Barcelona Warns Madrid: Pay Up, or Catalonia Leaves Spain

Hundreds of thousands march for Catalan independence as economic pressure boosts secessionist sentiment

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Emilio Morenatti / AP

Demonstrators wave Catalan flags during a protest rally in Barcelona on Sept. 11, 2012. Thousands took to the streets to demand independence for Catalonia during the region's "national day"

Sept. 11 always brings Barcelonans into the streets to dance the sardana, sing for their enemies’ blood in the anthem “Els Segadors” and chant political slogans in celebration of their national holiday, the Diada de Catalunya. But this year, a new intensity colored the Catalans’ nationalist fervor. The independence movement’s flag bearing a white star against a blue triangle outnumbered the region’s official yellow-and-red-striped standard. A pro-independence march, which in the past has never drawn more than 50,000 people, pulled in a crowd estimated by city police at 1.5 million. And every newspaper in the city carried the results of a poll released this week that reveals a once unimaginable transformation: half the population of Catalonia supports secession from Spain.

“We have no other option since our will has been totally ignored” says Soledat Balaguer, a member of the secretariat of the Catalan National Assembly, organizers of the demonstration that shut down the city center. “Catalonia needs to be its own state.”

(MORE: Spain’s Economy May Be a Mess — but It Can Teach the U.S. About Financial Literacy)

It wasn’t always thus. Unlike the Basque Country, where support for independence from Spain has run high for generations, most Catalans have traditionally favored greater autonomy over outright secession. As late as 2010, a poll conducted by Catalonia’s Center for Opinion Studies found that only 25.2% of the population favored independence. That number had more than doubled in its latest survey, released this week, which found a historic high of 51.1% wanting out of Spain. How to explain the dramatic change?

One factor amplifying pro-independence sentiment in recent years was the Spanish state’s legal challenge to a 2006 statute, approved in a Catalonia-wide referendum, that transferred significant powers to the regional government. When Spain’s highest court declared many of the statute’s provisions unconstitutional, “it outraged Catalans,” says Montserrat Guibernau, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. “That initiated the change in thinking.”

But the recent surge in secessionist support is closely tied to Spain’s economic crisis. Although Catalonia is the wealthiest region in Spain, it is also the most heavily in debt, running a fiscal deficit of 8%. Two weeks ago, it requested a 5 billion euro bailout from Spain’s central government, a request that prompted the president of the Extremadura region to complain that those funds would come “from the pockets of all Spaniards.” But in the minds of many Catalans, the region was simply asking for its own money to be fairly returned.

(MORE: End of a Bloody Era: Both Outrage and Celebration Mark Catalonia’s Last Bullfight)

Under the current fiscal system, Catalonia collects taxes from its residents, but turns them over to the central government, which then disburses a designated amount to each region to pay for public salaries, social services, infrastructure and the like. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, Catalonia provided 19.49% of the federal government’s tax revenue, yet received only 14.03% of the state’s spending.

It is that discrepancy, says Catalan President Artur Mas, that explains the region’s deficit. Mas has called for a fiscal reform that would enable his government to collect its own taxes and turn over a designated amount to the central state (rather than the other way around). So potent is the popular sense of injustice that even Mas, whose Convergència i Unió party has never been pro-independence, hinted that his party’s stance may change if it does not achieve the reform it seeks. “If we cannot reach a financial agreement,” he told the BBC today, “the road to freedom for Catalonia is open.”

The economic crisis has also increased pro-independence sentiment in less concrete ways. Historian Enric Ucelay-Da Cal, who specializes in Catalan nationalism, sees the growth in secessionism as a reactionary response to the erosion of many of Catalonia’s traditionally distinguishing features. As small businesses — once a mainstay of the Catalan economy — find it harder to survive, and young people find it increasingly difficult to find jobs, independence is viewed as a panacea. “There’s a perception that once we get ‘our’ money back and go back to the good old days of ‘our’ culture, then everything will be all right again,” Ucelay says.

