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Puigdemont: What goes for Scotland, goes for Catalonia

As Catalan leaders push for an independence referendum, what would such a development mean for the future of the region?

Catalonia is a prosperous region in the northeast of Spain, a state formed by 17 territories and two cities, partially autonomous, governed by the Statute of Autonomy.

Quick Facts

The history of the Catalan region dates back to the 15th century before Spain was a nation.

Under the Franco regime in 1939-1975, any expression of Catalan culture was prohibited, including speaking the Catalan language.

The end of the Franco regime marked the beginning of independence sentiments.

In 2006, the Spanish High Court challenged Catalonia’s autonomy, leading to more calls for independence from Spain.

The call for a referendum in 2014 was denied by the Spanish Constitutional Court as Spain maintains that independence for Catalonia is unconstitutional and illegal.

A non-binding referendum was held in 2014; 81% voted for independence, but the turnout was only 35%.

Carles Puigdemont has called for a new referendum to be held in October 2017.

That’s part of the Spanish constitution which establishes the limits of self-rule for each region.

But Catalonian history dates back to the days before Spain was even a nation.

In 1469, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile married, Catalonia, a principality within Aragon, kept its independence, own institutions, parliament and laws.

But after the death of Ferdinand and Isabella, territorial conflicts ended the separate elements, with Catalonia becoming part of what we now know as Spain. 

The Catalonian national identity has survived throughout the centuries, including persecution during the military government of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975.

At that time, speaking Catalan, or any language other than Spanish, was considered a crime. 

After Franco, Catalonia recovered its cultural autonomy and partial political control. Catalan was, once again, freely spoken and the region’s flag, thought to be one of the oldest in Europe, could wave again next to the Spanish one.

There's no social conflict; it's a political conflict between a Spanish state that does not understand that Catalonia is a nation with the right to decide and is tired of the state not complying and of having to renounce being Catalan to be Spanish.

by Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia

In recent years, independence sentiments have risen among Catalans.

Carles Puigdemont, president of the regional government, is even calling for a referendum on the issue, despite opposition from Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who calls this effort “unconstitutional”. As a matter of fact, Spain refuses to discuss the matter altogether.

“We haven’t started because Spain doesn’t want to negotiate. In Madrid, there are all manners of opinion. Some believe it is not constitutional … It is perfectly constitutional to ask the question. There is a legal channel by which to ask in Catalonia. It’s a matter of political will,” says Puigdemont. 

However, questions of where Catalonia will stand with the European Union should it have the measures of political control it seeks have also arisen.

Puigdemont says Catalonia has more than proved itself to the EU. 

“Catalonia has always been a region that contributes positively to the European Union, not negatively. Catalonia is a region that represents 2 percent of European GDP. It’s dynamic with growth of above 3.5 percent in the last year.”

What does Catalonia hope to achieve through this referendum and what does it mean for the future of the region?

Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, talks to Al Jazeera.

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