Catalans the world over have rallied in a show of support for independence.
These campaigners gathered in the centre of Brussels just days after Madrid moved to block a planned referendum on the region’s split from Spain.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has urged “independentistas” to take to the streets on Monday in a massive show of support for the referendum.
Is September 11th a special day?
Yes. It marks the fall of Barcelona to Spain in 1714 and is often used by activists to voice their demands for independence.
What are relations like between Barcelona and Madrid?
Tense. Hostility has increased since last Thursday, when Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the referendum, planned for October 1.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had mounted a legal challenge.
What did he say?
That the referendum contravenes the constitution. This states that Spain is indivisible.
Spain’s state prosecutor has begun criminal proceedings against Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and 13 members of his cabinet on charges of:
The charges come after they approved the referendum last Wednesday.
Rajoy has urged Catalan civil servants and mayors to uphold the law and stop any preparations for the referendum over the next three weeks.
What has been the response from Catalonia?
Around two-thirds of Catalonia’s mayors have so far said they will allow the use of municipal facilities for the vote.
One mayor ripped up a court order warning of legal repercussions in front of a cheering crowd.
Puigdemont says he has ballot boxes and voting papers hidden and ready to deploy at any moment.
Over the weekend, police searched a printing press and offices of a local newspaper for signs of preparation for the referendum.
What is the EU saying?
Europe’s stance is a firm one – there is no room for either dialogue or mediation.
The head of the EU Parliament Antonio Tajani says any action against a member state’s constitution is an action against the legal framework of the EU.
For the European Commission, it is a question of internal politics. And an independent Catalonia would be outside the EU.
“Any territory that breaks with a member state which is a signatory to the EU treaties must reapply for membership of the EU as a candidate and go through all the necessary procedure,” said a spokesman.
The Catalan government wants Europe to play a more active role:
“We believe that Europe could have had a beneficial effect in defusing the political tensions. This has unfortunately not been the case,” says the Permanent Representative of the Catalan Government to the European Union, Amadeu Altafaj.
What do the polls say?
They suggest support for an independent state is waning and those wanting independence are in a minority.
However, a majority of Catalans want to hold a referendum on the issue.
What they are saying
“It’s vital that we come out in force for this Diada for the October 1 referendum to be successful. I’ll be there.” – Carles Puigdemont said on Twitter.