How can Catalonia become independent 1

One year after the vote in CataloniaElected, counted, gambled away

October 1, 2017 was a rainy Sunday in Catalonia. Queues formed in front of schools and community centers early on. Many Catalans wanted to vote on whether Catalonia should become independent. Also this woman in front of a school in the Sant Antoni district of Barcelona:

"I am very touched. I never thought that that day would actually come. That we can decide! That we can free ourselves from a country that won't let us be what we are!"

Like this woman, most of those standing in line at the time are likely to be in favor of independence. Most of the opponents of the secession stayed at home. A kind of silent protest.

The referendum was illegal - says Madrid

Regardless of whether or not: this question is actually not allowed to be voted on in Spain. The Spanish Constitutional Court had made this unequivocally clear shortly beforehand - and banned the vote. The regional government under Carles Puigdemont didn't care. She really wanted to go through with the referendum.

From German jail to Belgian exile - Carles Puigdemont, former President of the Spanish region of Catalonia. (dpa-Bildfunk / Britta Pedersen)

The Spanish government absolutely wanted to prevent this. She also sent more than 5,000 police officers to Catalonia. Also because she had doubts that the Catalan regional police would be on her side. The signs pointed to confrontation. And then it came too.

Units of the Spanish National Police in action against the referendum in Barcelona on October 1, 2017. (picture alliance / dpa / Felipe Dana)

In some polling stations, Spanish police beat people with batons, while others pulled women by the hair. The pictures went around the world. Josep, a citizen from Barcelona, ​​was stunned at the time:

"The way the police are doing here is absolutely disproportionate - measured against what we want to do: vote. Yes, Spain can classify the referendum as illegal, but not behave like that. We no longer want to live in such a state."

Spanish police officers attempt to break into the Pau Claris school in Barcelona, ​​which is voting on the Catalan referendum. (imago / Alain Pitton)

The outrage was also widespread outside of Catalonia - and the government in Madrid was under international pressure. Prime Minister Rajoy continued to try to treat Catalonia as a domestic issue. Two days after the referendum, the Spanish King Felipe VI held. a televised address:

"I know very well that there is great concern in Catalonia with regard to the behavior of the autonomous authorities. To those who feel this, I say: You are not alone - and you will never be. You have the solidarity of the rest of the Spaniards and the absolute guarantee that their rule of law will defend their freedom and rights. "

After the referendum in Catalonia, supporters demonstrate in Barcelona on October 2, 2017. (Felipe Dana / AP / dpa)

The speech did not go down well in Catalonia. In Barcelona, ​​many citizens angrily hit pots afterwards. A sign of protest.

A week-long test of nerves began between Madrid and Barcelona. The whole thing culminated in the fact that the President of the Catalan Parliament proclaimed the Republic of Catalonia at the end of October. Then everything happened very quickly: the Spanish government temporarily put the Catalan administration under its control.

Implacable opponents - Spain's ex-prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia's ex-regional president Carles Puigdemont. (dpa)

Some Catalan politicians were arrested, others fled abroad - including Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont. The Spanish judiciary accuses them of "rebellion" - that is, violent rebellion against the state. An accusation that caused a lot of discussion from the start.

Today the red lines are marked

The separatists won again in the new elections in December. But the Catalans will not get a new government until May 2018. She is also striving for the independence of Catalonia. And the new Prime Minister Quim Torra never misses an opportunity to complain about state repression. But he now knows where the red lines are. And that the Spanish judiciary takes it seriously when it deems it necessary.

Quim Torra, Catalonia's regional president, once insulted Spaniards in the most violent way, but has since apologized for it. (imago / Agencia EFE)

Fake news on social networks

It is now clear that a lot of fake news has made the rounds about the independence referendum in Catalonia. Allegations by separatists and opponents of the split-off that spread rapidly via social networks on the Internet - and facts that have been put into the wrong context by some media. It was mainly about the massive deployment of the Spanish police in front of the voting booths. The fact that the media mainly showed the pictures of beating police officers created a distorted picture of the actual situation, says the book author Joaquim Coll. He is involved in the "Societat Civil Catalana", a citizens' initiative against the independence of Catalonia.

"It created a perfect storm. It's true, of course, that there were brutal scenes in front of the polling stations, as we saw it on TV and on the Internet - that was wrong on the part of the police and has to be criticized. But most of the places ran the police operation correctly. "

Police operations were mostly correct - Joaquim Coll of the anti-separatist organization Societat Civil Catalana. (ARD Studio Madrid)

In fact, there were only violent scenes in front of a handful of voting halls. The Spanish police closed around 400 places out of a total of 2300 - these figures come from the Catalan regional government.

Trouble-free voting is usually possible

So in the vast majority of places, people could cast their votes without any problems. The number of Catalans allegedly injured when the police were deployed also sparked discussion. Shortly after the polls opened, the Catalan regional government reported hundreds of injuries, and the next day more than 1,000.

