Timeline of Catalonia
By: Marcela Royo
Since 1976, Catalan has been one 17 autonomous regions of Spain. Each of these regions has its own degree of self-governance that take care of internal situations, but they then report back to the central government. Each autonomous community has its own president and parliament, who report to the parliament, president and king of Spain.
Catalonia has wanted independence for generations because of their distinct cultural identity.
Catalonia speaks Catalan, which is a completely different language, not a dialect of Spanish. The Catalonian government is based on historic institutions dating back to the 16th century. They argue that they have an identity, language and self-governance that should allow them to become and independent country. Catalonians, especially the older generation, feel an increased pride in their history following the dictatorship of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975. He wanted to unify the country and ruled on a “One Spain” platform, which meant that Catalans could be imprisoned for speaking Catalan or even performing Saradana, a cultural dance. After 40 years of suppression, Catalonians are eager to reclaim their cultural identity.
Catalonia is also one of the most prosperous autonomous communities in the country, they argue that they pay more taxes to the central government than they receive back in the form of government services.
The most recent push for Catalonian independence began with Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont and his predominantly pro-independence parliament. On September 6, Puigdemont called for a referendum that the central government deemed illegal. According to the Spanish constitution, an autonomous community cannot declare independence on their own; the entire country must vote in a referendum. The vote took place on October 1, 2017.
There are many issues plaguing the push for Catalonian independence. To begin many members of this community did not vote because they knew it was an illegal referendum. So while 90% of voters expressed a desire for independence, only 40% of the Catalan people voted. Regaining independence would raise complicated issues within Spain and Catalonia. If they were to separate, would Catalonia be a part of the EU? Would it be able to use the euro? Would its citizens still benefit from national healthcare that they currently enjoy as citizens of Spain? It could also leave the remaining parts of Spain in a difficult place because the country, which is already struggling economically, would lose one of its most prosperous regions. There are also two other autonomous communities in the north, Galicia and Pais Vasco, that have their own languages, histories and cultures as well, and it’s possible that if Catalonia were to leave Spain these communities would seek independence as well. Catalonian independence would affect every corner of the country, which is why this referendum has been so divisive in the country.
After the vote, the Central Government asked the government of Catalonia if they were declaring independence or not, which Pudgdemont did not answer conclusively for two weeks. When parliament finally declared independence after a secret vote held within parliament, the central government declared the move illegal and used a seldom-used clause in the Spanish constitution to remove the government in the autonomous community and impose the central government’s complete authority.
Two days after declaring independence, Puigdemont and many ministers fled to Brussels to escape arrest for treason. Some ministers returned and were arrested but the president and 5 others remain there.
Under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which states that if regional government does not follow and obey the Constitution and other rules the Senate can vote for any necessary measures to intervene. In this case the central government dissolved parliament, fired the president, and other government officials in Catalonia and have called for new elections December 21.
Edited by Elyse Notarianni