The Spanish parliament has voted to block the increasingly angry and vocal region of Catalonia from holding a referendum on independence.In an escalation of tension between the two, the Catalan’s defied Madrid’s ruling and will press ahead in holding a vote.
The heavily indebted region of Catalonia has grown increasingly angry with Madrid over the way it has handled the country’s debt crisis and its citizens feel that they are suffering an unfair burden of the cost to keep Spain functioning. The region is responsible for a fifth of Spain’s economic output and pays far more to the government’s coffers than many other regions.
The debate comes ahead of Catalan elections which will be held at the end of November. Catalan President Artur Mas (CiU) has announced that he would call a referendum over Catalan independence if he is elected with a sufficient majority.
Oriol Pujol, the general secretary of Convergence, told the BBC: “We have an enormous fiscal transfer to Spain – about 8% or 9% of GDP – and never returns, year after year. And we could agree to carry on with that: there’s no problem with agreeing to show solidarity with the rest of Spain. But when we have to make double cuts in services, when taxes are double – we have to make a change.
One cause of it is the crisis, but the crisis just gave the last push. It’s the addition of obstacles, one on top of the other by Madrid, over the past two years. Political obstacles – and obstacles to identity, which really says to us there is no option to have Catalonia as we imagine it inside the Spanish state.”
Should he go ahead with the plan, it could cause a constitutional crisis in Spain, especially if the Catalans vote overwhelmingly in favour of forming their own country apart from Spain.
The regions acts of defiance escalated when Catalonia’s regional leader Artur Mas recently proposed the creation of a separate Catalan tax agency, an idea that was flatly refused by Madrid. The Catalan nationalist party, Ezquerra Reublicana then went to Madrid in an attempt to transfer the executive powers to hold a referendum over Catalan independence to the Catalan parliament. The motion was defeated by the votes of the major political parties who are growing increasingly angry with the regions defiance.
Other regions in the country are also becoming increasingly angry. Last week a serving officer in the Spanish army, Colonel Francisco Aleman, upped the stakes, telling a website “Catalan independence? Over my dead body and that of many soldiers”. Adding that the crisis was already “like 1936” – the year the Civil War began – “only without the blood”.
Catalonia’s increasingly vocal dissent has knocked the already spooked international markets causing Spanish debt premiums to rise and is adding to the calls from traders and investors for Spain to formally request a full scale sovereign bailout.
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