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European Spring

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On 1 October, Catalonia's separatist government has called a referendum on leaving Spain, and wants to declare independence if the Yes vote wins. One of Spain's wealthiest regions, its capital is the proud city of Barcelona.

The Spanish leadership has rejected the vote as illegal and the courts have ordered a halt. Spanish police have arrested senior Catalan officials and raided key regional buildings in an attempt to stop it going ahead.

Catalans have taken to the streets in protest. But what has stirred this hunger for independence - and could it happen?

Catalan nationalism was suppressed under decades of Gen Francisco Franco's dictatorship but re-emerged after his death in 1975.

The region's desires for autonomy were articulated in a 2006 statute backed by the Spanish and Catalan parliaments that granted the "nation" greater powers and financial control. Four years later, parts of the autonomy statute were struck down by Spain's Constitutional Court in 2010, to the anger of regional authorities.

After separatists won the region's last legal election in 2015, they set about organising a referendum, based on an unofficial vote in November 2014, when 80% of those who took part are believed to have backed independence.

Ignoring the Spanish constitution, which states that the country is indivisible, the Catalan parliament enacted its own law in a vote on 6 September.

There is just one question on the ballot paper: "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?" And there are two boxes: Yes or No.

Under the controversial law, the result is binding and independence must be declared by parliament within two days of the Electoral Commission proclaiming the results.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont insisted that "no other court or political body" could suspend his government from power.

But he did hold out an olive branch to Madrid, offering to halt the self-declared referendum in return for a legal vote: "It should hold talks to figure out when and how Catalans can vote and we will sit down and agree on it."

How did that go down in Madrid?

Badly. In the words of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy: "I say this both calmly and firmly: there will be no referendum, it won't happen."

Acting at Mr Rajoy's request, the Constitutional Court suspended the law passed by the Catalans. Since then, the Spanish government has moved to take control of the region's finances.

"Spain has de facto suspended the self-government of Catalonia and has applied a de facto state of emergency," President Puigdemont declared on 20 September.

In other action:

  • Madrid detained 14 senior Catalan officials, including Josep Maria Jové, the deputy of Catalonia's Vice-President Oriol Junqueras. They are suspected of misappropriating public funds and other offences
  • Up to 10 million ballots for the referendum have been seized, along with promotional material
  • Ministries and institutions in and around Barcelona were raided, including the economy, foreign affairs, telecoms, social affairs and presidency buildings
  • More than 700 Catalan mayors across Catalonia who agreed to facilitate the referendum face questioning and possible prosecution - sparking a rally in their support
  • The official referendum website was blocked by the Guardia Civil (but can be seen from abroad)

 

Do Catalans really want independence?

Just 2.2 million voters out of a potential 5.4 million turned out for the 2014 ballot which, like the upcoming referendum, was branded illegal by Madrid. The organisers say 80% of those who did vote backed secession.

Then in 2015 a coalition of separatist parties won regional elections. Between them, Junts pel Si (Together for Yes), with the support of a radical left-wing party, the CUP, won 48% of the vote.

More worryingly for the secessionists, a public survey commissioned by the Catalan government in July suggested 49% of Catalans opposed independence, while 41% were in favour.

Turnout at the annual Catalan national day event in Barcelona on 11 September was impressive - around a million people according to local police - but in 2014 it was estimated at 1.8 million.

 

The urgency of President Puigdemont's referendum drive may in part be explained by the realisation that support has been ebbing.

But the Spanish authorities' attempt to bring the campaign to a halt has raised questions of heavy-handedness.

Could the series of raids and the threat to take over the region's public finances drive Catalans into the arms of referendum supporters?

Does Catalonia have a good claim to nationhood?

It is certainly long-lived. It has its own language, a recorded history of more than 1,000 years as a distinct region, and a population nearly as big as Switzerland's (7.5 million).

 

It also happens to be a vital part of the Spanish state, locked in since the 15th Century, and - according to supporters of independence - subjected periodically to repressive campaigns to make it "more Spanish".

