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Why Catalonia Wants to Be Independent

You’ve probably already heard about the news of the (so far forbidden) independence referendum of Catalonia on October 1st and the tensions between the central government in Madrid and the regional government in Barcelona. Many people ask me about the origin of this feeling among some Catalans. For those who wonder why the discussion around Catalan independence is taking place, today I summarize the reasons and consequences of an independent Catalonia.

The Reasons Why Catalonia Wants to Become Independent

According to those in favor of secession, Catalonia cannot reach its maximum cultural, social, and economic potential as long as it is part of Spain. These are some of the reasons why they choose an independent country:

  • Own identity: about half of the Catalans do not feel Spanish. ‘Catalonia is not Spain’ is the motto used by the nationalist movement to illustrate this. A Catalan state would mean that Catalonia is able to restore its own identity, which existed centuries ago but gradually disappeared through mergers with other kingdoms.
  • Self-governance: by having a self-government with full sovereignty, Catalans will have more capacity to decide and govern the country and the policy will be better adapted to the specific needs of the Catalan people.
  • Economic matters: ‘Espanya ens roba’ (Spain steals our money) is a common concept on the street. Since the defeat in 1714, Catalonia would have constantly paid more taxes to the government in Madrid than what the state has invested back in Catalonia. This naturally makes people angry. But because Catalonia is a wealthy region where the economy is flourishing, Catalans believe there are enough resources available to be economically independent after the separation. Moreover, the Catalan state would have the fiscal sovereignty to collect, manage, and invest all taxes according to their criteria.
  • Safeguarding Catalan culture: Catalonia has its own language and cultural traditions, which have often been endangered at certain times in history when they were heavily suppressed. The Catalan state would preserve education in Catalan and extend its use to other areas, such as judicial administration, and request the European Union to recognize Catalan as an official language.
  • A matter of democracy: in recent times, the separatist question has become a matter of democratic rights, as the Spanish government repeatedly denies the official referendums made to know the opinion of the people and forbids them.

The Consequences of an Independent Catalonia

Although the nationalists are very sure of their cause, there are several important points to consider in the event that Catalonia proceeds with separation.

  • Illegal referendum: although the separatists keep shouting that ‘Referèndum és democràcia’ (the referendum is democracy), the Constitutional Court has declared that the Catalan referendum of October 1st is illegal. According to them, the Catalan referendum is in conflict with the Spanish constitution. For this reason, the referendum of October 1st is forbidden, and all persons cooperating can be liable. The consequences of this have recently been seen, when the police arrested several high Catalan officials in connection with the organization of the illegal referendum. This makes it anything but easy to vote on October 1st and can influence the voting behavior of voters.
  • A divided country: Catalonia was already divided into two before the whole independence struggle, but that now seems to be getting worse, especially if Catalonia becomes independent. Even if the Catalan government declares the birth of the Catalan Republic after the (illegal) referendum on October 1st, this does not mean that all Catalans agree with this. There is a good chance that the majority of the ‘no’ front will not vote in an unofficial referendum and therefore this vote will not be counted.
  • Spain loses: for Spain, an independent Catalonia would be disastrous for the economy, which it largely depends on, but also at other levels such as geopolitically, industrially, sportively, and culturally; and therefore they try in every way to prevent an independence referendum. Moreover, the example of Catalonia could also encourage other regions such as the Basque Country and Galicia to become independent.
  • Temporary instability: Spain will of course not make it easy for Catalonia to become independent, but if the Catalan Republic is declared after an unofficial referendum, I can only imagine that there will be a reaction from the Spanish government. And this can be in all forms, including the military. In addition to the tension and unrest among the local population, this could ultimately also influence the EU.
  • Higher costs: it is not so certain that the economy of Catalonia would continue to grow after the separation. In fact, the most pessimistic reports predict a new crisis. Moreover, a Catalan state would mean additional costs in terms of services such as taxation, diplomacy, defense, and security, which are currently centralized and financed by all Spaniards.
  • No EU membership: the separation also means that Catalonia is automatically no longer a member of the European Union. Catalonia would then have to become a member again, which could take up to ten years, and would lose the Euro as currency. This could of course endanger trade relations with other countries and with Spain itself.
  • Fewer foreign investments: an independent and temporarily unstable Catalonia, which falls outside the EU, would probably also be less attractive to large corporations and foreign companies that are established here.
  • No Barça in the Spanish League: and therefore no more ‘clásicos‘ (unless Barça meets Real in the Champions, of course). According to the president of the Spanish league, all Catalan clubs will be immediately excluded from the competitions if the secession process of Catalonia continues. Spanish legislation allows only clubs on Spanish territory to play in the competition, in addition to those from Andorra. This means that FC Barcelona needs the support of the Spanish government and parliament to enact new legislation that grants an exemption like that of Andorra.

The Reality of the Catalonia-Spain Conflict

What is the situation in daily life then, you might wonder. That depends on who you talk to. First, you have those who are for secession, the independentistes, who are euphorically coming forward and happy with what has been achieved and impatient about what is yet to come. On the other hand, you have those who are against it, although some of them might not even dare to say so in public. They are fed up with this political situation and sometimes feel uncomfortable and not even ‘at home’ anymore.

However, the conflict is not from recent years but has been playing for decades, driven among other things by the oppression during the Franco dictatorship, the centralism of Aznar, and then the economic crisis. This led to an informal referendum in 2014, in which 80.76 percent of the Catalans who voted appeared to be in favor of independence. Although it was purely symbolic and most potential no-voters stayed at home because it was ‘not a legal referendum’, this at least showed the dissatisfaction among the Catalan population and what they stand for.

Nobody knows if this so-called procès independentista (secession process) is serious, but the desire (and for some even the necessity) for a referendum will not just blow over.

👉 Read more here about the story of the Catalan flag.

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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