour independence from Spain and those who oppose independence from Spain", he said.

The election has been billed as a plebiscite because of strong resistance from Madrid.

The movement's chief architect, Artus Mas, has said he would declare unilateral independence should the pro-independence camp win a majority of seats.

A strong backing would put a plan in motion to create a government that would lay the institutional groundwork of a state.

Mas told the Financial Times this could include a diplomatic service, a central bank, a tax authority, and possibly even an army.

Catalonia contributes some 8 percent of its GDP, or around €15 billion, to the poorer regions in Spain. It hosts nearly 6,000 multinationals and generates a quarter of Spain's exports. Around 350,000 EU nationals from outside Spain live in Catalonia, out of a population of 7.5 million.

"Catalonia has been a net contributor to the European Union since 1986. And we are willing to continue to being net contributors to the EU", said Albinyana.

Madrid's intransigence on the issue appears to have deepened their resolve to secede.

In November, Catalonia defied a court order ban and held an informal poll where over 80 percent agreed to an independent state. The symbolic referendum was held after Scotland had itself voted against separating from the UK.

Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy remains steadfastly opposed to Catalonia's independence.

"No Spanish prime minister would accept this, neither I nor any other, unless he goes crazy", he said last week.

But Albinyana said Madrid can no longer ignore the secessionist movement should a majority back independence following the regional election at the end of month.

"A democratic country cannot ignore the demands of the national minorities and especially if they are expressed in a democratic and peaceful and legal way, they have to be heard," he said.

A poll earlier this week shows most back independence although it remains unclear if Barcelona's newest mayor is also a supporter.

The movement hopes to gain further momentum following the general elections in Spain in December.

The established conservative and socialist parties are already under pressure after suffering a series of defeats over the summer. Leftist parties in May swept to power in Madrid, Barcelona and elsewhere.

"The People’s Party, the conservative party, is going to lose the absolute majority, that is pretty clear", said Albinyana.

"They might continue in government but they will need support from third parties, that might make them weak, which was not the case until now", he said.

Albinyana said Catalonia's more than 1000 years of history, its language, and identity have led to the movement.

"The institution that I am part of 'Generalitat de Catalunya' is an institution that was created in 1359. My president is president 129", he said.

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