According to the most recent Catalan government data, nearly one in five adults living in Catalonia today was born elsewhere.

Depending on whom you ask, Barcelona today is the capital of Catalonia - or Spain's second city.

 

Why independence now?

After Franco, Spain's return to democracy brought devolution to Catalonia as well as some of Spain's other regions.

Prosperity followed, with Barcelona becoming one of the EU's best-loved cities, famed for its 1992 Summer Olympics, trade fairs, football and tourism.

But Spain's 2008 economic crisis hit Catalonia hard, leaving it with 19% unemployment (compared with 21% nationally).

The region, which makes up 16% of Spain's population, accounts for almost 19% of Spanish GDP - yet there is a widespread feeling that the central government takes much more than it gives back.

This sense of injustice has fuelled the independence campaign, and when Spain's courts in 2010 curtailed Catalonia's powers, calls for secession increased.

 

It does appear to take more than it gives - though the complexity of budget transfers makes it hard to judge exactly how much more Catalans contribute in taxes than they get back from investment in services such as schools and hospitals.

Spanish government data from 2011 show the region paid €8.5bn (£6bn) more than it got back. According to the Catalan government, the discrepancy was closer to €11.1bn.

 

Meanwhile, state investment in Catalonia dropped: the 2015 draft national budget allocated 9.5% to Catalonia - compared with nearly 16% in 2003.

But some would argue that is a natural state of affairs in a country with such regional economic disparities.

Whatever the arguments, there is concern that the turmoil may have an economic effect.

While stressing the need to observe the rule of Spanish law in Catalonia, the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE) called in a statement (in Spanish) for a "constructive attitude to avoid affecting social co-existence and economic prosperity".

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Merkel won but a far right movement have made it into the parliament

Didn't the Nazis start that way?

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It appears that a substantial amount of Catalans want independence from Spain and their officials had set up a referendum on independence for them. The Spanish government have said it is illegal and sent the police there to arrest the officials and have been pretty heavy handed trying to stop anyone attending poll stations to vote.

Seems to European Union have been quiet as church mouses on this as well. Swear Sky said it's only the UK that have commented on it so far.

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2 minutes ago, Gambino said:

 Swear Sky said it's only the UK that have commented on it so far.

dont belive their shit

murdoch and sky hate the EU

 

 

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Some tricky situation if it's against their constitution. If they are so confidant 60% of Catalans don't want to separate from Spain though, why are they so worried about giving them a vote.

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because they were being hammered by basque terrorists for decades and it could reignite basque separatists again after Catalonia gets a referendum.

/

 

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34 minutes ago, Gambino said:

Seems to European Union have been quiet as church mouses on this as well. Swear Sky said it's only the UK that have commented on it so far.

Lol

1 hour ago, QPR Dee said:

 

actually mad now

Xnxiiddjdnd

Streets mad hot right now.

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Considering Spain said only a minority would turn out to vote and 60% wanted to remain. The results are supposedly saying out of the 2.2 million who could vote, 2 million did and 90% want independence.

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Spanish man are fucked! The firefighters should bring the fire hoses out and drench them cunts.

If Catalonia are serious, there will potentially be a civil war. If all of the Catalonia police are backing their people then the state needs to conclude it is lost.

/

Owen Jones is a c*nt, I've called him and on his FB about climate change and he didn't respond.

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5 hours ago, dayomesaydayo said:

Cant stand that owen jones yout. 

y?

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14 hours ago, Gambino said:

Considering Spain said only a minority would turn out to vote and 60% wanted to remain. The results are supposedly saying out of the 2.2 million who could vote, 2 million did and 90% want independence.

A Spanish guy at work said it was a 42% turnout

Also made some points about how there aren't many people who can say they are 100% catalan decent. And the region benefited economically from immigration from other parts of spain like Andalusia in the 70s, the reason y they are confident enough to go it alone.

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