There is no single reason for Catalonia’s desire to break away from Spain. The reasons range from a unique culture and identity to economic factors and even a sense of alienation.
The past few weeks have been tense for Spain. Catalonia, which is one of the country’s most prosperous region, has declared independence and wants to be recognized as an independent nation. In a referendum, which was marred by a violent police crackdown on voters, around 90% of those who voted, opted for independence from Spain. But what are the reasons for an economically prosperous European nation to be been rocked by separatism? Why are Catalans so dissatisfied with Spain that they want to seek a separate nation?
Catalonia is an autonomous region, located in the Iberian Peninsula’s northeastern extremity. Catalonia has a distinct culture, language, and identity and thus it sees itself independent from the rest of the country. Catalan is the language spoken in Catalonia; however, the rest of Spain speaks Castilian.
Prior to the Spanish Civil War, the region did enjoy autonomy. But upon coming to power, Spanish Dictator General Franco crushed the region’s autonomy. With the death of Franco, the region was given some independent powers; but it was the Franco years that witnessed the emergence of the modern independence movement in the region. A number of atrocities were carried out by Franco such as the banning of the Catalan language and the imprisonment and even execution of opposition activists.
Economic woes also have played an important part in flaming secessionist tendencies in the region. Catalonia is one of the most prosperous and richest regions in Spain. It is largely contributing to the GDP of the country. But many in Catalonia believe that the region is contributing much more than its fair share, compared to what it is getting back from Madrid.
Moreover, in a 2006 autonomy agreement, Catalonia was granted the status of a nation within Spain. As a part of this status, Catalonia had the powers of raising taxes. But in 2010, the constitutional court of Spain struck down many parts of the agreement. This angered many Catalans and they came to believe that the region would never get a fair deal from Madrid. Had this not been done, Catalonia would have had greater independence.
Catalonia is not the only region in Europe that is having secessionist tendencies. There are many other regions that harbor the ideas of breaking away. Secessionist tendencies are strong in the Basque Country, another region in Spain. Belgium is also facing separatism problems as there are three regions in the country with distinct identities – Flanders, Wallonia, and a German-speaking region. Separatist tendencies are also strong in South Tyrol in Italy, just to name a few.