Catalonia ponders independence ‘leap of faith’ (EUObserver)
In less than three months, on 1 October, Catalan voters will be asked whether they want their region to “become an independent state in the form of a Republic.”
Until Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan government, officially calls the vote at the end of August or early September, the debate on Catalonia’s independence will not yet have disturbed the Mediterranean summer.
As tourists flooded Barcelona’s seafront, streets and monuments last week, only a few stickers and red and yellow Catalan flags displayed in windows served as reminders of the feverish political atmosphere that could potentially lead to the break-up of Spain, the EU’s fifth largest state.
A visit to Catalonia’s second-most visited landmark – after Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia basilica – may be a good way to understand how the campaign is taking shape in people’s mind.
“Mas que un club” – more than a club – reads a giant message in the Camp Nou, the 99,000-seat stadium and home to the globally famous “Barca”, Barcelona’s main football club.
In Catalonia and its capital, Puigdemont told EUobserver, “Barca plays a social role, more than a political role.”
In the club’s museum that sits in the Camp Nou, a sign says that “ever since its foundation, FC Barcelona’s identity has been inextricably linked to its country, Catalonia. This commitment is accepted by Catalan society and understood by Barcelona supporters from the rest of the Spanish state, and the world.”
Every match, after 17 minutes and 14 seconds, the most politicised supporters strike up chants about Catalonia’s independence to commemorate the defeat of Catalan forces against the Spanish king’s army in 1714.
In early May, the Barca signed the “national pact for a referendum”, an online petition that states “Catalonia’s desire to decide its own political future” and calls on Catalan and Spanish authorities to agree on the modalities of the vote.
Polls say that two-thirds of Catalans support the initiative, whereas Spanish authorities have said that the vote will be illegal and have refused any discussion on the matter.
But despite its commitment to Catalonia’s identity, Barca will not take a side in the referendum.
“Barca is pro-referendum. They say nothing about independence, because part of their supporters are against independence,” Puigdemont explained, adding that a majority of Catalans, including opponents of independence, said they will accept the result.
“Barca is a reflection of this,” he said.
Ahead of October’s referendum, Catalans are almost united on the need to go to the ballot box to express themselves. But they are also divided on the referendum question and uncertain about the result and the consequences.
The Spanish government has said that it would use “all means” to prevent the vote or independence from happening, and there is also no guarantee that an independent Catalonia would be recognised by the EU.
Puigdemont, in an interview with several European media outlets, including this website, said that“nothing will stop” his government.
He added that he would try to find an agreement with the Spanish government and the EU on “how Catalonia can become a fully independent state”.
“If a majority of Catalans vote for ‘Yes’ … the European Union must accept reality,” he said.
Adding to the uncertainty, the Catalan government is still yet to presented the “secession bill,” which will outline the transition process towards becoming an independent state.
Detailed figures on how much the process would cost have not been put forward either – for example, whether to build state infrastructure or to assume part of the Spanish debt.
“We will act as an independent state from the first minute. We’ll calculate the needs and financial capacities,” Puigdemont said in his interview.
He also said that he wanted to base Catalonia’s share of the debt on the level of Spanish public investment in the region over recent years, although it would “not be strange” to calculate it according to Catalonia’s population – 16 percent of the Spanish overall population.
In the face of the momentous decision to take, independence supporters argue that it is a question of principles.
“It’s a matter of democracy,” said Raul Romeva, the region’s foreign minister.
Full original article: https://euobserver.com/beyond-brussels/138421