In the run up to the regional elections, the main Catalan political parties propose to reform the 1979 Statute of Autonomy with the aim of finally accommodating Catalonia within a pluralistic Spain.
During the campaign, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party and future Prime Minister of Spain, commits himself to supporting the new Statute which will be drafted by the Parliament of Catalonia.
The Parliament of Catalonia approves (with the support of 120 MPs out of 135) and sends to Madrid a proposal to reform the 1979 Statue of Autonomy recognising Catalonia as a nation, preventing Madrid’s interference in devolved powers, and giving Catalonia full control over a transparent and rational financial arrangement. The text has to be validated by the Spanish Parliament and confirmed by the Catalan people in a referendum before it will enter into force.
Mariano Rajoy’s party challenges the law from the opposition bench before the Spanish Constitutional Court, which, surprisingly, decides to hear the case. Four million signatures are collected throughout the rest of Spain against the Statute.
The two chambers of the Spanish Parliament discuss and water down the text proposed by the Catalan Parliament. Prime Minister Zapatero disappoints many Catalans as he cannot honour his promise to pass the text as originally drafted by the Catalan Parliament.
Although it is a watered-down version, 73.9% of Catalans ratify the new Statute. Afterwards, the Spanish King Juan Carlos I signs it and it enters into force as a basic Spanish law. For the first time, the Spanish State recognises Catalonia as a “nation”.
After four years of deliberations, the Constitutional Court of Spain, by a 6 to 4 majority of its members, rewrites and changes the interpretation of 41 articles – mainly those relating to language, justice and fiscal policy – thus watering down even further the main tool for Catalonia’s self-rule. It also deletes the reference to Catalonia as a “nation”.
A million citizens take to the streets of Barcelona with a clear message: the relationship between Catalonia and Spain cannot be decided by ten judges behind closed doors. However, the principal Spanish parties fail to propose how to restore the Statute to that which has already been agreed by both the Catalan and Spanish Parliaments and ratified by the people of Catalonia.
The new government’s agenda is clear: recentralisation of devolved powers and an aggressive stance against Catalonia’s self-rule, culture and language.
As no reaction comes from the political parties in Spain to the concerns of Catalan society, the civic movement shifts from a defence of Catalonia’s self-rule to an openly pro-independence stance.
As Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refuses to offer any specific proposals in political or budgetary terms for Catalonia, Catalan President Artur Mas and several Catalan parties agree to hold regional elections in order to see whether there has been a considerable change in the citizens’ perception of the option of independence, as the demonstration in Barcelona seemed to show.
The new Catalan Parliament has 107 out of 135 MPs supporting a self-determination referendum as the best way to find out what the majority of Catalans think about independence and as an effective way to channel the massive bottom-up pro-independence movement through the institutions.
The request is supported by 104 (out of 135) MPs, including those belonging to the ruling coalition and four opposition parties. Only two parties reject it (PP & C’s).
The Catalan National Assembly organizes the protest inspired by 1989’s Baltic Way. Smaller human chains are also organized in more than 100 cities worldwide.
As in the UK, the Parliament of Catalonia asks the Spanish Government to transfer the legal powers to hold a referendum. The Catalan political institutions have in fact now formally requested this referendum as many as 18 times.
The two largest Spanish parties (PP and PSOE) coincide in their No vote. 86% of the Spanish Parliament votes against the referendum, with only 13.5% in favour.
In colours representing the Catalan flag, 1.8 million citizens form an 11-km-long giant V-shape, standing for ‘Vote’, along two of Barcelona’s main streets.
Since referenda can only be called by the central government and it refuses to do so, the Catalan Parliament passes a regional law which should enable the regional government to organize a less formal vote, a so-called “popular consultation”.
Catalan citizens will be able to vote for the status quo, for a new accommodation within Spain (subject to a proposal coming from Madrid) or for independence. Registered foreigners and youngsters from 16 to 18 are also able to vote.
In an urgent and non-scheduled plenary meeting, the Constitutional Court accepts the Spanish Government’s appeal and decides to temporarily suspend the non-binding consultation law and the decree calling for the 9 November vote.
The Mayors of these municipalities meet in the Government building in Barcelona to show their support and commitment to the 9 November consultation.
Once the “popular consultation” is banned, plan B consists in organizing a “public participation process”, a tool already foreseen in the Catalan Statute to let citizens have a say in public affairs by the casting of a vote.
As the Court has blocked all possible ways to officially ask citizens for their point of view regarding Catalonia’s relationship with Spain, the Government of Catalonia decides to ask several NGOs to take the responsibility for organizing this democratic exercise.
The vote is eventually made possible thanks to the involvement of 30,000 volunteers. International observers consider it a successful vote under challenging circumstances and President Mas says it is the last step before the definitive legal vote.
He also considers the 9 November vote a “failure of the Catalan independence project, since two-thirds of the eligible voters didn’t participate”.
These three Catalan political representatives are charged with disobedience, perverting the course of justice, misuse of public funds and abuse of power. They could be judged, suspended and imprisoned because they did not stop the democratic exercise.
He is ready to call early regional elections which should become a de facto plebiscite on independence if the Spanish Government insists on blocking all other alternatives.
Rajoy ignores the offer of a meeting made by the Catalan president but repeats that he is willing to discuss everything except “Spain’s unity”.
The announcement follows an agreement between the two largest political parties in Catalonia (CiU and ERC) and representatives from the main civil society organizations supporting self-determination. The Spanish Government has blocked all the other alternatives for holding a specific vote so far.
Though President Mas accepts that a parliamentary election is not the best way to ask people about independence, he understands that it is the only way to let citizens express their stance on the issue in a legal vote (Spanish institutions could only block it by suspending Catalonia’s self-rule).
A new massive demonstration takes place in Barcelona, weeks before the election.
The results legitimate the Catalan Parliament to move forwards working towards an independent Catalan state. When it comes to votes, 47.8% of voters supported pro-independence parties, and 39.1% unionist ones. 13% voted for parties supporting self-determination but with no clear stance on independence.
President Artur Mas steps aside to facilitate the constitution of a new pro-independence government. The new government is committed to leading Catalonia towards independence in a year and a half.
It’s the fifth year in a row that huge pacific demonstrations take place. As in the past, there is no political answer from the Spanish Government, that keeps ignoring the demand for an agreed and binding referendum.
More than 400 elected officials are being judicially prosecuted for political reasons, including the President of the Parliament of Catalonia, Carme Forcadell, and former President of Catalonia, Artur Mas.
The Spanish judiciary has opened over 400 legal proceedings against Catalan elected officials.
Timeline | Catalonia’s road to selfdetermination (in English)
Chronologie | Kataloniens Weg zur Selbstbestimmung (in Deutsch)
Chronologie | Le chemin de la Catalogne vers l’autodétermination (en français)
Cronologia | Il cammino della Catalogna verso l’autodeterminazione (in italiano)
Cronología | El proceso de Cataluña hacia la autodeterminación (en español)
Cronologia | El procés de Catalunya cap a l’autodeterminació (en català)
Cronologia | O processo da Catalunha para a autodeterminação (Português)