Today it is clear that only two people were seriously injured. One suffered a heart attack, another was hit in the face by a police rubber bullet - and went blind in one eye. The Catalan regional government counted among the allegedly 1,000 injured people who were only slightly scratched or who felt scared or frightened by the police. The head of the ANC separatist citizens' movement, Elisenda Paluzie, insists on the high number of victims.

"It wasn't 1,000 people who had to stay in hospital longer. But 1,000 injured people who were treated. People who, for example, have been hit and their arm broken, of course, go to the hospital. But they are not admitted to the hospital . "

Elisenda Paluzie, head of the separatist citizens' movement ANC, still expects 1,000 injuries. (ARD Studio Madrid)

The worsening situation in Catalonia in autumn 2017 not only worried many citizens, but also entrepreneurs and investors. The large corporations in the region felt this in the share price. Some investors feared that in the event of independence, the region could fly out of the euro zone - and thus out of the sphere of influence of the European Central Bank.

2,500 companies have relocated their administrative headquarters

To be on the safe side, some corporations relocated their official headquarters outside of Catalonia. These include companies that are heavyweights in Catalonia: the Sabadell and Caixa banks, for example.

According to the latest figures from the regional government, between last October and the end of July this year, a good 2500 companies made the decision to relocate their administrative headquarters to other parts of Spain. Other sources even speak of significantly more companies. In Catalonia, people are traditionally proud of their strong economy - this is where such reports are particularly painful. The ANC chairwoman Elisenda Paluzie does not want to overestimate the numbers.

"The relocation of the company headquarters has no effect on the gross domestic product. If you do not move workers to other regions, factories or offices - then the effect is zero."

This is the case in Catalonia: the region has not suffered any losses because of the Spanish tax system. For Paluzie, many reports about the migrated companies are pure scare tactics. In any case, the fact is that many in Catalonia are worried. This is especially true for those who do business there.

Purposeful optimism in the economy

For Albert Peters, the president of the German executive association, the situation in Catalonia has now calmed down. Although there are losses in investment, growth in Catalonia has not suffered. A year after the illegal referendum, he looks to the situation there with optimism.

"Even if it heats up again now - you can understand that, these are emotions - I think that everyone involved knows that they can only resolve this conflict if they come together humanly and socially. You are neither from Madrid nor from the Catalan side interested in a split. So you have to work here to bring these societies back together. "

Vic and the "evil" Spanish state

Not interested in a split? Not everyone sees it that way in Catalonia. For some, the split has long been there. For Carme Vilaró, for example. When she remembers October 1st, a veil covers her gaze. Vilaró is committed to the independence association ANC in the Catalan town of Vic.

"On that day we were one people - in all its diversity! There were young people, old people ... And on that day it was seen that there is a struggle between evil and good, in all of humanity. As fascism attacked innocent, unarmed people - that was when the struggle between good and evil manifested itself! "

"We are a republic" - the separatist stronghold of Vic in the hinterland of Catalonia (ARD Studio Madrid)

For them, evil was the Spanish state - and its police. Vilaró is not alone in this view here in Vic. The place is located in the hilly hinterland of Catalonia, around an hour's drive from Barcelona. In the last parliamentary elections in Catalonia, the separatist parties got around three quarters of all votes. "Freedom for political prisoners" reads on a large banner hanging from the balcony of the town hall. For weeks, bells could be heard from the loudspeaker at the town hall every evening.

Please don't forget the prisoners

A warning that, as they call them, "political prisoners" shouldn't be forgotten. And not to stray from the path towards independence. The action was organized, among others, by the separatist organization "Omnium Cultural". Alfred Verdaguer is the local chairman of the organization:

"We felt that we should remind ourselves every day that we are living in a situation that is not normal. To remember that there are people who are in jail for their opinions. It is not fair."

Protest poster for Häflinge in Vic (ARD Studio Madrid)

Of course, they needed the mayor's permission to do so. Anna Erra was happy to give them to them:

"De que sirve esto? ... no les olvidamos".

"The detainees should know that they are not alone. And that we will not forget them," she says. Erra has been mayor of the city of 40,000 for a good three years. And an enthusiastic champion for an independent Republic of Catalonia.

"They have already lost our hearts"

This is de facto already a reality: "We are a republic - but one that has not yet materialized. The mandate of October 1st applies to us. Well, from a purely legal point of view we are not yet a republic - but with that Hearts already. That means: A lot of us have already said goodbye to Spain. Perhaps we will be bound to each other for a long time by the administration. But as far as our feelings and hearts are concerned - they have already lost us. "

We have already said goodbye to Spain - Anna Erra, the mayor of Vic. (ARD Studio Madrid)

The loudspeaker announcements weren't the only thing Vic made headlines. Most recently, separatist organizations wanted to rename the station square to "October 1st Square" - but failed due to resistance from neighbors. Jaume is sitting in the said square and has a coffee. Jaume was against the fact that the square should be renamed without a major referendum. And he was also against the announcements at the town hall. He himself is a Catalan - but that's all too radical for him.

