Catalan Separatists Want Independence. Who Else?

In 2006, a new statute of Catalan autonomy, which had been drafted by a Socialist-led regional government, was approved in a regional referendum, as well by Catalan and Spanish lawmakers. The statute might have forestalled the current crisis over yet more extreme independence demands, but it was rejected in part by Spain’s constitutional court in 2010, after Spain’s conservative Popular Party had campaigned fiercely against it.

During the financial crisis, the regional government in wealthy Catalonia pushed unsuccessfully for a better tax deal with the national authorities. In September 2015, a coalition of separatist parties won a majority of the seats in the Catalan Parliament, but they did so with only 48 percent of the votes in regional elections.

The separatist coalition then organized an independence referendum on Oct. 1, 2017, even after it had been declared illegal by Spain’s government and courts. Based on this highly controversial referendum, separatist lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain on Oct. 27, after which the central government stepped in and took administrative control of Catalonia.


A demonstration in Bilbao, Spain, in January against the dispersion of Basque prisoners.

Ander Gillenea/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BASQUE COUNTRY, Spain and France

The Basques have their own history, culture and language. Although the region straddles France and Spain, aspirations for greater autonomy have been almost exclusively limited to the population on Spanish soil.

During Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, a separatist group known as E.T.A. pressed for Basque independence with a violent campaign of bombings and assassinations. After Franco’s death in 1975, the Basque region recovered its autonomy and the power to raise and spend its own taxes. But E.T.A. continued its campaign of terror to claim a homeland, known as Euzkadi, and killed more than 800 people over four decades. A significantly weakened E.T.A. eventually announced a cease-fire in 2011, but the group is yet to formally disband, as demanded by the Spanish government. E.T.A. is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

In recent years, mainstream Basque politicians have made some efforts to gain more autonomy. In 2004, the Basque regional Parliament approved a plan for a new statute of autonomy, which…

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