October 12th, 2012 -On September 27, the Catalan Parliament approved a resolution to hold a referendum on the political future of Catalonia. The head of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, announced that he would call elections for November 25 and seek to gain support for his referendum project in the new house. It is widely expected that Mas' moderate nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CiU), along with the secessionist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and a couple of other parties supportive of the public consultation idea, will together attain a parliamentary majority. How did we get there and what will happen next?
The answer to the first question is the economic crisis. Catalonia is severely indebted and many Catalans believe it is because Catalonia contributes more to the Spanish coffers than it gets in return. Artur Mas asked the Spanish government for a payment of 5 billion Euros (money he believes belongs to Catalonia) and/or for the creation of a Catalan tax agency to enable the Catalan government to levy its own taxes. He was rebuffed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The sense that Catalonia, whose credit rating has been reduced to 'junk' status, is being taken down by the Spanish state and the rest of the country has become very strong.
The Spanish government has responded to these talks of a referendum in Catalonia by stating that it would be unconstitutional since sovereignty rests with the Spanish nation as a whole. Therefore, only the Spanish government could, from that perspective, organize a referendum on something that would affect the whole country. The King has come out and said that, in these difficult times for the country, unity was more than ever necessary. Some in the army have said that they would consider such referendum treasonous. In the face of this opposition, Mas and the ERC have simply said that they would go ahead with the project whether the Spanish government approved or not.
André Lecours' main research interests are Canadian politics, European politics, nationalism and
federalism with a focus on Catalonia and the Basque country. Dr. Lecours is the author of Basque Nationalism and the Spanish State (University of Nevada Press, 2007). André Lecours is part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.