Friday, December 23

Friday, December 23

Catalonia’s regional parliament meets to discuss an independence referendum.

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE SUMMIT

Catalan independence

Photo: Reuters

The leader of Spain’s restive Catalan region, Carles Puigdemont, will host a summit on Friday to organise a referendum on Catalan independence. While the regional parliament’s resolution on the referendum was blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court on Dec. 14, Mr Puigdemont has pledged to hold the vote anyway. At this point, the referendum is slated to be held in September 2017.

Home to some 7.5 million people, Catalonia is an autonomous region in northeast Spain. Economic dissatisfaction drives independence fervour, with secessionists arguing the region pays more in taxes than it receives in benefits from the central government. Recent polling indicates Catalonians are equally divided on the issue of independence; even if the referendum is eventually held, secession is no sure thing.

The separatist movement has clashed with Spain’s central government numerous times. In 2014, the Constitutional Court blocked a similar independence referendum and prosecuted prominent Catalan lawmakers for secession-related charges.

Although the Constitutional Court could lift the ban on Mr Puigdemont’s referendum in May 2017, it is unlikely to do so. Friday’s summit will seek to address the key issues that lie in the way of an independence vote, including establishing political consensus among regional lawmakers. Friday’s summit is likely to further inflame tensions between Catalonia and Madrid; the implementation of any referendum will be a critical risk event to keep an eye in the coming year.

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