Farewell Spain? Will austerity drive Catalonia to independence?



Is Catalonia going to be Europe’s newest state? Nearly 1.5 million Catalans took the streets of Barcelona last week calling for independence from Spain. Catalonia is recognised as a “nation” within Spain, but the country’s financial crisis has exacerbated the region’s independence movement. Catalans say their nation gives more taxes to the Spanish government than it receives and that austerity cuts have unfairly squeezed their economy.

In this episode of The Stream, we speak to Clara Ponsati, Economics professor at Georgetown University; Alfred Bosch (@AlfredBosch), member of Spanish Parliament; and Carles Muntaner (@carlesmuntaner), professor at the University of Toronto.

What do you think? Is it a Catalan right to seek independence? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using #AJStream.

Rallying around cries for independence, an estimated 1.5 million people recently took to the streets of Barcelona to demonstrate support for an autonomous Catalan state. Already recognised as a “nation” within Spain, Catalonia has secured a variety of privileges from the Spanish federal government including language rights and judicial autonomy. The Stream covered the activity on social media during Catalonia’s National Day celebration.

In light of Spain’s fiscal instability, many Catalans feel that they aren’t getting a sufficient return on investment from the taxes they pay to the federal Spanish government. Catalans suggest their recent request for a €5bn bailout by the Spanish government is merely an attempt to recover funds they claim the federal government is allocating disproportionately. According to Montserrat Guibernau, “Catalonia’s average contribution to the Spanish Central Administration and Social Security corresponds to 19.40 per cent of the total. In contrast, Catalonia receives 14.03 per cent”. Below, a graph shows that in 2010, although Catalonia payed the third most in taxes, it was the tenth ranked community in resources received.

In a recent survey conducted by a Barcelona-based newspaper, 51.1 per cent of people in Catalonia favoured independence, opposed to 36 per cent in 2001. The graph below traces sentiment in Spain towards Catalan independence, with those supporting no autonomy in red, the status quo as an autonomous community in yellow, being part of a federal Spain in blue, and independence in green.

Economic woes represent only part of the strong support for an independent Catalonia. Known for their distinct language and wealth, Catalans have often expressed a strained relationship with the rest of Spain. Many feel animosity from their fellow Spaniards, which occasionally results in a distrust for the federal government as a whole. The documentary below details the history of Catalonia’s independence movement.

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