Oct 23, 2012 | 16:00 GMT

2 mins read

Regionalism in Catalonia

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Regionalism in Catalonia

Europe's economic crisis has heightened the sense of regionalism within certain eurozone countries. In some, the crisis has exacerbated pre-existing tensions between richer and poorer regions, with certain areas demanding greater fiscal autonomy or changes to taxation policies. In other countries, the crisis has renewed old regional demands for greater political autonomy and, in some cases, independence. One of the countries where this increased regionalism has been reported is Spain. Due to Spain's mountainous geography, Spanish regions historically have developed independently and relatively isolated from each other, and Madrid's attempts to solidify control over the regions — such as prohibiting regional languages during Francisco Franco's dictatorship — have been greeted with resistance. But when democracy was restored in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spain established a delicate constitutional balance, in which Spanish regions received varying degrees of autonomy. Catalonian nationalism has been exacerbated by the European crisis. As with Basque Country and Navarre, the 1978 constitution recognized Catalan as a nationality and created the autonomous region of Catalonia. However, the region was not granted the same authority as other autonomous communities to collect its own taxes and spend them at its discretion. Catalonia is the wealthiest region in Spain — it accounts for more than 20 percent of Spanish gross domestic product — and it believes that what it contributes to the Spanish state outweighs the benefits it receives. But despite its wealth, Catalonia is also one of Spain's most indebted regions. After winning elections in November 2011, the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy tightened the central government's control over regional budgets, generating considerable resistance in Catalonia and leading to a political crisis. While separatist sentiment has grown in Catalonia, serious questions remain about the economic consequences of secession and the inevitable exit from the European Union. Moreover, Catalans themselves are divided on the issue; a poll in late September found that 43 percent supported full statehood while 41 percent opposed it. In this context, the most likely outcome is that Catalonia will moderate its demands for independence and focus instead on gaining greater autonomy over taxation.

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