Catalonia independence: Catalans put the case for and against

A woman holds a candle during a demonstration in Barcelona against the arrest of two Catalan separatist leaders, 17 October 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Catalonia's future is uncertain, with the region divided over independence

Until recently, Barcelona was a city best known for its football, architecture, climate, and culture. Few overseas were aware of the political tensions in the Catalan capital.

However, that has all changed.

On 1 October, a disputed referendum was held in Catalonia, asking whether the region should be an independent state. This vote was suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court, which later declared the result - which organisers said was a resounding "Yes" - void.

A little more than a week later, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence but immediately suspended its implementation.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by asking the Catalan government to clarify whether or not it had declared actual independence, setting a final deadline of 19 October for a response.

Madrid has threatened to suspend the region's autonomy.

But what do those on the ground in Barcelona have to say?

View from Catalonia: Unionists v separatists

Image copyright Getty Images

What do unionists say?

Anna*, law student

  • On independence: "It's a step backwards in history, and a huge contradiction to the message of the EU; the notion of creating a community, not creating barriers. Politicians are leading people when it should be the people who lead politicians. I find it very, very sad."
  • On losing autonomy: "Catalonia is [already] losing something worse than just its autonomy; it is losing businesses day after day. That's what worries me as a young person soon to be entering the labour market."
  • How would a breakaway affect you?: "I feel Catalan, yet I also feel Spanish. I do not see the sense of creating barriers in societies. Many things have to be changed, but independence is not the solution."

Sofia*, postgraduate student

  • On independence: "The Catalan secessionist leaders need to put an end to the pro-independence project. There needs to be fresh elections to the Spanish and Catalan parliaments."
  • On losing autonomy: "I'm afraid that the Catalan institutions are not exercising their legal and political obligations. One cannot lose autonomy that one is not exercising."
  • How would a breakaway affect you?: "I fear it would lead to a loss of rights, economic instability, a lowering of or an inability to maintain pensions, an automatic EU exit, and greater unemployment across Catalan society."

Catalan crisis in 300 words

What about the separatists?

Andrés da Silva, law and international politics student

  • On independence: "Catalonia is more likely to adapt and succeed if it is independent; it is also the only way to preserve the Catalan culture, history, identity, and language."
  • On losing autonomy: "There are already research centres and universities that have had to suspend projects because the Spanish government has frozen their bank accounts. It is an aberration that I see to be the repression of Catalans."
  • How would a breakaway affect you?: "An independent Catalonia is the only way for future generations to live in a socially fair and economically prosperous country. I do not want my children to live in a country that constantly scorns the Catalan identity and its symbols."

Jordi, intern at the Catalan interior ministry

Image caption Jordi: "I want Catalonia to be an independent country with a republican regime"
  • On independence: "Not only is there an unwillingness to negotiate over the independence of Catalonia, there is also an absolute denial of dialogue about the possibility of a legal referendum with all possible democratic guarantees. Renouncing independence is to return to a time more than 40 years ago, and to lose everything that has been fought for over decades."
  • On losing autonomy: "The fear that Catalonia will lose its autonomy is always there."
  • How would a breakaway affect you?: "The impact on my life will be important, as well as [the lives] of everyone. Personally, I could lose my job at the service of the Catalan administration."

Reality Check: Would Catalonia be a viable country?

*These names have been changed to protect the interviewees' anonymity

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