On 11th September 2012, 1.5 million people – according to the local police – and 600,000 individuals – according to the Spanish Government – participated in the largest demonstration ever organised in Barcelona. Since that massive demonstration asking for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, this topic has become the main discussion issue on the Catalan and Spanish political debates. It has also reached the international community and European institutions.
Why are so many Catalans calling for independence from Spain? The reasons are manifold and relate to cultural, historical, political and economic aspects. The support for Catalonia’s independence has significantly increased in the last few years, fuelled by the economic crisis but also by the Spanish nationalism with its attacks against the Catalan language and its attempts to recentralise Spain. In fact, there has been a change within Catalan nationalism: many Catalans are deeply disappointed with Spain, they are tired of justifying Catalonia’s national status and language, and they have now abandoned all hope that the rest of Spain will try to understand their claims and find a comfortable place for Catalonia within a plurinational Spanish state, from a political, cultural and economic perspective. In fact, in general terms, Catalan nationalism has been seeking agreements with the Spanish nationalists for the last 150 years, trying to find a comfortable place for the Catalan nation within the Spanish state. Independence supporters existed, but most of the time they were a minority within Catalan nationalism. According to most of the opinion polls conducted within the last 2 years, between 45% and 57% of Catalan citizens would vote for the independence in a hypothetical referendum.
The 4 main reasons behind the current drive for Catalonia’s independence
There are four main reasons: little respect for Catalan language and culture; Spain’s lack of recognition of its plurinational nature; the attempts to recentralise Spain and trim Catalonia’s self-government; and, Catalonia’s excessive fiscal contribution to pay for investments and services delivered in the rest of Spain, an amount that official studies made by the Spanish Finance Ministry stated it represents between 6.4% and 8.7% of Catalonia’s GDP annually (between €13.1 billion and €17.8 billion). Recent political movements by Spanish nationalists have demonstrated the first three reasons. The economic crisis has emphasised the unfairness of the fourth reason, since now Catalonia cannot pay for its basic services and has the largest debt among the Autonomies despite continuing to transfer the largest amount of money to the rest of Spain and being a net contributor to the European Union for decades. Furthermore, after the fiscal redistribution, Catalonia has worse public services than subsidised regions.