"I don't like using the town hall loudspeakers for such one-sided announcements. I always say: This is the area of ​​the Apache Indians. If you raise your voice a little and say that you are against separatism, then bring it people. I've been asked if my last name doesn't come from another area. "

State flag with and without a sign

The world is small in Vic. Here you are among yourself. The coast with its tourists is far away - and so is Madrid. There is a Spanish flag on the town hall, but it can hardly be seen. But the sign in front of it reads: "The state flag is on this town hall due to a coercive measure by the central government". Catalonia is divided on the question of independence. In Vic you know where you stand.

The Spanish flag hangs on the town hall of La Canonja without a sign. The town hall of the 6000-inhabitant town near Tarragona is governed by a mayor from the Socialist Party of Catalonia, which strictly rejects the independence of the region. The residents of the village chose him because they think the same way, says town hall chief Roc Muñoz.

"As a reaction to the independence movement, the people in the village give their voice to the political force that thinks exactly differently. Our party has been winning here for years. Our 13-member municipal council has ten members of the socialist party. So we have a very comfortable absolute Majority."

Roc Muñoz, mayor of the coastal town of La Canonja, where the anti-independence opponents are clearly in the majority. (ARD Studio Madrid)

Catalan but not separatist - La Canonja

Anyone walking through La Canonja will hardly see any separatist flags or yellow ribbons for the imprisoned Catalan politicians. In the referendum a year ago in La Canonja, the result was: almost 87 percent in favor of secession from Spain - but just one in four residents cast their vote. Ramona says most of her neighbors ignored the referendum in protest - as did she.

"I'm against independence. This is Spain. Catalonia shouldn't become a state of its own. What these people call revolution, destroys people."

Of course she is Catalan, says Ramona, but she is also Spanish. Another woman on the main street of the village, also an opponent of independence, puts it this way:

"I come from Andalusia and have lived here for about 50 years. I like my homeland, but I also like the area here. It is clear to me that I adapt to the region in which I live: I'm not Catalan, but I have Learned Catalan. "

The town hall of La Canonja - with the flag of Spain, Catalonia and Europe (ARD Studio Madrid)

People like this woman make up the majority of the population of La Canonja today: They are southern Spaniards and their descendants. In the 50s and 60s they came to the coastal region of Catalonia because there was work there. Most of these families speak Spanish at home, not Catalan. And that's why they can hardly do anything with the separatist movement, explains the Catalan linguist Jordi Amat.

"Catalonia has always been one of the regions of Spain with a lot of industry. These provinces, especially those on the coast, have therefore massively attracted people from the poorer parts of Spain. In contrast, hardly any came to those areas of Catalonia where the independence movement is strong today Immigrant."

Jordi Amat, Catalan linguist and newspaper columnist (ARD Studio Madrid)

By this he means above all the interior of Catalonia - a zone in which only a few larger companies are located, so the economic power is weaker. La Canonja, on the other hand, has a lot of industry to offer: In the southern part of the village are the plants of several large chemical companies, including the German BASF.

Prime Minister Sánchez relies on dialogue

Catalonia is divided - and the situation between the Catalan and Spanish governments is a mess. The Social Democratic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is trying to find compromises. He wants to get into conversation with one another, relies on dialogue instead of confrontation.

Sánchez and the Catalan regional president Torra could hardly be more different: Torra is an ardent separatist - Sánchez sees it as his task to guarantee the unity of Spain. He has already called Torra a "racist" or "the Le Pen of Spain". But Sánchez was not yet head of government either.

And they talk to each other again - Spain's Prime Minister Sanchez receives the Catalan regional president Torra (left) for the first time.(AFP / Javier Soriano)

A first meeting between Prime Minister Sánchez and Torra in July ended without any great results. But at least: the tone has changed. Quim Torra also emphasized this at his own press conference after the meeting.

"We both agree that Catalonia is a political issue that also needs to be resolved politically. That was very important for us Catalans. We talked about everything. It has been months since a Catalan president met a Spanish prime minister talked about everything. "

Two men and their controllers

It is precisely this dialogue that the conservative opposition in Spain criticizes. For example, Inés Arrimadas from the Ciudadanos party. Arrimadas said Sánchez made too many concessions to the separatists. Because he needs the votes of the Catalan regional parties in parliament to get through the legislative period with his minority government.

"Although Mr Torra has done a lot of unheard-of things this week, Sánchez welcomes him as normal: Because he depends on Torra so that he can continue to rule. But that doesn't seem normal to us. Torra continues to insult millions of Catalans, Mr Sánchez should better protect these people. "

But despite all the conciliatory tones between Sánchez and Torra: The two have political ideas that could hardly be more different. And supporters behind them who keep a close eye on them and do not want any lazy compromises.

The two politicians remain opponents who mess up the situation between Madrid and Barcelona. But at least: the radio silence is over. A year after October 1st, at least that is something that gives hope.