In the late 8th century, the counties of the March of Gothia and the Hispanic March were established by the Frankish kingdom as feudal vassals across and near the eastern Pyrenees as a defensive barrier against Muslim invasions. The eastern counties of these marches were united under the rule of the Frankish vassal, the count of Barcelona, and were later called Catalonia. In 1137, Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon were united by marriage under the Crown of Aragon, and the Principality of Catalonia became the base for the Crown of Aragon's naval power and expansionism in the Mediterranean. In the later Middle Ages, Catalan literature flourished. Between 1469 and 1516, the king of Aragon and the queen of Castile married and ruled their kingdoms together, retaining all their distinct institutions, courts, and constitutions.
During the Franco-Spanish War, Catalonia revolted against a large and burdensome presence of the royal army in its territory, becoming a republic under French protection. Within a brief period France took full control of Catalonia, at a high economic cost for Catalonia, until it was largely reconquered by the Spanish army. Under the terms of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended the wider Franco-Spanish War, the Spanish Crown ceded the northern parts of Catalonia, mostly incorporated in the county of Roussillon, to France. During the War of the Spanish Succession, the Crown of Aragon sided against the Bourbon Philip V of Spain, whose subsequent victory led to the abolition of non-Castilian institutions in all of Spain and the replacement of Latin and other languages with Spanish in legal documents.
In the nineteenth century, Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars. In the second half of the century, Catalonia experienced significant industrialisation. As wealth from the industrial expansion grew, Catalonia saw a cultural renaissance coupled with incipient nationalism while several workers movements appeared. In 1914, the four Catalan provinces formed a commonwealth, and with the return of democracy during the Second Spanish Republic, the Generalitat of Catalonia was restored as an autonomous government. After the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist dictatorship enacted repressive measures, abolishing Catalan institutions and banning the official use of the Catalan language again. From the late 1950s through to the early 1970s, Catalonia saw rapid economic growth, drawing many workers from across Spain, making Barcelona one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas and turning Catalonia into a major tourist destination. Since the Spanish transition to democracy, Catalonia has regained considerable local autonomy in political, educational, environmental, and cultural affairs and is now one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain.
The name Catalunya (Catalonia)—spelled Cathalonia, or Cathalaunia, in Mediaeval Latin—began to be used for the homeland of the Catalans (Cathalanenses) in the late 11th century and was probably used before as a territorial reference to the group of counties that comprised part of the March of Gothia and March of Hispania under the control of the Count of Barcelona and his relatives. The origin of the name Catalunya is subject to diverse interpretations because of a lack of evidence.
One theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the name Gothia (or Gauthia) Launia ("Land of the Goths"), since the origins of the Catalan counts, lords and people were found in the March of Gothia, known as Gothia, whence Gothland > Gothlandia > Gothalania > Cathalaunia > Catalonia theoretically derived. During the Middle Ages, Byzantine chroniclers claimed that Catalania derives from the local medley of Goths with Alans, initially constituting a Goth-Alania.
Other less plausible or recent theories suggest:
In English, Catalonia is pronounced /. The native name, Catalunya, is pronounced [kətəˈluɲə] in Central Catalan, the most widely spoken variety, whose pronunciation is considered standard. The Spanish name is Cataluña ([kataˈluɲa]), and the Aranese name is Catalonha ([kataˈluɲɔ]).
The first known human settlements in what is now Catalonia were at the beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic. The oldest known trace of human occupation is a mandible found in Banyoles, described by some sources as pre-Neanderthal some 200,000 years old; other sources suggest it to be only about one third that old. From the next prehistoric era, the Epipaleolithic or Mesolithic, important remains survive, the greater part dated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, such as those of Sant Gregori (Falset) and el Filador (Margalef de Montsant).
The Neolithic era began in Catalonia around 5000 BC, although the population was slower to develop fixed settlements than in other places, thanks to the abundance of woods, which allowed the continuation of a fundamentally hunter-gatherer culture.
The Chalcolithic (Eneolithic) period developed in Catalonia between 2500 and 1800 BC, with the beginning of the construction of copper objects. The Bronze Age occurred between 1800 and 700 BC. There are few remnants of this era, but there were some known settlements in the low Segre zone. The Bronze Age coincided with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans through the Urnfield Culture, whose successive waves of migration began around 1200 BC, and they were responsible for the creation of the first proto-urban settlements. Around the middle of the 7th century BC, the Iron Age arrived in Catalonia.
