The year in 10 images
From the mass demonstration in favor of hosting refugees to the independence declaration, it has been one of the most intense years ever in Catalonia
It’s been a particularly intense year in Catalonia. It was also a year dominated by political events, although not exclusively. Catalans took to the streets on several occasions throughout the year, to show their support for taking in refugees from war zones, insisting that Catalonia is a “land of peace” after the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, and to demand the right to vote on self-determination.
While Catalans enjoyed plenty of cultural events this year, and sang and moved to the rhythm of 'Sympathy for the Devil' or ‘Satisfaction’, it was a year that ended with a snap Catalan election called from Madrid, paving the way for a new Parliament, albeit one without substantial changes from the previous one.
9-N trial: Catalan officials in court for organizing non-binding voting
On February 6, former Catalan officials were summoned to court for organizing a non-binding independence vote on November 9, 2014. Among the Catalan politicians summoned was the former president Artur Mas, as well as his former ministers, Joana Ortega, Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs.
Although the vote was largely symbolic and had no real political consequences, the Catalan high court found the officials guilty of disobeying the Constitutional Court. For holding the non-binding vote on independence, the officials were fined €5.2 million, the estimated cost of the referendum.
Recently, the Court of Auditors agreed to provisionally hold property of the Catalan officials, who have only managed to pay €2.8 million, and who offered their properties as a guarantee.
‘Welcome them now’: mass demonstration in favor of hosting refugees
‘Enough excuses, welcome them now,’ read the banner of the huge demonstration held on February 18 in Barcelona. On that day, more than 160,000 people took to the streets and urged the Spanish authorities to take in more refugees from war-torn areas.
The protest came after Spain pledged to take in some 16,000 asylum seekers from other EU countries under a quota system agreed in 2015. As with most European countries, Spain has failed to respect the agreement. Yet, the demonstrators also called on the Catalan institutions to act, to bypass Spain’s inaction and start hosting refugees in Catalonia.
Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks
Terrorism hit Catalonia on August 17, especially in the cities of Barcelona and Cambrils. In Barcelona, a van crashed into crowds on the Rambla, in the city center. Some 16 people died and more than 130 were injured in the attack. Hours later, six civilians and one police officer were injured during a second attack in Cambrils, a coastal town 120 km from the Catalan capital. One of the injured civilians died some hours later. A large anti-terror rally was held in Barcelona in the wake of the attacks.
Rolling Stones, back in Barcelona
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood were in Barcelona to give their only show in Spain. On stage in the Olympic Stadium, the veteran British rockers showed why they are considered one of the best bands of the 20th century, playing some of their greatest hits, such as 'Sympathy for the Devil', 'It's Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)' and ending the gig with the ever popular 'Satisfaction'.
October 1 referendum: two million vote despite police violence
After days and months of chanting “We will vote” many Catalans did just that in the October 1 independence referendum. More than 2.2 million ballots were cast, with the ‘Yes’ option winning the referendum with 90% of the votes.
Yet, people had to face many obstacles, even violence, to cast their votes. Spanish riot police raided several polling places and even injured voters while trying to prevent them from casting their ballots. Around 900 people were injured in the raids by Spanish police.
Catalan parliament declares independence
Following the result of the independence referendum, the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence in an historic plenary session. Independence was declared on October 27 at 3.25 pm with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 abstentions.
Catalan MPs passed a resolution that made the electoral mandate of the October 1 referendum effective just before the Spanish Senate voted to suspend Catalonia’s self-rule. "We hereby constitute the Catalan Republic as an independent, sovereign, legal, democratic, socially-conscious state," read the declaration.
Catalan government, imprisoned in Madrid and exiled in Brussels
The Spanish government quickly reacted to the independence declaration and, after approval by the Spanish Senate, enforced Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution for the first time ever. Thus, Madrid suspended Catalonia’s self-government and dismissed all the members of the Catalan executive. Nevertheless, Article 155 wasn’t the only consequence of the independence declaration.
Spain’s National Court incarcerated vice president Oriol Junqueras and seven ministers on November 2 pending trial for the alleged offenses of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds and disobedience. They face up to 30 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers, who all face the same charges, went to Brussels looking for international attention of their case. Madrid issued a European arrest warrant against them that it later withdrew.
Catalan ministers, freed after 32 days in prison
Six of the eight jailed Catalan officials were released from prison on December 4. They were freed after being held in custody charged with sedition and rebellion and only after paying bail of €100,000.
Yet, the Spanish Supreme Court refused to release all of the pro-independence leaders, keeping four of them behind bars: the Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras; the home affairs minister, Joaquim Forn; and two civil society leaders, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart.
Sixena works of art, removed from Lleida and taken to Aragon
On October 11, disputed artworks from the Sixena convent were removed from Lleida Museum, in northern Catalonia, and returned to their original home in the autonomous community of Aragon.
While the Catalan authorities insist they were legitimately purchased, on November 15 a judge in Huesca upheld a request by the Sixena local authority and ruled that the artworks must be returned. A judge in Aragon then authorized the removal of the art pieces. The move came a few days after the Spanish Culture minister, with the Spanish government now in control of Catalan affairs, ordered the pieces to be forcibly returned to Aragon.
December 21 election, pro-independence parties win vote called by Madrid
Following the most crucial Catalan election in decades, with a record turnout of 82%, Catalonia’s pro-independence parties kept their majority of seats in the Parliament. It was the first Catalan election to be called from Madrid rather than by the Catalan president.
Despite becoming the most-voted party for the first time in its history, Ciutadans decided not to challenge for the presidency of the Catalan government, acknowledging that the unionists parties do not have enough support to form a government.
In an election marked by the suspension of Catalonia’s self-government by the Spanish executive, the Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling People’s Party got its worst result in decades, becoming one of the smallest parties in Parliament.