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Catalonia votes to start secession process from Spain

INTERNATIONAL

MANU FERNANDEZ / AP
 Central government in Madrid vows to block road map toward independence, which is prohibited under Spanish law

The regional parliament of Catalonia approved a plan Monday to set up a road map for independence from Spain by 2017, in defiance of the central government.

The chamber, based in the northeastern city of Barcelona, passed the motion, 72 votes to 63.

The proposal was made by secessionist lawmakers from the Together for Yes alliance and the extreme left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). The groups together obtained a parliamentary majority in regional elections in September.

The Spanish government reacted swiftly. In a nationally televised address, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government will contest the decision at the Constitutional Court, which has blocked moves toward Catalan independence.

“Catalonia is not going anywhere. Nothing is going to break,” he said.

He added he would meet with the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, to form a common front against the separatists.

The motion passed by the parliament in its first postelection session declared “the start of a process toward the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” and a “process of democratic disconnection not subject to the decisions by the institutions of the Spanish state.”

While separatist lawmakers celebrated the result in the chamber, opponents held up Spanish and Catalan flags.

“There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a country but to be a state, with everything that means,” Raul Romeva, the head of the Together for Yes alliance, said at the start of the session. “Today we don’t only open a new parliament. This marks a before and after.”

Catalan branches of Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party and the Socialist and the Citizens opposition parties filed appeals to halt the vote, but Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled last Thursday that it could go ahead.

“You want to divide a country by raising a frontier within the European Union,” Citizens regional leader Ines Arrimadas told separatist lawmakers.

The Constitutional Court is expected to quickly rule the measure illegal, but the motion specifically orders the regional government not to heed decisions of Spain’s highest court. The motion gives the incoming government 30 days to start working on a new Catalan constitution, which would later be subject to approval in a referendum, and to begin establishing a tax office and social security administration.

Secessionist parties won 72 seats in September on the strength of just 48 percent of votes. That was due to an aspect of Spanish election law that overrepresents rural areas, where separatists have more support.

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​Catalonia prepares to set up own foreign missions, tax system amid independence drive

Published time: March 01, 2015 14:41

Pro-independence citizens in Barcelona November 7, 2014. (Reuters/Gustau Nacarino)

Pro-independence citizens in Barcelona November 7, 2014. (Reuters/Gustau Nacarino)

Catalonia is preparing its own tax system, and creating a network of foreign missions as it prepares for a snap regional vote on independence. Recently Spain’s top court ruled that the region’s symbolic referendum vote in November was unconstitutional.

Nationalist leaders in the northeastern region have urged a snap local vote on the issue of independence on September 27, AFP reported.

Catalan president Artur Mas and his government are reportedly working on tax, diplomacy, and social security restructuring in case Catalonia becomes an independent state.

The focus is on taxation as the Catalan authorities now collect only 5 percent of the taxes raised in the region.

Last November, Catalan president Artur Mas organized a symbolic vote on independence, with 80 percent voting in favor. However, the turnout was only 40 percent.

READ MORE: Catalonia to open up to 50 ‘embassies’ around the world in ‘a few years’

Catalonia has 7.5 million residents (16 percent of Spain’s population), and represents some 20 percent of the country’s GDP. Alone, the region could collect 100 billion euro in taxes yearly, much more than Catalonia would need if it becomes independent, said Joan Iglesias, a former Spanish tax inspector, who is now behind the Catalan tax reform.

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