In pre-Roman times, the area that is now called Catalonia in the north-east of Iberian Peninsula – like the rest of the Mediterranean side of the peninsula – was populated by the Iberians. The Iberians of this area – the Ilergetes, Indigetes and Lacetani (Cerretains) – also maintained relations with the peoples of the Mediterranean. Some urban agglomerations became relevant, including Ilerda (Lleida) inland, Hibera (perhaps Amposta or Tortosa) or Indika (Ullastret). Coastal trading colonies were established by the ancient Greeks, who settled around the Gulf of Roses, in Emporion (Empúries) and Roses in the 8th century BC. The Carthaginians briefly ruled the territory in the course of the Second Punic War and traded with the surrounding Iberian population.
After the Carthaginian defeat by the Roman Republic, the north-east of Iberia became the first to come under Roman rule and became part of Hispania, the westernmost part of the Roman Empire. Tarraco (modern Tarragona) was one of the most important Roman cities in Hispania and the capital of the province of Tarraconensis. Other important cities of the Roman period are Ilerda (Lleida), Dertosa (Tortosa), Gerunda (Girona) as well as the ports of Empuriæ (former Emporion) and Barcino (Barcelona). As for the rest of Hispania, Latin law was granted to all cities under the reign of Vespasian (69-79 AD), while Roman citizenship was granted to all free men of the empire by the Edict of Caracalla in 212 AD (Tarraco, the capital, was already a colony of Roman law since 45 BC). It was a rich agricultural province (olive oil, vine, wheat), and the first centuries of the Empire saw the construction of roads (the most important being the Via Augusta, parallel to Mediterranean coastline) and infrastructure like aqueducts.
Conversion to Christianity, attested in the 3rd century, was completed in urban areas in the 4th century. Although Hispania remained under Roman rule and did not fall under the rule of Vandals, Swabians and Alans in the 5th century, the main cities suffered frequent sacking and some deurbanization.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area was conquered by the Visigoths and was ruled as part of the Visigothic Kingdom for almost two and a half centuries. In 718, it came under Muslim control and became part of Al-Andalus, a province of the Umayyad Caliphate. From the conquest of Roussillon in 760, to the conquest of Barcelona in 801, the Frankish empire took control of the area between Septimania and the Llobregat river from the Muslims and created heavily militarised, self-governing counties. These counties formed part of the Gothic and Hispanic marches, a buffer zone in the south of the Frankish empire in the former province of Septimania and in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, to act as a defensive barrier for the Frankish empire against further Muslim invasions from Al-Andalus.
These counties came under the rule of the counts of Barcelona, who were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor of the Franks, to whom they were feudatories (801–987). The earliest known use of the name "Catalonia" for these counties dates to 1117. During the 9th century, the Count Wifred the Hairy made its title hereditary and founded the dynasty of the House of Barcelona, which ruled Catalonia until 1410.
In 987 Borrell II, Count of Barcelona, did not recognise Hugh Capet as his king, making his successors (from Ramon Borrell I to Ramon Berenguer IV) de facto independent of the Carolingian crown. At the start of eleventh century the Catalan Counties suffer an important process of feudalisation, partially controlled by the Peace and Truce Assemblies and by the power and negotiation skills of the Counts of Barcelona like Ramon Berenguer I. In 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona decided to accept King Ramiro II of Aragon's proposal to marry Queen Petronila, establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon, joining the Crown of Aragon and making the Catalan counties that were united under the county of Barcelona into a principality of the Aragonese Crown.
In 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, the Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, of Mallorca and of Valencia, James I of Aragon renounced his family rights and dominions in Occitania and recognised the king of France as heir of the Carolingian Dynasty. The king of France formally relinquished his nominal feudal lordship over all the Catalan counties, except the County of Foix, despite the opposition of the king of Aragon and count of Barcelona. This treaty transformed the principality's de facto union with Aragon into a de jure one and was the origin of the definitive separation between the geographical areas of Catalonia and Languedoc.
As a coastal territory, Catalonia became the base of the Aragonese Crown's maritime forces, which spread the power of the Aragonese Crown in the Mediterranean, and made Barcelona into a powerful and wealthy city. In the period of 1164–1410, new territories, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sicily, Corsica, and (briefly) the Duchies of Athens and Neopatras, were incorporated into the dynastic domains of the House of Aragon.
At the same time, the Principality of Catalonia developed a complex institutional and political system based in the concept of a pact between the estates of the realm and the king. Laws had to be approved in the General Court of Catalonia, one of the first parliamentary bodies of Europe that banned the royal power to create legislation unilaterally (since 1283). The Courts were composed of the three Estates, were presided over by the king of Aragon, and approved the constitutions, which created a compilation of rights for the citizenship of the Principality. In order to collect general taxes, the Courts of 1359 established a permanent representative of deputies position, called the Deputation of the General (and later usually known as Generalitat), which gained political power over the next centuries.
