The Catalan independence movement or the Catalan separatist movement (Catalan: independentisme català)[a] is a political movement, derived from Catalan nationalism, which supports the independence of Catalonia or territories claimed by Catalan nationalists from Spain and France. The Estelada flag, in its blue and red versions, has become its main symbol.
Recently, there has been a substantial increase in the number of people who openly consider themselves independentists, and on September 11, 2012 and September 11, 2013 there were massive demonstrations with more than 1 million participants calling for independence for Catalonia through a peaceful, democratic process and non-binding and unofficial referendums in municipalities. The ruling coalition, Convergència i Unió on giving up its longstanding strategy for more autonomy shortly after the 2012 demonstration (organized by a civil society movement), openly came out in favour of independence, lost some MPs in the parliament of Catalonia to the left-wing traditionally pro-independence party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). With this shift in stance by Catalonia's ruling party, the 2012 election were the first in history resulting in a clear majority of the parliament in Catalonia (55% of seats) with a pro-independence stance. The campaign for the 2015 Catalan election was carried out as a plebiscite on independence, where the Catalan government hoped to gain the democratic authority to begin the independence process. Convergència i Unió split due to Unió's disagreement with the independence drive and Convergencia and ERC ran together as a unitary list named Junts pel Si (Together for Yes). Junts pel Si did not get a majority of parliament yet a slightly lower majority of seats (53%) were held by the two pro-independence parties (Junts pel Si and the far-left CUP). Pro-independence parties gained 47.8% of the popular vote, whereas openly anti-independence parties gained 41.62% and the left-wing platform Catalonia Yes We Can, which was ambiguous in its position favoring a "political solution", gained 8.94% of the votes.
- 1 History
- 2 Legality and legitimacy
- 3 Support for independence
- 4 Opposition to independence
- 5 Public opinion
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
As a coastal territory of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia has been part of Spain since the country was born from the union of Aragon and the Kingdom of Castile in the late 15th century. Some Catalan authors, such as Xavier Bru de Sala "Canviar Espanya", argue that the first serious struggle for Catalan independence may date back as far as 1640, with the unsuccessful first Catalan Republic after the Reaper's War. In the subsequent War of the Spanish Succession Catalans hoped to salvage their institutions of home rule, in the face of a centralizing Bourbon pretender, rather than outright independence.
The Crown of Aragon lost distinctive rules, institutions and laws at the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, when Philip V of Spain issued the Nueva Planta decrees, a centralized Spanish rule. Support for Catalan independence is based on the thesis from the 19th century that Catalonia is a nation, derived from contemporary political and cultural ideology based on the history of Catalonia, the Catalan language and Catalan traditions.
The beginnings of separatism can certainly be traced back to mid 19th to early 20th centuries, when some individuals, organisations and political parties started demanding full independence of Catalonia from Spain.
Early twentieth century
In the early 20th century Enric Prat de la Riba forged an alliance of county councils, the Mancomunitat de Catalunya, to modernize Catalonia by building State structures. In the modern sense, the first political parties to define themselves as pro-independence were created between the 1920s and the 1930s in Catalonia. The main separatist party created at this time was Estat Català and its branch called Bandera Negra. Estat Català evolved into the new party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, although some of its members refused it and remained faithful to the original Estat Català, now a minor party. In the First World War Catalan Volunteers bore the pro-independence flag when they fought on the Allies' side. The same ensign headed a text addressed to president Wilson late in 1918, calling on him to review the Treaty of Utrecht, which had allowed Spain to abolish Catalonia's home rule inside a centralized unitary State. In 1928 exiled Catalans in Cuba (a coup d'état had occurred in Spain, in 1923) drafted a Provisional Constitution of the Catalan Republic.
In 1931 a coalition of Catalan nationalist parties was the most voted force in Catalonia in the Spanish municipal elections that triggered the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. In 1932 Catalonia was granted a statute of autonomy and home rule institutions, which lasted until the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship, which based its public ideology on Spanish Nationalism and Catholicism, abolished home rule and discouraged regional cultures.
After the Spanish Civil War
After the Spanish Civil War, members of Estat Català and Nosaltres Sols founded the Front Nacional de Catalunya which became the main pro-independence party. However, one might argue that the modern Catalan pro-independence movement was actually born in the 1960s with the Partit Socialista d'Alliberament Nacional (PSAN). This caused the pro-independence movement to assume a mostly left-wing political trend and a shift in focus from "independence for Catalonia" to "independence for the 'Catalan Countries'". By the 1970s, the PSAN split into several factions, and many other groups appeared, including the armed organization Terra Lliure.
