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Separatist sentiments in Catalonia: background, significance and the likely impact on the current geopolitical situation
Material posted: Publication date: 14-11-2017
Catalonia is an Autonomous community of Spain located in the North-East of the Iberian Peninsula, between the Mediterranean coast and the Pyrenees. Is part of the historical and cultural area of the Principality of Catalonia.

A historical region of Catalonia consists of modern Catalan Autonomous region in Spain and the pyrénées-Orientales in France. In addition, the Catalans consider it part of the historical territory of Catalonia surrounding areas of France. Radical Catalan politicians are promoting the use of the term Catalonia in relation to the so-called "Catalan lands", that is, the Mediterranean territories, which in the middle Ages were in the sphere of influence of the Aragonese Kingdom, and the population of which at least partially speaks Catalan language.

Historically, the region has made several unsuccessful and desperate attempts to gain independence from the Spanish Kingdom. So, in the distant 1871 Catalonia trying to secede from Spain, but after negotiations remained part of the Spanish Kingdom. Or, for example, in the 1930-ies, the Parliament of Catalonia has tried to declare independence, however, these attempts were recognised by the Republican government illegal and the instigators separate process was arrested as traitors. During the civil war in Spain, the Catalan government was forced to unite with the Central Republican government to make joint efforts to overcome the dictatorship of Franco, and thus, the desire to find "freedom" was slowed. However, it is worth noting that the repression of the Catalans during Franco's regime greatly contributed to the popularization of the movement of Catalan separatism.

Of course, not to mention informal polls and referendums held in Catalonia from 2009-2012. Then, more than 90% of the population expressed their desire to gain autonomy from the centre.

What are the causes of such fierce desire of Catalans to have their own statehood and what are the implications for the world community, and the Catalans, in the case of obtaining the desired?

Thus takes shape topicality of this research, which is associated with the tendency of this region to become an independent state as the most mass and close to the separatist movement in Europe.

Objective reasons of separatist sentiment in Catalonia

Conventionally, the grounds for obtaining Autonomous status from the point of view of the Catalans, can be divided into 3 big groups: historical (including cultural), economic and political. (Tab.1)

Immediately it should be said that the paradigm of the root causes of this phenomenon in Catalonia has undergone significant changes, and if before, people were making moves for independence based on the historical heritage, today, they rely exclusively on economic and political grounds.

Table 1. The reasons for more autonomy of Catalonia


Historical grounds. The history of Catalonia has more than ten centuries. In the twelfth century was founded the Kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon, to which Catalonia has retained internal autonomy and their own laws, and special privileges in the framework of a single state - Fueros. Until the 16-17 century the Kingdom of Aragon, which included Barcelona, Aragon, Valencia, Occitania and much more, was a separate state not part of the demarcated Spain. Accession of Catalonia began under Charles V of Habsburg, who received the crown of Castile and Aragon, but eventually the area became part of Spain after the war of the Spanish succession 1701-1714 years.

With the ascension to the throne in 1714, the year the Spanish king Philip V, Catalonia lost all its privileges. In 1901 the Spanish government acknowledged the existence of the Catalan nation, which has accelerated the development of beliefs about the ability to exist independently.

In 1931, after the formation of the Spanish Republic the club was granted self-government. Therefore, during the civil war the majority of Catalans took the side of the Second Republic.

In 1934, a project was started to create an independent Catalonia, but the defeat of the Republicans left this plan unrealized. During the civil war, under the dictatorship of General Franco any manifestation of national sentiment, different from Castilian, was suppressed. Here we move to the cultural area. The people of Aragon, spoke and continues to speak the Catalan language, which is different from Spanish. Also, Catalonia has its own national culture (clothes, dances, songs). Probably special of separatism against this background, not have happened if not for the forcible imposition of the national culture. In the Basque Country, Galicia, Catalonia, Valencia was forbidden not only to use their native language in business and social life, but also to speak it. In Barcelona the police could take people to the station only for what he said on the street in their native Catalan language. He could face a large fine or even jail time. National and political feelings can be expressed, only rooting for the football club "Barcelona".

In 1978, during defranceschi adopted a new Constitution, according to which Catalonia gets Autonomous status, followed by the official recognition of the Catalan language. The Constitution has become a real way out for the country, which half a century rules of the fascist regime. However, it was unable to resolve the contradictions between the peoples of Spain, existed in a latent form during the dictatorship.

Economic grounds. They are directly dependent on the economic-historical development of this region, the concentration in the industrial production and services, as well as from the uneven distribution of subsidies and extremely high tax rates set by Madrid.

Catalonia was one of the first areas of Spain, which has undergone industrialization. Since then, in economic terms, Catalonia is growing faster and richer than the rest of Spain, not to mention the southern agricultural lands. The purpose of the industrialization of Catalonia was to tie it to Spain, but the opposite happened.

