NYT : A Referendum for Catalonia


On Sept. 11, 2012, Catalonia’s national day, about 1.5 million people marched through Barcelona carrying banners saying “Catalonia, Europe’s Next State.” The march was a peaceful expression of hope. Today, with the same purpose, hundreds of thousands of people will form a human chain across Catalonia.

The history of Catalonia goes back centuries when Iberian tribes traded with Greeks and Carthaginians along the Mediterranean coast. An identifiable Catalan culture developed in the Middle Ages and has strengthened through time, despite the loss of the Catalan sovereignty at the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, and the subsequent repeated suppression of our government, schools, language and values.

Catalonia fought hard to defend the Second Republic in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. But democracy and autonomy were crushed and the Catalan language was made illegal as Spain endured 40 years of brutal dictatorship under Franco.

After at his death in 1975, Spain made an astonishing transformation to a multiparty democracy, and in 1978 a new Spanish Constitution recognized Catalonia’s autonomy and language once again. The institutions of Catalan autonomy continued to develop with the reconstitution of the Catalan presidency and Parliament, along with the return of the Catalan language to our schools.

But the advances haven’t met Catalan expectations. Countless proposals from Catalonia to Madrid have been rejected out of hand or subverted by court rulings. For example, in 2005 the Catalan regional Parliament passed a new Statute of Autonomy delineating powers that should be delegated to the region. The Spanish Parliament approved it in 2006, though only after removing key elements. Nonetheless, the Catalan people approved the weakened version of the statute via referendum in June 2006, seeing that something was better than nothing. Then in 2010 the Spanish Constitutional Court unilaterally revoked and rewrote crucial sections of the statute in a process that the Catalan government believes was procedurally dubious.

Read @ The New York Times

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