On Tuesday afternoon, it seemed as if everything was. As hundreds of thousands of people wrapped themselves in independence flags and danced their way down the Via Laietana and the Gran Via, the mood was markedly festive. But a darker reality lay just beneath the surface. “There’s terrible pressure on both Spain and Catalonia right now, and the frustration is enormous,” says Guibernau. “Secession was always unthinkable in Catalonia. But it’s precisely at moments like this that the unthinkable can occur.”

MORE: Spain Doesn’t Want a Bailout — Just Send Money. Now!

144 comments
Antonio Casero
Antonio Casero

No es sólo cuestión de independencia, sino de ir a una reforma de la Constitución que deje muy claro el modelo federal de España.Nuestro país necesita reformas para que la participación de los ciudadanos acaben con un sistema que ha provocado mucha corrupción en esta etapa de la democracia.Los indignados son las movilizaciones de millones de personas que ven como sus derechos son arrojados al abismo.

Albert Nadal Garriga
Albert Nadal Garriga

Spain steals our money. Catalans pay huge amounts of money in taxes.

Spain does not return any money to us. Spain has been continuously

drowning us for years and will continue doing this for years. They are

also exterminating us culturally. We have a culture, own language and

identity that we do not want to miss. Now we just want the independence

to be free as a free state.

http://albertnadal.cat/2011/10...

http://albertnadal.cat/2012/07...

 

Martín Garrido
Martín Garrido

The best time of the radicals always is a crisis. They get props inverosimiles at other times and for different reasons to those who proclaim.Yes, bring an end to the crisis together...Yes, to ask after the way we want to live together and advance the people of Spain.

amarfull
amarfull

This collection of writings is a response to a sense of cultural solidarity and Catalan, in a time of perceived that stagger the values ​​of modernity and coexistence between different codes of conduct of communities and institutions affected reference in a state with a strong tradition of political and social instability. It's a good time to talk about the will of the people, the voice of social and limitations of democracy, culture, rights and duties, respect and cultural hostility, coexistence and cultural violence. The limits of cultural selection, if any. We must unite sensibilities, without deleting the voice of the people, without the need to remove the right to self-determination. Catalunya has the right to exercise its sovereignty, if its people want it, with the authority that their history and international support offers.

www.causacatalana.com

Pintete
Pintete

This movement is based on lies or half truths. Catalonia is not the region that contributes the most to the general finances. Besides its political caste has mismanaged the region for more than 30 years. If I were not half Catalan I'd be glad to see them go but my Catalan half wants to remain Spanish as always Catalonia has been despite modern nacionalism.

RobertSF
RobertSF

In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, Catalonia provided 19.49% of the federal government’s tax revenue, yet received only 14.03% of the state’s spending.

We've had that situation in the United States for many years. The US should be two countries at least.

Miguel Castañer
Miguel Castañer

Iam affraid this days of economical terror and international presure imposed  over the spanish  sociaty, are used to amplified a nationalistic feelings tha in the normal days are perfectly reasanoble and fit and sound in our constitution. Iam humble and tipical spaniard,father family catalan,mother family vasc, born in Madrid and living in Andalucia. My family speaks a good share of lengauges, and forget the stereotypes,culturally we have a rich and unique heritage,that we are in our way proud of.

The solution its not just in the iberian peninsula ,but in Europe.

There difficult times ahead not only for us,but for the whole continent. We can use in our profit the stuff we have,or we can used to destroy ourselves for many generations to come.

Its not flags what we need now but comon sense, and honest political representatives. 

Josep Arnau
Josep Arnau

Make no mistake, the economy is not the main reason for independence. 

On Tuesday 11 September, an estimated 1.5 million people joined a demonstration in Barcelona, marching under the slogan of ‘Catalonia, the next state in Europe’ for many more reasons than economical ones. 

Catalans are tired of  anti-Catalan rhetoric of Spain’s right-wing media, the same as the actions of Spanish politicians and their constant ruling against Catalan language and culture. We live in a State that is constantly ruling against our right. Instead of defending us, Spain is constantly attacking our language and culture. We are a different nation, with a different culture and a massive demonstration said it clear: We just want to be a normal European State as all the others.