In the late 19th century, Barcelona appeared first factories that functioned due to the British equipment and has employed over 40% of the local population.

Today, Catalonia is one of the most industrialized centers of Spain, and its contribution to obeisance industrial production remains at around 25%.

The region's GDP - 195 403 million euros, accounting for about 20% of Spanish GDP. GDP per capita (2009 current prices) - 26 831 EUR, while the GDP per capita of Spain for the period - 25 820 euros.

Exports of Catalonia in 2009 41,158 billion euros, representing 16.5% of the exports of Spain. A fifth of the industrial enterprises of Catalonia sends its products for export.

The volume of imports in 2009 58,802 billion euros, which is 21.7% of import of Spain (270,4 billion euros).

In 2010, the Catalans have made in the budget of Spain 18.5% more in taxes than the average were collected throughout the country, but subsidies from the Federal budget of the region was 1.1% lower than the rest of the Kingdom.

In 2011, the government of Spain reported that Blanca had paid to the state budget of 8.5 billion euros more than they received from it. According to the Catalan authorities, the difference amounted to about 11.1 billion euros. Although state investments in the budget of Catalonia continue to decline in 2015 to the region was aimed at 9.5% of the budget, and in 2003 - about 16%.

As claimed by the Generalitat, Catalonia is investing in the economy of Spain more than it receives in return. If we talk about specific numbers, it is about 16 000 million, or 8% of GDP autonomy. But as economists say, this does not mean that separated Catalonia from get 16 000 million, There are expenses, which now covers Spain (the army, social protection, pensions). Coming from the country, Catalonia will provide a surplus of 8,000 million euros.

According to the research of large investment banks, including JP Morgan, given the above figures, Catalonia contributes to the Treasury of Spain 8%, and 5.8% (about 9000 million euros). After separation from Spain the cost that now assumes Spain will fall entirely on the shoulders of the independent Republic, and then the deficit of its budget will amount to 0.78%. It provided that after the Declaration of independence, its GDP will remain at the same level as now - about 200,000 million

A political base. According to the author, the first two bases form the Foundation for the third, most important from the point of view of this study, political.

In terms solely of historical identity, cultural heritage and economic indicators, the Catalans seeking independence from Spain.

In 2009-2010, held an unofficial poll-a referendum on the independence of Catalonia, where more than 90% voted for independence, and during the "March for independence" in September 2012 across Catalonia held a mass demonstration with the participation of more than 1.5 million people under the slogan "Catalonia - a new European state".

14 Oct 2014 the government of Catalonia decided to cancel a referendum on independence from Spain, as "the vote could not be conducted due to the lack of legal guarantees". Despite the double veto, the Catalan government, led by Artur Mas, continued preparations for the informal vote, not legally binding but have an important consultative value to the public and the press.

November 9, 2014 held a consultative referendum, however, it is worth noting that the government of Catalonia has allowed to vote of young people over 16, not 18, as well as all foreigners with residence permit in Spain to the Catalan residence. These legal manipulations led to the increase in the electorate. Then, more than 80% of Catalans have voted in favour of the full independence of the region from Spain.

In 2015, the Parliament of Catalonia has considered and adopted a bill of secession. Official Madrid appealed against the resolution in the constitutional court and declared it illegal. And if in 2005-2010 up to 70% of Catalans were in favor of preserving the province in the same state, after a judgment relevant to the question has changed diametrically.

October 1, 2017 Catalan referendum on self-determination gave the predictable result: more than 90% of the population voted for secession from Spain and just over 7% — for maintaining the status quo. Madrid's reaction was also predictable. However, the constitutional court recognized the decision of the Catalans illegal. (See. table.2)

Table 2. The referendum in Catalonia


The Advisory referendum September 13, 2009

An unofficial referendum on 9 November 2014.

The referendum of October 1, 2017


96.2% of




2.3% of

Of 10.07%

7.83% of




Of 1.98%

Considering the events in the region through the prism of objectivity, it should be noted that referendums present and future, are unlikely to be recognized as legitimate, and there are a number of reasons: first, although the Catalans are recognized as a separate ethnic group, and the UN Charter says about the right of Nations to self-determination and the international precedent has been established in Kosovo, the Spanish Parliament and the constitutional Court of the Kingdom the right to refuse Catalonia to secede. Second, you need a media party, the mediator, who will monitor the situation during the holding of another referendum. Third, among the Catalans, there are still differences on secession from Spain, and some politicians even propose to abandon the Catalan language, as from the unpromising compared with the official Spanish.

