Catalan Referendum May Impel Madrid to Rethink Its Barcelona Policy

© Sputnik / Go to the photo bankRally in Barcelona in support of Catalonia's independence
Rally in Barcelona in support of Catalonia's independence - Sputnik International
The Spanish government has not recognized the referendum, but high numbers of independence supporters may impel the country’s authorities to rethink its domestic policy.

MOSCOW, November 10 (Sputnik) — The Catalan independence referendum occurred on November 9 with 80% of Catalans voting for secession from Spain and the creation of an independent state. The voting had, however, no official status as Spain is a unitary state, where the issue of secession should be addressed by all citizens — not just residents of a certain territory aspiring to secede.

Catalonia’s striving for self-determination can be explained by many factors. Firstly, it understands its own economic importance. Catalan contributions to the overall Spanish budget constitutes 19 percent, what Catalans call an “unequal partnership” as they are forced to pay “€17 billion of their hard-earned taxes to the Spanish government’s coffers in Madrid,” as reported by the Debating Europe website. Contrary to widespread opinion, tourism is not the only source of Catalonia’s income. The community has a strong metallurgy sector, large automotive assembly plants, and a well-developed dairy and meat industry. The regional GDP of Catalonia is the highest in Spain, while Barcelona is Spain’s key Mediterranean port for international traffic, according to ESPO.

The understanding of its economic advance has been accompanied by a desire to take revenge for being defeated in the Spanish Civil War, as a result of which Catalonia lost its autonomy under Franco’s regime. Catalan language was banned and the local government liquidated, with Catalans nursing grievances against Spanish rule.

Even sports, usually considered incompatible with politics, have played a major role in Catalonia’s struggle for independence. The pride of European football "FC Barcelona" has fueled separatist spirits throughout its existence. During the Franco dictatorship, the support for "Barca" was the main joy for Catalan nationalists. The stadium was the only public place where they were allowed to speak Catalan. The competition between the two main Spanish football clubs — "Barca" and "Real Madrid" has become political as well. No wonder that "FC Barcelona" has officially supported the referendum on independence.

The referendum turned out to be entirely peaceful. On the voting day, Catalonia’s capital was decorated with Esteladas – unofficial Catalan flags symbolizing Catalonia’s struggle for independence. Numerous voters stood in queues near polling stations; those living in small cities could even take special buses to stations free of charge.

The outcome of the vote was hardly surprising, as previous surveys in 2009-2010 had shown that about 95% of Catalans would support Catalonia’s independence.

The Spanish government has not recognized the referendum and once again announced its inadmissibility. However, the fact that so many Catalans have supported independence should impel Madrid to rethink its domestic policy and consider prospects of coexistence with Barcelona.

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