Following Franco's death in 1975, Spain moved to restore democracy. A new constitution was adopted in 1978, which asserted the "indivisible unity of the Spanish Nation", but acknowledged "the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions which form it". The constitution was approved in a referendum by 88% of voters in Spain overall, and just over 90% in Catalonia. It was followed by the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1979, which was approved in a referendum, with 88% of voters supporting it.
In 1981, a manifesto issued by intellectuals in Catalonia claiming discrimination against the Castilian language drew a response in the form of published letter, Crida a la Solidaritat en Defensa de la Llengua, la Cultura i la Nació Catalanes (Call for solidarity in defence of the Catalan language, culture and nation), which called for a mass meeting at the University of Barcelona, out of which a popular movement arose. The Crida organised a series of protests that culminated in a massive demonstration in the Camp Nou on 24 June 1981. Beginning as a cultural organisation, La Crida soon began to demand independence. In 1982, at a time of political uncertainty in Spain, the Ley Orgánica de Armonización del Proceso Autonómico (LOAPA) was introduced in the Spanish parliament, supposedly to "harmonise" the autonomy process, but in reality to curb the power of Catalonia and the Basque region. There was a surge of popular protest against it. The Crida and others organised a huge rally against LOAPA in Barcelona on 14 March 1982. In March 1983, it was held to be ultra vires by the Spanish Constitutional Court. During the 1980s, the Crida was involved in nonviolent direct action, among other things campaigning for labelling in Catalan only, and targeting big companies. In 1983, the Crida's leader, Àngel Colom, left to join the ERC, "giving an impulse to the independentist refounding" of that party.
Second Statute of Autonomy and after
Following elections in 2003, the moderate nationalist Convergència i Unió (CiU), which had governed Catalonia since 1980, lost power to a coalition of left-wing parties composed of the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC), the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and a far-left/Green coalition (ICV-EUiA), headed by Pasqual Maragall. The government produced a draft for a new Statute of Autonomy, which was supported by the CiU and was approved by the parliament by a large majority. The draft statute then had to be approved by the Spanish parliament, which could make changes; it did so, removing clauses on finance and the language, and an article stating that Catalonia was a nation. When the amended statute was put to a referendum on 18 June 2006, the ERC, in protest, called for a "no" vote. The statute was approved, but turnout was only 48.9%. At the subsequent election, the left-wing coalition was returned to power, this time under the leadership of José Montilla.
The Partido Popular, which had opposed the statute in the Spanish parliament, challenged its constitutionality in the Spanish High Court of Justice. The case lasted four years. In its judgement, issued on 18 June 2010, the court ruled that fourteen articles in the statute were unconstitutional, and that 27 others were to be interpreted restrictively. The affected articles included those that gave preference to the Catalan language, freed Catalonia from responsibility for the finances of other autonomous communities, and recognised Catalonia as a nation. The full text of the judgement was released on 9 July 2010, and the following day a protest demonstration organised by the cultural organisation Òmnium Cultural was attended by over a million people, and led by José Montilla.
During and after the court case, a series of symbolic referendums on independence were held in municipalities throughout Catalonia. The first of these was in the town of Arenys de Munt on 13 September 2009. About 40% of eligible voters participated, of whom 96% voted for independence. In all, 552 towns held independence referendums between 2009 and 2011. These, together with demonstrations organised by Òmnium Cultural and the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC), represented a "bottom-up" process by which society influenced the political movement for independence. At an institutional level, several municipalities of Catalonia came together to create the Association of Municipalities for Independence, an organisation officially established on 14 December 2011 in Vic which brought local organisations together to further the national rights of Catalonia and promote its right to self-determination. The demonstration of 11 September 2012 explicitly called on the Catalan government to begin the process of secession. Immediately after it, Artur Mas, whose CiU had regained power in 2010, called a snap election for 25 November 2012, and the parliament resolved that a referendum on independence would be held in the life of the next legislature. Although the CiU lost seats to the ERC, Mas remained in power.
Mas and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras signed an agreement by which the ERC would support the CiU on sovereignty issues while on other matters it might oppose it. The two leaders drafted the Declaration of Sovereignty and of the Right to Decide of the Catalan People, which was adopted by the parliament at its first sitting in January 2013. The declaration stated that "the Catalan people have, for reasons of democratic legitimacy, the nature of a sovereign political and legal subject." The Spanish government referred the declaration to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which ruled in March 2014 that the declaration of sovereignty was unconstitutional; it did, however, allow that there existed a right to decide. On 11 September 2013, an estimated 1.6 million demonstrators formed a human chain, the Catalan Way, from the French border to the regional border with Valencia. The following month, the CiU, the ERC, the ICV-EUiA and Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP) agreed to hold the independence referendum on 9 November 2014, and that it would ask two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to become a State?" and (if yes) "Do you want this State to be independent?". A further mass demonstration, the Catalan Way 2014, took place on 11 September 2014, when protesters wearing the Catalan colours of yellow and red filled two of Barcelona’s avenues to form a giant "V", to call for a vote. Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Catalan government changed the vote to a "process of citizen participation" and announced that it would be supervised by volunteers. The Spanish government again appealed to the Constitutional Court, which suspended the process pending the appeal, but the vote went ahead. The result was an 81% vote for yes-yes, but the turnout was only 42%, which could be seen as a majority opposed to both independence and the referendum. Criminal charges were subsequently preferred against Mas and others for defying the court order.
In June 2015 the CiU broke up as a result of disagreement between its constituent parties – Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) and Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (UDC) – over the independence process. Mas’s CDC joined with the ERC and other groups to form Junts pel Sí (Together for "Yes"), which announced that it would declare independence if it won the election scheduled for September. In the September election, Junts pel Si won most seats, but were short of an absolute majority. On 9 November 2015, the parliament passed a resolution declaring the start of the independence process, proposed by Junts pel Si and the CUP. In August 2016, the ANC called on the parliament to hold a binding referendum on independence, saying, "We either start to complete this process or it will finish us off."
Legality and legitimacy
Neither the Spanish state, the European Union, the United Nations nor any sovereign state question Spain's de facto and de jure sovereignty over Catalonia or any other of Spain's autonomous regions. Only Spain's territories in North Africa are subject to irredentist claims by Morocco.
The legality of any Spanish constituent country attaining de facto independence or declaring unilateral independence outside the framework of Spanish constitutional convention is debatable. Under international law, a unilateral declaration might satisfy the principle of the "declarative theory of statehood", but not the "constitutive theory of statehood". Some legal opinion following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on what steps Quebec would need to take to secede is that Catalonia would be unable to unilaterally declare independence under international law, even in the currently unlikely event that the Spanish government permitted a referendum on an unambiguous question on secession.
Some arguments appeal to rule according to higher law. For example, the United Nations Charter enshrines the right of peoples to self-determination, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees peoples' right to change nationality; Spain is a signatory to both documents. However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reminded that Catalonia is not on the list of "non-autonomous territories" with right to self-determination.
Support for independence
The parties explicitly campaigning for independence currently represented in the Catalan Parliament are the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra), Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (Convergència) and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). They won 13.4% of the vote after the Catalan elections of 2012, and the 47,8% of the total vote after the Catalan 2015 election.
Esquerra also has two MEP.
Other smaller pro-independence parties or coalitions, without present representation in any parliament, are Catalan Solidarity for Independence, Estat Català, Endavant, PSAN, MDT and Reagrupament. There are also youth organisations such as Young Republican Left of Catalonia, Arran, and the student unions SEPC and FNEC.
In Spain, some[who?] considered this trend to have been stimulated as a reaction especially against the policy of the Spanish government's governing People's Party, and its opposition to certain legislative reforms such as the reformed Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006.
In recent years, support for Catalan independence has broadened from the traditional left or far-left Catalan nationalism. Relevant examples are the liberal economists Xavier Sala i Martín and Ramon Tremosa Balcells (elected deputy for CiU in the European parliament in the 2009 election), the lawyer and former FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta or the jurist and former member of the Consejo General del Poder Judicial Alfons López Tena.
The think tank Cercle d'Estudis Sobiranistes, led by the jurists Alfons López Tena and Hèctor López Bofill was founded in 2007. Since then it has summoned a number of lawmakers, professors, businessmen, professionals, economists, journalists and intellectuals for the cause of Catalonia's independence.
Other individuals include:
- Lluís Llach, composer and songwriter
- Josep Carreras, tenor singer
- Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun
- Pep Guardiola, coach of Manchester City FC, former football player and former coach for FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munich.
- Víctor Grifols, chairman of pharma company Grifols 
- Miquel Calçada, journalist and reporter
- Joel Joan, actor
- Quim Monzó, short story writer
- Xavier Rubert de Ventós, philosopher
- Joan Solà, philologist
- Lluís Maria Xirinacs, priest, political activist and author
- Justo Molinero, Radio host
- Karmele Marchante, journalist 
Opposition to independence
All Spanish parties in Catalonia reject the idea of independence. Ciutadans and the People's Party of Catalonia, which had 17.9% and 8.5% of the vote respectively in the 2015 Catalan parliamentary election, have always opposed the notion of Catalan self-determination. The Socialists' Party (12.7% of vote) opposes independence as well. While some of its members supported the idea of a self-determination referendum up until 2012, the official position as of 2015 is that the Spanish Constitution should be reformed in order to better accommodate Catalonia. A majority of voters of left-wing platform Catalonia Yes We Can (8.94%) reject independence although the party favours a referendum in which it would campaign for Catalonia remaining part of Spain. CDC's former Catalanist partner Unió came out against independence and fared badly in the 2015 elections, although polls show a rebound in voter support as the institutional crisis deepens.
Blaverism is an ideology in the Valencian Community, that opposes what it sees as "Catalan imperialism" or "Pan-Catalanism". On party-level it has been represented by Valencian Coalition and Valencian Union.
Other organizations and individuals
The list of organizations and individual citizens of Catalonia or Spain who have publicly opposed independence includes:
- Albert Boadella, actor and director
- Mercedes Milá, presenter and journalist
- Xavier Sardá, presenter and journalist
- Jordi Évole, presenter and journalist
- Pau Gasol, basketball player 
- Montserrat Caballé, opera singer 
- Joan Manuel Serrat, singer-songwriter
- Estopa, rock band 
- Loquillo, rock singer
- Isabel Coixet, film director 
- José Luis Bonet, chairman of cava producer Freixenet 
- Josep Oliu, chairman of Banc Sabadell 
- Foment del Treball Nacional, large Catalan employers' organization 
- Catalans pel seny, association of entrepreneurs and liberal professionals 
- Empresaris de Catalunya, a business association 
- Grup d'Acció Valencianista (Group of Valencianist Action), a blaverist organisation in the Valencian Community.
The position of Catalans regarding the independence of either Catalonia must be studied taking into account an important fact, namely, that a large number of Catalan citizens are of immigrant origin and that many of them feel little or no connection to the Catalan language or culture. It has been calculated that the total population of Catalonia, with no migration from other parts of Spain, would have grown from 2 million people in 1900 to just 2.4 million in 1980, merely 39% of the actual population of 6.1 million at that date. In the 1970s, there were nearly 900,000 residents in Catalonia from Andalusia. This inflow has been the primary driver of population growth in Catalonia which stood at over 7.4 million in 2009, a majority of which are of at least partial non-Catalan Spanish ancestry.
One study found that support for independence is a function of grievances rooted in the desire for Catalonia to assume responsibility for taxation and spending policy. This suggests that Spain might be able to stave off Catalonia's separatist bid through some form of political and taxation policy reconfiguration.
Several institutions have performed polls which also include questions on the independence issue in Catalonia. The following are the most prominent ones are the Center for Opinion Studies (Centre d'Estudis d'Opinió; CEO), the Spanish government-run Social Research Centre (Centro de Investigaciones Sociales; CIS) and the Social and Political Sciencies Institute of Barcelona (Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials; ICPS) belonging to the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Diputation of Barcelona.
Centre for Opinion Studies
The CEO was depending on the Economy Department of the Generalitat of Catalonia until early 2011. Since then it has been placed under direct control of the Presidency of the Generalitat and is currently headed by Jordi Argelaguet i Argemí. Since the second quarter of 2011, CEO has conducted polls regarding public sentiments toward independence.
|Date||In favor (%)||Against (%)||Others (%)||Abstain (%)||Do not know (%)||Did not reply (%)|
|2011 2nd series||42.9||28.2||0.5||23.3||4.4||0.8|
|2011 3rd series||45.4||24.7||0.6||23.8||4.6||1.0|
|2012 1st series||44.6||24.7||1.0||24.2||4.6||0.9|
|2012 2nd series||51.1||21.1||1.0||21.1||4.7||1.1|
|2012 3rd series||57.0||20.5||0.6||14.3||6.2||1.5|
|2013 1st series||54.7||20.7||1.1||17.0||5.4||1.0|
|2013 2nd series||55.6||23.4||0.6||15.3||3.8||1.3|
|2014 1st series||47.1||27.9||-||-||11.1||11.2|
|2014 2nd series||44.5||45.3||-||-||7.5||2.8|
|2015 1st series||44.1||48.0||-||-||6.0||1.8|
|2015 2nd series||42.9||50.0||-||-||5.8||1.3|
CEO likewise conducted polls in the 1st and 2nd series of 2014 based on the 9N independence referendum format. The questions and choices involved were:
- Do you want Catalonia to become a State? (Yes/No)
- If the answer for question 1 is in the affirmative: Do you want this State to be independent? (Yes/No)
|Date||Yes + Yes (%)||Yes + No (%)||No (%)||Abstain (%)||Others (%)||Do not know/Did not reply (%)|
|2014 1st series||47.1||8.6||19.3||11.1||2.7||11.2|
|2014 2nd series||49.4||12.6||19.7||6.9||6.2||3.3|
In addition, CEO performs regular polls studying opinion of Catalan citizens regarding Catalonia's political status within Spain. The following table contains the answers to the question "Which kind of political entity should Catalonia be with respect to Spain?":
|Date||Independent state (%)||Federal state (%)||Autonomous community (%)||Region (%)||Do not know (%)||Did not reply (%)|
|2010 1st series||19.4||29.5||38.2||6.9||4.4||1.6|
|2010 2nd series||21.5||31.2||35.2||7.3||4.0||0.7|
|2010 3rd series||24.3||31.0||33.3||5.4||4.9||1.0|
|2010 4th series||25.2||30.9||34.7||5.9||2.7||0.7|
|2011 1st series||24.5||31.9||33.2||5.6||3.5||1.3|
|2011 2nd series||25.5||33.0||31.8||5.6||3.4||0.8|
|2011 3rd series||28.2||30.4||30.3||5.7||3.9||1.5|
|2012 1st series||29.0||30.8||27.8||5.2||5.4||1.8|
|2012 2nd series||34.0||28.7||25.4||5.7||5.0||1.3|
|2012 3rd series||44.3||25.5||19.1||4.0||4.9||2.2|
|2013 1st series||46.4||22.4||20.7||4.4||4.9||1.2|
|2013 2nd series||47.0||21.2||22.8||4.6||3.5||0.9|
|2013 3rd series||48.5||21.3||18.6||5.4||4.0||2.2|
|2014 1st series||45.2||20.0||23.3||2.6||6.9||2.0|
|2014 2nd series||45.3||22.2||23.4||1.8||6.5||0.9|
|2015 1st series||39.1||26.1||24.0||3.4||5.3||2.0|
|2015 2nd series||37.6||24.0||29.3||4.0||3.9||1.1|
CIS performed a poll in Catalonia in 2001, including an explicit question on independence with the following results: 35.9% supporting it, 48.1% opposing it, 13.3% indifferent, 2.8% did not reply.
Social and Political Sciencies Institute of Barcelona
ICPS performs an opinion poll annually since 1989, which sometimes includes a section on independence. The results are in the following table:
|Year||Support (%)||Against (%)||Indifferent (%)||Did not reply (%)|
a telephonic instead of door-to-door interview
The question of independence has not been polled so far in other Catalan-speaking territories outside of Catalonia, but anecdotal evidence (basically the total absence of the independentist question in those territories) suggests that there is no sizable support for the idea of independence of the Catalan-speaking territories outside of Catalonia.
Catalan newspapers El Periódico and La Vanguardia have also been publishing their own surveys in recent times.
|Date||Yes (%)||No (%)||Others (%)|
a in case, a yes-vote would imply leaving the EU
|Date||Yes (%)||No (%)||Others (%)|
- Catalonian self-determination referendum
- Catalan nationalism
- Catalan Republic
- Catalan Countries
- Estelada flag
- Free Catalan Territory
- Convergence and Union
- Republican Left of Catalonia
- Catalan Solidarity for Independence
- Assemblea Nacional Catalana
- 2012 Catalan independence demonstration
- Declaration of the Initiation of the Process of Independence of Catalonia
- List of active autonomist and secessionist movements
-  Archived December 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Catalonia Independence movement.|
- "Catalonia Votes", website on self-determination referendum, with articles, videos, etc.
- on YouTube (A video based on an article about Catalonia's independence by professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin from Columbia University.)
- Party Urging More Autonomy From Spain Seems to Win in Catalonia Article on New York Times, November 2, 2006
- The Importance of Catalonia to the Spanish Economy Infographic published by Venture Spain, October 9, 2014
- "Courage in Catalonia". New York Times. June 22, 2006. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
- Voters in Catalonia Approve A Plan for Greater Autonomy Article in The New York Times, June 19, 2006
- Spain Moves On Law to Give Broad Powers To Catalonia Article in The New York Times, March 31, 2006
- Independentist sites at DMOZ. (Catalan)
- History of Catalan independentism. Dossier of the Catalan magazine El Temps. (Catalan)