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Catalonia and Basque Country


Emerging States & Claims to Autonomy and Independence


Catalonia | Basque Country



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Could Scottish, Catalan Independence Votes Reshape Europe (February 1, 2013)

Separatist groups in Catalonia and Scotland are both threatening to break away from their respective countries in 2014, causing a great deal of uncertainty and trepidation in Spain and the UK. The growth of these movements since the onset of the region’s economic crisis has raised concerns for the future of other multi-national states, such as Belgium. Though the established political authorities in Europe are predictably concerned over the apparent renaissance of separatist and nationalist sentiments, the peaceful nature of these movements has been impressive. The Scottish independence movement has coordinated a forthcoming referendum with the UK, and while the Spanish government has been less accommodating, the Catalan independence movement has shown little inclination toward violence. This has raised hopes that intra-state disputes in Europe may unfold more peacefully than in the past. (Reuters)


Catalans Flirt with Independence from Spain (November 27, 2012)

On November 25, Catalans cast their ballot in what was expected to be a “historical moment” for the wealthy province that has been seeking independence from Spain since Franco’s decades of oppression. Despite a major setback for the right wing separatist Convergència i Unió, nationalist parties gained majority in parliament thanks to the surprising result of the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. The promised referendum therefore remains a strong possibility. An independent Cataluña would not only pose a challenge to Spain – turning it suddenly into one of the most impoverished countries of the euro zone - but also to a crisis-ridden European Union, who has never had a member state split up. Ultimately, Andrew McFadyen argues that the increasing popularity of separatist movements across Europe “begs the question of whether citizenship resides with the people or their governments.” (Al Jazeera)

Catalans Press for Secession from Spain (September 30, 2012)

Could Catalonia become the world's newest state? In light of Spain’s unpopular austerity measures to solve its budget deficits and considering that 50% of the youth is unemployed, Catalonia’s historical quest for independence has never been more popular among its population. While the region currently enjoys a semi-autonomous status, Catalonia’s regional parliament voted on September 27 to hold a non-binding referendum on the region’s independence in November.  Yet, Sam Bollier suggests that the region still “faces high barriers to becoming a fully independent country.” (Al Jazeera)


ETA Declares Halt to Armed Conflict (October 20, 2011)

After a year in which it had observed a unilateral ceasefire, Basque separatist group ETA finally renounced the use of arms and sought talks with the Spanish and French governments. The group’s definitive statement ends one of Europe’s bloodiest armed campaigns for independence and concludes half a century of violence. The Spanish government is set to come under immediate pressure to legalize the Batasuna party and other separatist organizations that were banned for being ETA fronts. (Guardian)

Why Prosperous Catalans May Beat Rebellious Basques to the Exit (April 1, 2011)

Spain is witnessing a recent resurgence of vocal Catalan nationalism. Although Catalonia enjoys “autonomy”, the devolution of authority is not total, resulting in nationalists demanding Catalan independence. Many Catalans feel strongly that Spain is exploiting Catalonia’s resources to subsidize poorer areas of Spain, without adequately recognizing the Catalan identity or demands for self-determination. This article highlights how these demands are not uniform, but divided between Catalans who have different interpretations of Catalonia’s future. (International Herald Tribune)


Catalonians Come Out for Greater Autonomy (June 18, 2006)

Citizens of Catalonia have voted overwhelmingly for broad new powers of self government, marking moves towards greater independence from Madrid. Spain's major political parties remain deeply divided on the issue of the region's future. Prime Minister José Luis Rodrí­guez Zapatero sees greater autonomy for Catalonia as the only way to keep the province within Spain's borders, while the centre-right Popular party believes the move will weaken the authority of the central government and encourage other provinces to seek independence. (Guardian)

Catalonia Nears Autonomy from Spain (January 28, 2006)

With backing from Prime Minster Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish region of Catalonia has moved once step closer to autonomy. The Catalonian parliament passed legislation declaring itself a "nation" while maintaining allegiance to the Spanish state. Though critics fear the plan may lead to Spain's break up, supporters argue that increased regional autonomy allows for a more pluralistic and democratic state, and may serve as a peaceful alternative for Spain's more volatile Basque separatist movement. (Washington Post)



Catalonia's Bill Comes Due for Madrid: It's More Autonomy (March 10, 1994)

Catalonia, one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions, possesses the economic strength and the population to stand on its own. But are the Catalans willing to go that far? Jordi Pujol, the Catalan leader heading the regional government, says the region only wants more self-government and respect for Spain's "multi-ethnic character." Critics argue that Pujol deliberately tries to stir up tensions with his campaign to promote the Catalan language. (New York Times)


Basque Country

basque_countryPicture Credit: Scottish independence


A Permanent Ceasefire, at Least for Now (January 11, 2011)

The Basque separatist group, ETA, has declared what it says is a "permanent" ceasefire.  The Spanish government, however, is skeptical that the group will keep its word.  ETA has a history of violence beginning in the 1960s, and in 2006 it detonated a bomb at the Madrid Barajas International Airport after it had declared a "permanent" ceasefire.  While ETA says the ceasefire is "internationally verifiable," it has not elaborated on what it means by this statement, and it is unlikely that international observers will be allowed to inspect the group's arms store. (The Economist)


ETA and the Basque Labyrinth  (20 August, 2009)_

The Spanish government claims that ETA is "on its knees." Indeed the police have conducted a flurry of arrests and weapon seizures in the past year, whilst the Madrid bombings of 2003, though unrelated to ETA, further diminished support for ETA's methods. Yet ETA remains resilient. It escalated its terrorist campaign this summer and continues to display a strong military rhetoric. Although most Basques disagree with its use of force, ETA is still able to actively recruit. (OpenDemocracy)



Spain Fears Disintegration After Basques Seek Self-Rule (October 1, 2002)

The Basques issued a proposal for northern provinces to become a "state of free association" that shares sovereignty. They seek an associative statute similar to the one Puerto Rico has with the US. Madrid has violently reacted to the plan, accusing it of trying to "destroy Spain." (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)


French Basques Dream of Autonomy (February 14, 1997)

After Franco's death, Spanish Basques gained some autonomy and local authority over education, taxes and security issues. But on the other side of the border, their French counterparts are still longing for some form of independence. Jakes Abeberry, Deputy Mayor of Biarritz, states optimistically that the Basque country will soon come together and achieve autonomy, as national borders within the European Union seem to fade. (New York Times)



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