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. 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.
The Catalonian national identity has survived throughout the centuries, including persecution during the military government of Francisco Franco from 1938 to 1973. At that time, speaking Catalan, or any other language that wasn’t Spanish, was considered a crime.
After Franco, Catalonia recovered its cultural autonomy and partial political control. Catalan was, once again, freely spoken and the Catalonian flag, one of the oldest in Europe, could wave again next to the Spanish one. However, questions of where Catalonia will stand with the European Union should it have the measures of political control it seeks is also in question. The President of the regional government Carles 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% of European GDP. It’s dynamic with growth of above 3.5% in the last year.”
In recent years, independence sentiments have risen among Catalans. Puigdemont is even calling for a referendum on the issue, despite opposition from 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.
What does Catalonia hope to achieve through this referendum and what does it mean for the future of Catalonia? Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia, talks to Al Jazeera.
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