When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

In Barcelona, Rising Calls For Separatism To Cut Catalonia Free From Spain's Debt

Marching on Barcelona, Sept. 11 2012
Marching on Barcelona, Sept. 11 2012
Sandrine Morel

BARCELONA – Making headway through the streets of Barcelona, closed to traffic for the occasion, seemed almost impossible. A crowd of children, students, retired people, business owners, and the unemployed coming from every part of Catalonia had joined together to wave yellow-and-red flags and voice their support for the creation of an independent state for the “Catalan people.”

According to local police, nearly 1.5 million people --600,000, according the central government --took part in last week's march between Passeig de Garcia and Parliament. They were responding to a call from a group of pro-independence organizations, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), who rallied them all with the slogan “Catalonia, the next European state.”

Every year, several separatist movements march together on September 11th, Catalan’s national day, la Diada, to commemorate the 1714 siege of Barcelona by Spain's Bourbon troops. Never has the rally been so popular. This time, with the approval of the regional government, separatist organizations gathered for a display of force against “Spain, Europe and the world.”

This success reflects a growing separatist sentiment within Catalan society, extending from the upper classes to the working class, from the right to the left. The economic crisis has fueled the movement with new recruits. For the first time ever, a poll carried out by local authorities has shown that an absolute majority of Catalans, 51.1% to be precise, would vote “yes” on a referendum for independence. This is eight points higher than in 2011.

Paying for the less productive states

The idea that Catalonia would do better without Spain has gained ground. Politically speaking, Catalans are still bitter about the 2010 ruling by the Constitutional Court of Spain, which rejected several articles of a new autonomous status meant to redefine the relationship between the region and Madrid. They no longer accept that a large part of Catalonia’s revenues are used to compensate poorer regions. According to the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Catalonia pays at least 16 billion euros -- 8% of the region’s GDP -- in taxes per year to Madrid. This “fiscal deficit” is even harder to accept as Catalonia has also been hit by the crisis.

“Many people have realized today that independence is the only solution,” said Carme Forcadell, the ANC’s president. “We give a lot to Spain and don’t receive much in return, whilst thousands of Catalans struggle to make ends meet.”

With an unemployment rate of 22%, the implementation of harsh austerity measures and difficulties to finance itself on markets (it recently requested a bailout from Madrid), Catalonia is growing frustrated with Spain’s “solidarity between regions” principle.

"Spain doesn’t treat us well, especially on economic issues," says Jesús, a policeman in his forties, marching with his wife. “An economic driving force like Catalonia cannot continue to receive fewer funds than the less productive regions,” he believes.

“We are told about the risks of independence, but we never hear about the risks of dependence,” says Joán, a communication manager in public administration, in his thirties. “Spain is sinking and we don’t want to drown with it. Our economy has a future, Spain’s does not.”

Artur Mas, the head of Catalonia’s regional government, who supported the Sept. 11th march and called for massive participation, is likely to use the rally’s high turnout to negotiate a “fiscal pact” with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to give Catalonia financial and fiscal freedom, in other words to collect its own taxes and do what it wants with them.

“If there is not an agreement on the economic basics, Catalonia’s way to independence is open," Mas warned, threatening to call for early elections. Rajoy has already rejected this idea. “Catalonia has severe deficit and unemployment issues,” he said on September 3. “This is not the time for back-room deals, conflicts, or polemics. It is time to unite and work together.”

In using the threat of independence, Artur Mas is taking a big risk. He needs the support of the People’s Party MPs in Madrid to govern the region, and he needs the central State to pay his bills: Catalonia is Spain’s most indebted region. Unable to reduce its public deficit in 2011, and shut out of financial markets, Catalonia requested a 5-billion-euro bailout in early September to repay its expiring credits. Not really the best time to be asking for autonomy from Madrid.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

And If Ukraine's Fate Was In The Hands Of Republican Senators And Viktor Orban?

In the U.S., Republican senators called on to approve military aid to Kyiv are blackmailing the Biden administration on an unrelated matter. In Europe, French President Macron will be dining with the Hungarian Prime Minister, who has threatened to block aid to Ukraine as well.

photo of viktor orban walking into a room

Orban will play all his cards

Sergei Savostyanov/TASS via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Make no mistake: military aid to Ukraine is at risk. And to understand why, just take a look at the name of French President Emmanuel Macron’s dinner guest Thursday at the Elysée palace in Paris: Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, and Europe’s No. 1 troublemaker.

Orban is threatening to veto a new 50 billion euro aid package for Ukraine at a European Council meeting next week. He could also block Ukraine’s negotiations to enter the European Union, an important issue that has provided some hope for this war-torn country. These are votes on which the unanimity of the "27" EU member states is required.

But this is not the only obstacle in the path of Western aid: the United States is also immersed in a political psychodrama, of which Ukraine is the victim. A new $60 billion aid package from the Biden administration has stalled in Congress: Republicans are demanding legislation to shut down the border with Mexico to stop immigration.

What does this have to do with Ukraine? Nothing, besides legislative blackmail.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest