Should Catalonia stay with Spain?

Catalonia independence protest referendum separatist region european union spain
Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

What is the official status of Catalonia?

Catalonia is a region in Spain, located in the North-East of the country, near to the Pyréenées mountains, bordering France and Andorra. The biggest city of Catalonia is Barcelona. It is also the 6th most populated territory in the European Union.

Catalonia was granted the status of an autonomous community in the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1979 and 2006. These documents recognise Catalonia as a nation. The region disposes of a self-government, called The Generalitat de Catalunya, composed of an autonomous Parliament, Government and a President of the Generalitat.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Catalan News

Why is there a separatist movement?

Catalan separatism takes roots deep back in the history. The region has conserved its autonomy for centuries in the Middle Age. First separatist mouvements emerged in the 17th century, when Catalonia revolted against Spain in 1640. These mouvements reemerged in the 19th century, when the region was strongly industrialised and the Catalan language was revived as a living language.

Nowadays, the independence mouvement grew strong in 2010, when the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia was challenged before the Constitutional Court. The Court curtailed 27 and stuck down 14 articles of the Statute and declared the reference to ‘nation’ as having no legal effect, which caused immediate reactions in the region.
A nonbinding independence referendum was held in November 2015, which resulted in a suspension of the independence campaign by the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy.

When Carles Puigdemont took the office as the Catalan president in 2016, he promised to hold a binding referendum on independence of Catalonia, which was organized in October 2017. Tensions grew stronger and stronger between Catalonia and Spain, as the Spanish authorities tried to prevent the vote. The referendum resulted in a widespread violence, as the police tried to physically prevent people from voting.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Atlantic

Why do we talk about it today?
The referendum was strongly repressed by the Spanish police, which only strengthened the independence movement. When the Catalan Parliament voted to declare independence from Spain, the Spanish Senate granted President Rajoy with extraordinary powers over Catalonia and pursued criminal charges over independence leaders and Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to seek asylum.

Today, Carles Puigdemont is the lead candidate for ‘Lliures per Europa’ group, but Spanish election officials banned him from contesting in the European election. On May 5th, 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court declared unanimously that he can run for the 26th May scrutiny and confirmed his eligibility.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, EURACTIV

Numéro 2

Choose your side

The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.
What is your opinion before reading the article?


We are talking about rights

Rafael Arenas catalonia spain independence referendum

Rafael Arenas

Professor of Private International Law, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and ex-president of Societat Civil Catalana

The sentence, “Should Catalonia stay with Spain?” implies that Catalonia and Spain are two different entities, and this is not true: Catalonia is a part of Spain, not a different entity. So, actually, the question we have to answer is: “Should Spain be divided into two different countries, Catalonia being one of these countries?” My answer is “no”.

Most Catalans think of themselves as Spaniards

There is no reason for splitting the country. Catalonia can only be understood as a part of Spain. Neither History nor language (more than half of the Catalans have Spanish as their mother tongue) nor culture justify a secession of Catalonia. Most Catalans think of themselves as Spaniards and less than 50% of them have declared their willingness to create an independent State.

To be sure, a part of the Catalans desire independence and thereby a question has been raised: Don’t those Catalans who desire an independent Catalonia, deserve an answer? This question is not about the rights of those Catalans who want independence, but about the rights of all Catalans (also those Catalans that want a Catalonia within Spain) and all Spaniards.

It is not a question of the right to independence because there is no right to secession in Catalonia; neither by taking into consideration International Law nor Spanish domestic law.

But it is a question of the rights of all the Catalans that want to continue living in their own country. We Catalans have the right as Spaniards to live in Catalonia as citizens and not as foreigners.

The secession must be approved by all Spaniards

What is more, now the Spanish Constitution protects all Catalans. In the event of secession, the Spanish Constitution would no longer apply in Catalonia. Taking into consideration that the laws implemented by the Catalan nationalists in September 2017 showed some important shortcomings from a democratic point of view, so the concerns about the democratic quality of a future Catalan Republic are not without foundation.

It is true that the Spanish Constitution can be modified in order to allow the secession of a part of its territory; but this must be approved by all Spaniards.

So, coming back to the question raised above the answer is that Catalan nationalists have the right to try to persuade all Spaniards that it is better to divide the country than to maintain it unified. But this right implies no obligation for Spaniards to accept that division.


Catalonia: the right to be free

Elisenda Palizue

Chair, Catalan National Assembly and Economics Professor at the University of Barcelona

As grassroots organisation of the Catalan independence movement, we are in favour of Catalonia joining the international community of free nations. Nations have always sought to govern themselves and to decide freely on their destiny. This is our wish for Catalonia and is what we work for, through peaceful and democratic means.