James Benet
James Benet

As the Grandson of a Catalan man from Villa Rodona, I hear the sentiment of the Catalonian people loud and clear.    I see the wealth and power of the province and it is clearly ahead of the rest of Spain.

However what the world needs is less fragmentation and more accountability with resources and spending.  I am sure that if the Catalans got to keep a fair share of what they produce and not sustain low income parts of Spain things would not get this heated.

However as things are right now I can't see how this can happen without some serious talks on the table. Every province should get their respective share of the pie according to production levels. If you generate the wealth then it should come back not be arbitrarily divided.

Adam
Adam

@gorillasandbananas:disqus It is Madrid the one that more contributes and less receives. You need to get your facts straight and see the account balances and the "carga-beneficio" thingy.

http://www.abc.es/20120726/loc...

http://www.libertaddigital.com...

http://www.elconfidencial.com/...

But don't let the manipulation of the regional catalan goverment who just wants to hide their failures and deviate the attention to stop the party. Meanwhile, how's the Palau case going? And the Alguaire airport? And Spanair?

18235
18235

up next: spanish speaking  illegal aliens in california take to the streets to protest against rich, english speaking gringos, on may day.

or did that already happen, and the liberal media quickly forgotten about it?

sscarzz
sscarzz

Any Doritos Locos Tacos amp; Mtn.Dew over there?

gorillasandbananas
gorillasandbananas

 You can't ask a majority to govern the rights of a minority, you will have minority rights trampled. By your logic, you could ask the Catalans whether they think the Spanish minority in their region should be expelled or forced to do hard labor. Catalans deserve freedom and self-determination, like all people of the world.

MigueldeAragon
MigueldeAragon

Catalunya is in the process of making a grave error in judgement.  This region has always felt "burdoned" by the rest of Espana (it behaves in a very French-like attitude i.e. everyone else is to blame and nothing could be as good as Catalan).

Whether they like it or not the world has changed.  There is power in size.  Catalunya suffers the delusion that it could flourish as a single country.  It can't and won't.  Be careful what you wish for...the economics of the 21st century do not allow for the desires of a region to exist in microcosm. 

Catalans do not have to love the rest of Espana.  They do need to realize, however distasteful it might be to them, that they NEED the rest of Espana.  In the long run they would be worse off without the rest of Espana - not better. 

gorillasandbananas
gorillasandbananas

Catalonia is a nation without a state. Catalans speak a different language, have a different culture, a different work ethic, a different outlook on life, and a different way of life from Spain. Catalonia is one of Spain's oldest colonies. Spain bleeds Catalonia dry of its resources and does nothing to reinvest into it. 2 million Catalans spoke loud and clear in a public protest, and many others across the world including FC Barcelona's old coach Pep Guardiola that they want independence. Enough is enough. It's time that the entire world recognizes that Catalans want a Republic of their own. They are fed up of having to live under the oppressive foot of the archaic Kingdom of Spain.

ydiez
ydiez

I am Catalan... I used to feel Spanish too, but not any more.

I do not think this place is better than any other, or that Spanish

people are worse than (or actually that much different to) catalan

people.

But I cannot speak my language freely and my culture is just second

best because I am Catalan (no cinema, fewer books, only a couple

newspapers...). I also pay more taxes because I am Catalan and have to

say "I am sorry" every time I tell someone that things should be run

differently because everybody knows "we" are just a bunch of

separatists.

We, as a united country, tried to do the right thing. We tried to

make Spain better with our effort and our work and we tried to feel

better inside of Spain. We went as far as proposing a change in all our

laws following to the tiniest detail what Spanish legality establishes

for these cases. All so we could be happy about being Catalan and

Spanish.

We were told to shut up and sit down. Legal changes voted by 90% of

our elected officials and "blessed" by the Spanish president were

declared illegal, dismissed and ignored. They told us to just forget

about it.

We went out on the streets waving a flag that symbolises our identity

inside Spain and asked the Spanish government to listen to us. They

didn't, they thought it all would just go away. We learnt the hard way

that there is no place for us in Spain, that the only thing to do is

become independent.

Yesterday we went out on the streets again, but this once things are

different.  We are not speaking to Madrid any more. We are asking

ourselves when and how (and if!) we want to become independent. We are

also asking the world to watch over this new and peaceful country that

might very well turn up in a little while.

 

ydiez
ydiez

sorry, double post

Ian Mark Kearl
Ian Mark Kearl

What happens if Spain refuses Catalan's independence?  If Catalan secedes, do they have the ability to defend against the inevitable military backlash that will follow? 

PeggyGravel
PeggyGravel

Where is Isabella the Catholic when you need her!

patriotdad76
patriotdad76

how is it that all the wealthiest places on earth are being crushed under the weight of debts all at the same time?

patriotdad76
patriotdad76

It is the jewish bankers that are crushing all the economies of the world.

elii392
elii392

First of all, if there are regions that might speak more than one language more or less fluently in Spain, these are the Basque Country and Catalunya. Both of us speak Spanish, either Catalan or Euskera (Basque Country's language) and we also learn English at school. In some schools French and German are also taught, not as deeply as other languages, though. But people that lived and went to school during Franco's era is a whole different story.

Studies show that Catalunya would have a strong economy if we could mind our money.

And please, if you feel like you need to insult catalan people and Catalunya do it in your own house, doing it in public you are actually showing how "rich" you are (as in how appropiate your behaviour is).  

You can find idiots everywhere, not only in Catalunya. 

If Catalunya doesn't have proper buildings is because we are not in a dangerous earthquake zone such Japan or West American Coast or, because we don't have money enough (guess why...). That once in a life time there might be a destructive earthquake? Yes, certainly, there could be one. Is it likely in Catalonia? No.

PS: since you are such a know-it-all, "rich" and cultivated guy, why don't you write properly the name? It's CataluNYa, we don't have "ñ" in catalan.

John Monteleone
John Monteleone

Catalonia complains that only 75% of its tax dollars get spent on Catalonia. I don't think any province or state has a right to expect that every penny of taxes will be spent within its own borders. There are costs associated with the maintenance of the country as a whole, and it is reasonable to expect that every state contribute.   

Aezel
Aezel

Yes Europe, taking your already small insignificant countries and dividing them into even smaller even more insignificant countries will solve the problem....

I say let em go, and don't give them any help when they come crying.

RobertSF
RobertSF

But if the Catalans kept more of their money, the impoverished parts of Spain would be poorer. There's a similar situation in the US. The federal government collects income taxes that it the redistributes quite unequally among the states. I've heard California gets back 80% of what the federal government receives from it, while Mississippi gets back 120% (or something like that).

The question people need to ask is, "Are we a national family or not?" If you are, then there should be none of this quibbling over who gets what. That's like children arguing over who got the bigger cookie. It's the height of selfishness not to care about the poor in your own country.

Now, if the answer is hell, no, we're not a national family but simply hyenas fighting over a carcass. Then fine, secession is the only answer.

BerwickDuke
BerwickDuke

Most of the wealth comes from the spending of the rest of the spanish regions in their products. Think about that.

BerwickDuke
BerwickDuke

Nah, just bread with tomato and ham. And don't expect any generous free tapas with your drinks, like in the rest of Spanish regions. It's all about the money there. They would sell their moms for cash. Watch out.

Adam
Adam

 There is no Spanish minority in Catalonia since Catalans are Spanish and a huge part of their population came from other parts of Spain. If only "pure-breed" Catalans were countred, the region would be much smaller and their economic fundamentals mediocre.

Also, iF you take a look at the detailed polls posted by the catalan goverment, I'm not so sure it a majority asking for full independence. It is just that they do a really particular interpretation of the polls, by merging the ones that want independence from those who just want more authonomy (like becoming a Spanish federal state).

See:

http://www.ceo.gencat.cat/ceop...

Full independence: 34%

Spanish federal state: 28.7%

Authonomous Community (that's what they have now): 25.4%

Don't know/care/answer: rest.

http://www.ceo.gencat.cat/ceop...

18235
18235

just like all the poor mexicans in california are gonna one day want california to become a part of mexico!

