The Spanish parliament in Madrid is meeting Tuesday to discuss whether to give Catalonia the chance to hold a referendum to break away from Spain. It is unlikely the motion will be passed, with the country’s two main parties against the plan.
The ruling conservative Popular Party is fiercely against the idea of Catalonia seceding. They are supported by the opposition Socialist Party, as well as the centrist Union for Progress and Democracy. Together, the three parties control 300 of the 350 seats in parliament, and have all said they will vote against allowing the referendum, which is planned to take place November 9.
Catalan President Artur Mas will not be attending the parliamentary hearing or the vote in the evening, which he says is “a mere formality,” because he would prefer not to give his political opponents in Madrid the “great victory” of watching him lose the resulting vote in the flesh.
Mas has vowed to press ahead with the planned referendum, even if, as expected, Madrid vetoes the proposal. He told reporters Sunday: “If they say no, they will say no to a law. But they can’t stop the will of the people of Catalonia.”
He is also under pressure from the Catalan Assembly, which is trying to pull out all the stops to ensure that Catalonia breaks free from Madrid. The assembly has even set a proposed independence date of April 23, 2015, the feast day of St. George, who is also the patron saint of Catalonia. According to Reuters, opinion polls show that roughly half of Catalans support independence, but a much higher number want the right to vote in a referendum on independence.
Historically Catalonia, which already enjoys significant autonomy from Madrid, has been one of Spain’s better-off regions and the local population has resented having to send their taxes to the capital to help support poorer areas of the country. However, the area of 7.5 million people is currently €57.1 billion euros ($78.5 billion) in debt, which is the most of any of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
Catalonia, which accounts for one- fifth of Spain’s economic output, has had no problem in attracting foreign investment, which grew by 31.5 percent in 2013 according to figures from Spain’s economy ministry.
However, Spanish think tank IEE is warning of economic hardships if Catalonia goes down the road toward independence, citing a possible 30 percent drop in trade with Spain and an exodus of businesses from the region.