Catalonia’s Bid for Independence From Spain: A Timeline of Developments

Catalonia is no stranger to flirting with secession.
The Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from Spain on Friday, leading the Spanish Senate to respond by granting Madrid unprecedented powers to exert control over the region.
Long recognized as one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, Catalonia is home to roughly 7.5 million people, including Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city. The region also has its own language, Catalan, and comprises about a fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion euro economy.
Pro-independence supporters wave "estelada" or pro independence flags during a rally of "Junts pel Si" or "Together for YES" in Barcelona, Spain on Sept. 25, 2015. Emilio Morenatti / AP
The region’s latest move capped a dramatic multi-week standoff with Madrid, as Barcelona became the independence movement’s flash-point, with Catalan legislators voting, 70 to 10, to “form the Catalan Republican as an independent and sovereign state.”
Friday’s events mark a momentous test for the Spanish constitution, which was ratified in 1978, and completed the nation’s transition to democracy following the 1975 death of its former dictator, General Francisco Franco.
Here’s a timeline of how the divisive movement for Catalan independence unfolded in recent years:
2006: Spain’s central government and Catalan authorities agree to devolve more powers to the northeastern region, including finance, health care and education. Catalan lawmakers and Spain’s national parliament approve the agreement.
2008: Spain enters a five-year financial crisis that prompts harsh austerity measures and economic recession. Many Catalans begin to believe their wealthy region would be better off on its own.
2010: The Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid strikes down key parts of the 2006 agreement, unintentionally reigniting the Catalan independence movement. About 1 million Catalans protest the court’s actions in a march through Barcelona, and pro-independence parties win a regional election.
Image: Pro-independence demonstrators of Catalonia and Basque Country raise their regional flags
Pro-independence demonstrators of Catalonia and Basque Country raise their regional flags as they gather on a square to support an informal independence poll to celebrate in Catalonia, in Pamplona northern Spain on Nov. 9, 2014. The pro-independence regional government of Catalonia stages a symbolic poll on secession in a show of determination and defiance after the Constitutional Court suspended its plans to hold an official independence referendum following a legal challenge by the Spanish government. Alvaro Barrientos / AP file
2014: Spain’s Constitutional Court rules that Catalonia cannot proceed with a planned Nov. 9 independence referendum, claiming that all Spaniards must be allowed to vote. On Nov. 9, the Catalan government scraps the referendum, instead describing the vote as an unofficial opportunity for locals to voice their opinion about the region’s future. Less than half of eligible voters cast ballots, and more than 80 percent favored secession. The national government rejects the vote as propaganda.
2015: In September, U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. wants a united Spain, and European Union officials say they would not welcome an independent Catalonia as a member. Catalonia’s pro-independence parties narrowly win most seats in another regional election. In December, Spain’s Constitutional Court rules that a pro-independence resolution from the Catalan Parliament is unconstitutional.
March 13, 2017: The national government bars former Catalan President Artur Mas from holding public office for two years after holding the unofficial November 2014 vote.
June 9: Catalan President Carlos Puigdemont announces a new independence referendum set for Oct. 1. Catalan officials say they will proclaim a new republic within 48 hours of the vote if a “yes” vote wins, regardless of turnout.
Sept. 7: Spain’s Constitutional Court suspends the ballot after a legal challenge from the central government in Madrid.
Sept. 20-21: A dozen Catalan officials are arrested by Spanish police for organizing the independence referendum. Police also seize 10 million ballot papers in a crackdown. The following day, the Constitutional Court says it will fine 22 Catalan electoral board members between 6,000 euros ($7,000) and 12,000 euros ($14,200) daily for failing to comply with the court order suspending the vote.
Sept. 29-30: The national government vows to block the vote while Catalan officials vow to proceed with it. Activists and parents occupy Catalonia schools to be used as polling locations. Police give them an ultimatum to leave by 6 a.m. on Oct. 1, the day of the vote.
Image: Police try to remove pro-referendum supporters sitting down on a street in Barcelona.
Police try to remove pro-referendum supporters sitting down on a street in Barcelona. Manu Fernandez / AP
Oct. 1: Hundreds of people are injured as armed police descend on polling locations in Catalonia while defiant voters cast ballots in the banned referendum. Catalan officials say about 90 percent voted for secession, with about 42 percent voter turnout. The officials vow to press on with independence.
Oct. 3: Spanish King Felipe VI accuses secessionists of fracturing society in a televised speech. Hours later, Puigdemont says Catalonia will declare independence within 48 hours once the official votes are counted.
Oct. 10-11: Puigdemont hesitates to make a formal declaration of independence during a highly anticipated speech to the Catalan Parliament. The next morning, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy activates the Spanish constitution’s so-called nuclear option to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy.
Oct. 16: Puigdemont calls for dialogue with Spain and a meeting with Rajoy, barely meeting a deadline to respond to a Spanish central government request to state explicitly whether Catalonia had seceded from Spain.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives at the Catalonian regional parliament in Barcelona
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arrives at the Catalonian regional parliament in Barcelona on Oct. 10, 2017. Albert Gea / Reuters file
Oct. 19: Spain says it will begin to take control of Catalonia after Puigdemont threatens to declare independence if the central government is unwilling to enter into talks with Catalan officials.
Oct. 21: Rajoy decides to fire Catalonia’s government and force a new election. Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell responds in a televised speech, denouncing Rajoy’s actions as a “coup” and an “attack against democracy.”
Oct. 27: Catalonia declares independence from Spain in defiance of Madrid’s efforts to prevent secession. The declaration is deemed mostly symbolic because it is unlikely Spain or the international community will recognize an independent Catalonia. 
Catalonia’s Bid for Independence From Spain: A Timeline of Developments Catalonia’s Bid for Independence From Spain: A Timeline of Developments Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 00:09:00 Rating: 5