Possible geopolitical changes

Numerous attempts of Catalonia to obtain independence, which came across fierce resistance from the official Madrid kept in suspense the entire world community, especially Europe. The situation in Spain is an internal challenge for the European Union. Victory in the referendum in Catalonia, even partial, could revive the former hotbeds of separatism in other European Union countries, thereby encouraging the potentially dangerous regions of the Old world.

Official Madrid chose the forceful suppression of separatism in Catalonia and it has a good reason. In Spain, Catalans in addition to actively seeking autonomy and the Basque country Autonomous community, which includes three provinces: Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. Like the Catalans they have a high level of life and here the development of separatist sentiments.

On the background of the recent referendum, the head of the Basque government, iñigo Urkullu Renteria has already said that the Basques and the Catalans want to decide their future.

Scotland also supported the referendum in Catalonia as a center of separatism in Britain. They have spent their more civilized and constitutional referendum in 2014, but the results were disastrous for the local nationalists.

Also note and Northern Ireland, as another hotbed of British separatism. They also discussed the issue of holding the referendum, but was not able to bring this idea to its implementation.

Don't forget about Flanders is the most developed economically region of Belgium. Political parties which are struggling for the promotion of the idea of the separation region by appealing to the fact that it "sponsors" all over the country.

No better situation in Italy where there are problems with the province of Bolzano-Bozen. Local politicians of the opposition kind and then resume the subject of independence.

Already long time residents of Bavaria to think seriously about its own independence. For several years they favor a withdrawal of land from the Federal Republic of Germany. However, the Constitution does not provide a release of certain land from part of Germany.

It is worth noting Russia, which due to objective reasons did not support a referendum in Catalonia and found it "an internal affair of Spain."

The fact that the expanses of our state, there are your problematic areas, especially after the reunification of the Crimea with Rosie. Russian political experts are of the opinion that the annexation of Crimea will increase separatist sentiments in some regions. Although regional political elites tightly integrated in the power structure, the next elections to the State Duma some may adopt the empowerment of Russia's regions.

Need to stress and Kaliningrad. In 2012, the expert Council of the military scientists and reserve officers of the Belarusian Armed Forces gave a profound analysis of the problem of the separation of Kaliningrad. Appeals for the return of Kaliningrad's historical name of Konigsberg popular even among local authorities. The main problem, according to them, is that Kaliningrad is an enclave, and departure from its territory problematic. The distance from Kaliningrad to Warsaw is 400 km, to Berlin - 600 km, while the nearest Russian regional centre - Pskov - is 800 km, and to Moscow is 1289 km. And many young people were on the "mainland" only one, two times. Many Kaliningraders consider their territory of the special part of the Russian Federation and requiring an appropriate status.

Northeast Asia, which includes the far East, over the last ten years has become a world economic center. Therefore, the far East more economically gravitates to China, Japan, Korea, USA and the Pacific than to Moscow.

Traditionally inclined to independence and a territory of the Caucasus. The population of the North Caucasus the main driving factor is religion. For example, in Dagestan, one thousand people have one mosque, while in the Orthodox regions of Russia one Church has ten to fifteen thousand people. Especially the active promotion of separatist ideas is in the youth environment.

Thus, supporting the right of citizens of Catalonia to self-determination and independence of these States can resign ourselves to the appearance of internal problems and new contradictions.


The referendum, its significance and potential impact on the geopolitical situation quite objectively. Even though the actual situation leaves only a slim chance for ethnic Catalans to bring this idea to life.

At the moment there is "inappropriate" for Catalans regulatory framework of the state, internal conflicts, and external factors, which in the near future will not allow to implement this project.

So, Catalan studies, confirm that the new Republic would suffer from boycott from Spain. Since the beginning of the Catalan conflict many companies have left the territory of Catalonia, not wanting to risk their business.

According to experts, 80% of workers in Catalonia of the firms are international, and they will carry out their activities on the territory of the autonomy only as long as it is in the EU.

According to the Ministry of economy, Spain buys 40% of Catalonia exported products, and another 40% go to the EU. In addition, 14.3% of tourists visiting Catalonia, coming from other regions of Spain.

Not to mention another important aspect, strategically important objects if they are part of the new Catalan Republic will be no one to serve, and soon the infrastructure will be in disrepair. First of all we are talking about the airport El Prat, over a month carrying about 5 million passengers and ranked third after the airports of Madrid and Zaragoza in freight transportation and Barcelona's port, the second cross in Spain and for passenger transport.

Even if we assume that the data problems, the Catalans hope to solve with the help of the European Union, their hopes will not come true – to support the separatists, bypassing the official Madrid they won't.

Thus, on the basis of the conducted research to assert any global geopolitical change is not necessary because of their insolvency and the unlikely feasibility, and due to objective and subjective circumstances.


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Gorobei Maxim

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