J Fawkes
J Fawkes

"

There is power in size"

Ah yes, centralized power such as the EuroZone has proven this to be the case... :/

ydiez
ydiez

I am sorry you see it that way. The way I see it, we are not better than the next guy, but we are tired of looking for a way to be ourselves inside of Spain without any success.

I am fluent in four languages, one of which is Catalan. I am tired of being sad and frustrated when I am not able to use it when I need an official document or want to go to the cinema. It makes me feel awful when I am told to switch to Spanish because someone who has been living in Catalunya for 20 years has not yet found the time to master it enough to understand simple sentences. Language is the easiest example, but similar things happen with other aspects of my identity.

I did not choose to be Catalan, I am not proud or ashamed of being Catalan, I just am. I just want to be left in peace and lead a normal life like everybody else, I used to think I could be Spanish too, but not anymore.

BerwickDuke
BerwickDuke

Don't talk about Guardiola, sporting the National Spanish team shirt and playing with them for years. As many other catalans I met around the world traveling and doing business with the scholarships and business promotion money from the Central state, and when asked saying they were not Spanish. Thats your work ethic and outlook on life right there. I despise it.

Adam
Adam

lol, you seem to have never been to Catalonia or Spain. The work ethics are different from other regions but not from the rest of Spain as a whole. The work ethics of Catalonia are exactly the same than in Madrid, Navarre or Aragon.

Also, that about the reinvestments is a lie as you can see in other of my comments here. Their politicians have been going on overspending on irrelevant things and now they need to blame on the rest of Spain in front of their people.

They also contributed to the construction boom and all. :) Their people also speculated and have the same culture regarding housing and renting (the lack of).

ramongefaell
ramongefaell

@ydiez

In a Agonizing Global Economy and Threatend PLANET, with an Absolute Lack of a Sustainable Energy  to  restore Wealthness and regain  its amazing ability to host Life, and this terrible End could hapen in just a few Years (50 ?), if we donpt change Radically our way of life.. The 'Tiny' problem of a non viable (nowadays) Economic and political independence of our marvellous little country,  by means of a secession from an European Union Member State is now Absolutely Unrational and  pulled only by national feelings, hate to our close neighbours -never a good partner-, and 'furgetting' the only Good One, the 'Brain neurones' ( ¡I Used to be a 'Nationalist  since the current irrational attitude)'

ydiez
ydiez

We all very much hope it will never come to that.  That is why we ask for our independence singing and dancing, and bring our children along so they can say that they were there on September 11th 2012 when they grow up.

Come on, we even decided beforehand were we will park the 1000 buses that carried people to the demonstration so everything was as little of a hassle as possible for the people who just happen to live in Barcelona.

If the movement ever stopped being peaceful it would instantly lose its strength.

Should a military move by Spain or anyone else be the answer to a peaceful process, then I hope they would have as big as problem as we would.

After all, we are not sneaking out, we know what we want, we are saying it out loud so everybody can see. Our president will eventually ask the people to vote whether they want to leave Spain and if the answer is no we will just go home.

But just in case the answer happened to be "yes", just keep watching, we want you to see how things work out for us.

Punk Monk
Punk Monk

No. Some states are bigger than others and have more need.

Dani Reche Trigo
Dani Reche Trigo

We ran out of tears long ago. I'm surprised that you may regard this issue in that way...I thought you suffered something similar back in time when England kept all your taxes, gave you no representation...Sad...

J Fawkes
J Fawkes

oooh theft and redistribution as the moral high-ground! gotta love it!

Xavier GarcíaSabater
Xavier GarcíaSabater

Currently Catalonia gets more benefit from exports to Europe than to Spain. Spain is no more our main client.

We can suppose that spanish won't buy nevermore products from Catalaonia if we get the independence, but is this a true assumption?

Imagine an adquisitions manager, a housewife or any citizen. Will they buy a more expensive / less quality product just because it comes from  Catalonia as an independent nation?

Maybe I'm too optimistic but I don't think that the supposed hate of spanish to catalans will reach that level. I imagine a future of neighbours, not lovers, and of course the power of economy will be the basis for our future relationship.

ydiez
ydiez

I believe you might be mistaken there, i would not speak about a Spanish minority in Catalunya, but the reason is that people born elsewere who live (and hopefully can find work ) in Catalunya are very welcome to feel Catalan if they want to.

