Political relations between Catalonia and Spain gradually became strained because of Catalonia’s bad political fit within the Spanish State and its unsuccessful claim for political recognition as a national community. A new Statute of Autonomy in 2006 attempted to improve this situation. The trajectory of the new Statute followed scrupulously all legal procedures: approved first by the Catalan parliament, then, after suffering considerable modification, approved by the Spanish parliament and senate and finally ratified in a referendum by all Catalan citizens. At this point it was referred, as possibly unconstitutional, to the Constitutional Court, which, in a judgment four years later, on 28 June 2010, invalidated the essential premises of the Statute.
The failure of the Statute led to great collective frustration and from then on the popular sovereigntist movement has grown enormously in strength. Following the regional elections of 27 September 2015, it had a clear majority for the first time in the Catalan parliament, with 72 seats out of 135 and 48% of the vote. Supporters of the status quo fell far behind with 52 seats and 39% of the vote.
On 1 October 2017 a self-determination referendum was held. With a 43% turnout (2.3 million voters), 92% of the voters answered YES to the question asked: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?“. The referendum had been passed by the Parliament and called by the Government of Catalonia but declared illegal and suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The brutal police attacks unleashed by the Spanish Government against peaceful citizens struck both the domestic and internacional public opinions.
On 21 December 2017 the Spanish Government called new regional elections after suspending the Catalan autonomy and imposing direct-rule and a de facto state of emergency (Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution) that remained in place for almost one year. The Catalan people renewed the democratic mandate for independence at the polls giving pro-independence parties a new majority in the Parliament. However, the Spanish Government and political institutions keep pursuing an intransigent, hardline approach on the issue and refuse to engage in dialogue. Nine pro-independence political leaders are currently jailed awaiting trial and seven are exiled in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland.
The Catalan sovereigntist movement has become known internationally because of its peaceful, civic and democratic base. Images of multitudinous rallies organised by grassroots bodies for the Diada Nacional (National Day – 11 of September), have been circulated worldwide by the international media. There is a genuine interest everywhere to learn more about this common people phenomenon but news channels abroad are strongly influenced by Spanish political, diplomatic and mass media interests, with the result that it is extremely difficult for Catalans to get their voice heard internationally.