Attempts by Catalonia to separate from Spain continue to make the news, with the region's legislature recently approving a budget for 2017 which included funds for the holding of a referendum on the issue.
In one of the body's most controversial votes, the measure was approved by a slim margin, with the independence forces, Juntos por el Sí (United for a yes) and the People's Unity Candidature, winning with 64 votes, while Ciudadanos, Partido por los Socialistas, Cataluña Sí se Puede, and the Partido Popular mustered 62 no votes.
Since the end of September last year, the president of Catalonia's Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, who has long favored separation from Spain, has been asserting that another independence referendum will take place in September of 2017.
"Referendum or referendum," he said at that time, while Spanish President Mariano Rajoy called for continued dialogue and an end to talk about a popular vote, saying recently, "The referendum in Catalonia will not be held. Everyone knows this."
Catalonia has a high level of autonomy and its own Parliament, but Catalonians believe they are economically drained by Spain, since they are obliged to pay
16 billion euros to the central government annually. According to RT, this figure represents 8% of the autonomous community's GDP.
"If they were well managed, these 16 billion could give Catalonians good health care, education, a network of trains. There could even be money left to offer solidarity to other regions," said Xavier Sala-i-Martin, spokesperson for thecatalanproject.org.
One of the independence movement's most significant moments occurred November 9, 2014, when a popular referendum regarding Catalonia's status was held. Put to a vote was the question of whether Catalonia should be a state. Those who answered affirmatively were then asked if it should be independent. Eighty percent of the 2,305,290 persons participating (33% of potential voters) responded Yes-Yes.
The referendum, known as 9N, had been prohibited by the Spanish Constitutional Court, but then President of the Autonomous Community, Artur Mas, held it anyway.
As a result of this move, he was recently prohibited from holding public office for two years.
Upon hearing the news of his sentence this past March 13, the former Catalonian President said he would appeal to the Supreme Court, and reiterated that he was in no way remorseful for his actions.
Puidgemont described the sentence as an obstacle which will be overcome, insisting that the ruling served to motivate the independence forces even more.
ANOTHER REFERENDUM PROHIBITED BY THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT?
Puidgemont said that the next referendum would be binding, that the Catalonian government is committed to "implementing the result."
He additionally reported that, on this occasion, there will be a single question, and if the vote is negative, he will call for new elections.
Nonetheless, Spain's Constitution authorizes only the central government to convoke such a referendum on the sovereignty of a region.
In the event that the vote is held without permission, Catalonia would be subject to the Constitution's Article 155, applicable when an Autonomous Community disobeys the central government or acts against the interests of Spain.
The Article reads, "After demanding compliance on the part of the Autonomous Community's President, and in the event this is not addressed, the government, with absolute majority approval by the Senate, may adopt measures necessary to oblige the forced fulfillment of the obligations in question, or to protect the aforementioned general interests."