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.
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 1938 to 1973. At that time, speaking Catalan, or any other language 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.
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 two 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.
Source: Al Jazeera News