Catalunya is an inclusive nation, so what we have is a huge majority of Catalan people who come from (other parts of) Spain and from many other places. Actually, the "Catalan pure-breeds" that you mention are very very few and would never have the capacity to raise the numbers that we saw an Tuesday.

My father came when he was seven from Burgos, my mother's mother when she was 40 from Bizcaya. There were lots of people in the demonstartion waving the secessionist flag and singing in Spanish (and many other languages, for that mater).

As for the poll that you mention, that was the point the Catalan president made before the demonstration, but nobody there asked for a better fit inside of Spain (I was checking, I used to be one of them). That ship sailed when the Constitutional Court decided to dismiss the Catalan Law reform two years ago.

John Monteleone
John Monteleone

Nothing I said is incompatible with the idea that some states are bigger, or have more need, than others. I only said that every state ought to contribute something to the country as a whole, and therefore, can't expect all of its taxes to be spent within its borders.

Please read more carefully next time.

RobertSF
RobertSF

I'll bet you live in a red state.

ydiez
ydiez

 My point was that things are not as clear as they might seem, people from social sectors traditionally regarded to think one way are now thinking differently (and you and me might be both examples of that even when we disagree).

I realize now I put more stress in one side of the argument and I thank you for helping me see that.  I also agree that  the "popular" referendums meant very little. I voted in them and I see how only "secessionist" people went there. Consequently I do not think that the percentages meant much although they did help stir some interest in the subject.

Where I disagree is on the "silent majority" part. I do not think that staying at home means you are against (or for) independence. I think the only way to know for sure would be to ask. I went to the demonstration asking to be allowed to vote whether I want to stay in Spain or not. I really do not know how many people would vote for secession. Taking the latest polls into account I think that most people think like me, but what I mostly want is to be asked for real.

Should there be a vote and should the answer be "no", I personally would be disappointed, but I would also considered that we would have achieved a lot. I am not afraid of being "defeated" or realizing my ideas are not shared by a majority of people, what terrifies me is living in a country were I am not even allowed to ask the right questions.

Finally, I want to say that one of the later arguments against secession is that we Catalan people are being manipulated by our politicians. I want to ask all reasonable people (including those that do not think the same as I do) to stop using this type of explanations: We are not idiots. We know that every politician has his or her own agenda. We have thought this through. This thing started on the street and inside the families and politicians just "jumped" into it. We have polls and studies to back up each of our claims and world leading experts on several field on our "side". Personally I speak four languages, have a PhD, teach at a university and hardly ever believe a word of what politicians say without  getting the facts straight first.  I do not think that someone who is against independence is wrong, unintelligent  or misinformed and  I really do not appreciate being continuously told that I am.

I hope this last part did not sound too harsh, it is a pleasure discussing with you.

Luis de Malibran
Luis de Malibran

My father, mother and many generations upwards are "pure breed" catalans and yet I do not want secession. Catalunya voluntarily formed part of Spain more than 500 years ago in an historical process of unification similar to many that formed the   present nations of Europe. 

Secession is a step backwards that would create havoc and poverty for all. It simply will not happen in Spain. Some of the catalan politicians are promoting this foolishness only for their own petty interests, in detriment of  that of the silent majority.

In a proper referendum, not the manipulated ones that have taken place so far promoted and controlled by the secessionists, the catalan people would clearly reject independence from Spain.

Dani Reche Trigo
Dani Reche Trigo

But then how can anyone explain we are forced to request a 5bn€ bailout while poor Spanish regions overspend? Our debt could be swept within only 3 years if we kept our money -and we really need investments, but Spain will invest in unefficient issues rather than let us grow...

An old handbook from CIA already presented a case of struggle between Catalonia and Spain back in 1978...advising to separate Catalonia and Valencia as much as possible to avoid a victory by Catalan people...Spain took note and have acted accordingly ever since, even disfavouring facilities that would cause economic growth such as the Mediterranean railway line.