Many in the Catalonia region of Spain have for long said they don’t identify as Spanish and want to secede and form an independent country.
In a disputed referendum on Sunday, Catalonia “won the right to become an independent state,” with as many 90% voting to split from Spain. The referendum was marred by violence – as many as 92 people were injured. And Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s Prime Minister, refused to recognise the plebiscite that took place, saying, “there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia”.
Here are 10 reasons why the Catalonians want to break away from Spain:
*Catalonia, with its capital in Barcelona, is an autonomous Spanish region. It has a population of 7.5 million people, comprising roughly 16 percent of Spain’s population. It is among Spain’s most prosperous regions, contributing a fifth of the country’s 1.1 trillion-euro ($1.32 trillion) economy
*The regional government runs its own police and exercises significant powers in health and education. However, key areas such as taxes, foreign affairs, defense, ports, airports and trains are in the hands of the central government
*Pro-independence Catalonians are unhappy with the limited autonomy the region enjoys. A common argument is that Catalonia contributes far more than it receives from the Spanish government, which is run from Madrid
*According to experts, lack of economic autonomy, especially, has made people angry. Most of Spain’s regions pay taxes to the central government and then receive a portion in return to spend on health, education and public infrastructure, with the sole exceptions of the northern Basque Country and its twin region Navarre. These regions collect their own taxes and decide for themselves how to spend the money. Spain’s refusal to extend these tax-and-spend privileges to Catalonia has fuelled outrage
*Many Catalonians have also long stressed the region’s cultural differences from the rest of the country, including its traditions and language, which were suppressed during the 1939-1975 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco
*The current movement for independence gained traction after Spain’s Constitutional Court in 2010 struck down parts of a charter that would have recognized Catalonia as a nation within Spain and granted it greater autonomy. Since the court’s ruling, hundreds of thousands of Catalonian residents have taken to the streets every year on September 11, a Catalan holiday, to demand independence
*Support for secession received a fillip after Spain’s harsh austerity measures during the 2008-2013 financial crisis. Many Catalans felt they could do better on their own
*Attempts to resolve the situation through talks have failed due to various reasons. The Spanish PM said he cannot discuss a referendum unless the constitution is changed, and invited Catalonia to work on changing it. The Catalan government, however, says its right to self-determination must be respected first before talks can proceed
*This is not the region’s first attempt to hold a vote on the question of independence. While a non-binding referendum in 2014 was blocked by the court, the Catalan government still went ahead and staged an unofficial poll
The police aggression on Sunday was likely to only fuel the passion for independence, and the main separatist group urged the regional government to declare independence after the violent crackdown.
No one knows what will happen if Catalan officials follow through on their pledge to use the vote as a basis for declaring independence, a provocation that would possible remove from Spain one of its most prosperous regions, including the coastal city of Barcelona.