We sought to exercise our democratic right to self-determination

After the half-hearted transition from a fascist dictatorship and centuries of discrimination of our people, culture and language, we Catalans nonetheless thought this would change. We sought consensus with Spain for 40 years, which finally proved to be impossible. Our Autonomy Statute was violated by a politicised Constitutional Court, after having been approved by both Spanish and Catalan parliament and by referendum in Catalonia in 2006. We subsequently sought to exercise our democratic right to self-determination, which is the right of all peoples as established by the Charter of the United Nations and other international treaties Spain signed and ratified.

Spain, instead of choosing the democratic way, as Canada did with Quebec or as the United Kingdom did with Scotland, chose the way of repression. Peaceful voters were brutally knocked down by Spanish police forces on 1 October 2017.  Our social and political leaders have been jailed on the base of the trumped-up charges of rebellion and sedition, defined as ‘violent uprising’ in Spanish criminal law, in which organising a non-authorised referendum cannot be liable to prosecution.  Spain is showing us there is no way we can fit in its State. No reform is within reach, our rightful claims fall on deaf ears and political prosecution is our deal.

We want to be treated as 1st class citizens

In our capital, Barcelona, the suburban train network is managed from Madrid, and so are the seaport and airport. 92% of justice in Catalonia is delivered in Spanish. Judges are appointed by Madrid and do not have to understand our language. We are living in the 21st century and refuse such a colonial treatment in a State that calls itself ‘one of the most decentralised countries of the world’. As our fellow European citizens, we want to be treated as 1st class citizens. No human should be treated as 2nd class.

We have no quarrel with our Spanish neighbours. We just want decide our own destiny and live in peace. We want to maintain a bond of friendship with all Spaniards. A bond based on freedom and mutual respect. A bond between free nations.

What is your opinion now?

8 thoughts on “Should Catalonia stay with Spain?

  1. There is no reason not to allow Catalans to vote freely on their preferred political status, like the Quebecois have done twice (1980 and 1995) and the Scots once (2014). For a state government to refuse to hear its citizens’ voice is an untenable position — especially when it’s clear that this is a political issue that deserves a serious debate and, ultimately, a solution from Spain’s government. If you are scared of the citizens voting on independence, it means you are doing something wrong. In Canada the constitution does not allow secession, but the Canadian government recognized they can’t force a province to remain Canadian if its people vote against it. They voted to remain (twice), and the Canadian government did the right thing. The Spanish government is just too scared of hearing the Catalans say No.

  2. Replying to the comment to George Crittiden. The support for independence is around the 35%. A independence referendum would divide the country massively. You have areas like Tarragona and Barcelona that dont want to become independent. I am british and Catalan and have experienced what an ill prepared referendum can create in a country. Brexit is an example. Manipulation and lies divided the country. Not against the catalan independence per se but if it’s going to happen it needs way more support than a 50% and needs to have a viable plan. So me, here, being against holding a referendum now its not because i am authoritarian it is because i dont trust the politicians to do a debate based on facts and also the result wont be a big majority for leaving plus what happens if areas like Barcelona vote no and areas like Girona votes yes and the result is 52 to leave, do you remove the right to stay in Spain and EU to a whole area?

  3. Com a nét d’ avís materns de Castelló i avis paterns d’ Aragó, Catalunya és diferent per història, llengua, tradicions, cultura, etc i volem preservar la nostra identitat de barreja amb estat propi que ens podrà assegurar el nostre màxim potencial de llibertat i solidaritat.

  4. No – les Catalans jamais on a eté des espagnols. Il faut faire la difference entre Catalán et espagnol qui habite a Catalogne.
    C’est la Catalogne qui paie et ne reçois jamais rien.
    On veux entrer en Europe avec notre identité milenarie.
    Notres differences et notre culture qui sont en danger avec l’etat Espagnol.
    Maintenant ça suffit !
    Visca Catalunya LLIURE !!!

  5. Au copain de la Grand Bretagne je vous dis que si on ne peux pas faire un referendum pour nous compter, vous ne pouvez pas donner des parcentages inventés.
    On vote d’abbord ? Mais sans peur qui vient encore la police Espagnole nous tapper ok ?
    Alors on peux parler des résultats et percentages .
    C’est ça ce que on veix : VOTER SANS ÊTRE TAPÉS – Sans risque d’aller en prison pour rebelion.
    Icí n’y a pas de Democratie monsieur !!

  6. All top of power in spain is feixiste not democràtic and the corruption IS in all of level statement’s . pp c’s Vox and judicial power =Low intelectual level , and maners , i hate all them !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Empowering opinions