In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. Under the Compromise of Caspe, Ferdinand from the Castilian House of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon. During the reign of his son, John II, social and political tensions caused the Catalan Civil War (1462–1472). The domains of the Aragonese Crown were severely affected by the Black Death pandemic and by later outbreaks of the plague. Between 1347 and 1497 Catalonia lost 37 percent of its population.
Ferdinand II of Aragon, the grandson of Ferdinand I, and Queen Isabella I of Castile were married in 1469, later taking the title the Catholic Monarchs; subsequently, this event was seen by historiographers as the dawn of a unified Spain. At this time, though united by marriage, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon maintained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments, and laws. Castile commissioned expeditions to the Americas and benefited from the riches acquired in the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, but, in time, also carried the main burden of military expenses of the united Spanish kingdoms. After Isabella's death, Ferdinand II personally ruled both kingdoms.
By virtue of descent from his maternal grandparents, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, in 1516 Charles I of Spain became the first king to rule the Crowns of Castile and Aragon simultaneously by his own right. Following the death of his paternal (House of Habsburg) grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, he was also elected Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1519.
Over the next few centuries, the Principality of Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spain. Despite this fact, between the 16th and 18th centuries, the participation of the political community in the local and the general Catalan government was increased, while the kings remained absent and its constitutional system continued to consolidate. The Catalan Revolt (1640–1652) saw Catalonia rebel (briefly as a republic led by Pau Claris) with French help against the Spanish Crown for overstepping Catalonia's rights during the Thirty Years' War. Most of Catalonia was reconquered by the Spanish monarchy but Catalan rights were recognised. Roussillon was lost to France by the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659).
The most significant conflict concerning the governing monarchy was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when the childless Charles II of Spain, the last Spanish Habsburg, died without an heir in 1700. Charles II had chosen Philip V of Spain from the French House of Bourbon. Catalonia, like other territories that formed the Crown of Aragon, rose up in support of the Austrian Habsburg pretender Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in his claim for the Spanish throne as Charles III of Spain. The fight between the houses of Bourbon and Habsburg for the Spanish Crown split Spain and Europe.
The fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 to the Bourbon king Philip V militarily ended the Habsburg claim to the Spanish Crown, which became legal fact in the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip felt that he had been betrayed by the Catalan Courts, as it had initially sworn its loyalty to him when he had presided over it in 1701. In retaliation for the betrayal, the first Bourbon king introduced the Nueva Planta decrees that incorporated the territories of the Crown of Aragon, including Catalonia, as provinces under the Crown of Castile in 1716, terminating their separate institutions, laws and rights, within a united kingdom of Spain. During the second half of 18th century Catalonia started a successful process of proto-industrialization.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars. In the latter half of the 19th century, it became an industrial center. This process was boosted by, amongst other things, national protectionist laws (although the policy of the Spanish government during those times changed many times between free trade and protectionism) and the conditions of proto-industrialization of the prior two centuries of the Catalan urban areas and its countryside. To this day it remains one of the most industrialised areas of Spain. During those years, Barcelona was the focus of important revolutionary uprisings, while the Catalan language saw a cultural renaissance (the Renaixença).
The Anarchists had been active throughout the early 20th century, achieving the first eight-hour workday in Europe in 1919. In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy several times. In 1914, the four Catalan provinces were authorized to create a Commonwealth (Mancomunitat), without any legislative power or specific autonomy, that was disbanded in 1925 by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. After the fall of the dictator and a brief proclamation of the Catalan Republic, it received its first Statute of Autonomy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931), establishing an autonomous body, the Generalitat of Catalonia, which included a parliament, a government and a court of appeal, and the left-wing independentist leader Francesc Macià was elected its first president. The governments of the Republican Generalitat tried to implement an advanced social program. This period was marked by political unrest and the preeminence of Revolutionary Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).
The defeat of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War brought ultraconservative dictator Francisco Franco to power. His regime imposed linguistic, political and cultural restrictions across Spain. In Catalonia, any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, republicanism, anarchism, socialism, liberalism, democracy or communism, including the publication of books on those subjects or simply discussion of them in open meetings, was banned.
Franco's regime banned the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and during public events, and also the Catalan institutions of self-government were abolished. The pro-Republic of Spain president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was taken to Spain from his exile in the German-occupied France, and was tortured and executed in the Montjuïc Castle of Barcelona for the crime of 'military rebellion'.
During later stages of Francoist Spain, certain folkloric and religious celebrations in Catalan resumed and were tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media had been forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Despite the ban during the first years and the difficulties of the next period, publishing in Catalan continued throughout his rule.
The years after the war were extremely hard. Catalonia, like many other parts of Spain, had been devastated by the war. Recovery from the war damage was slow and made more difficult by the international trade embargo against Franco's regime. By the late 1950s the country had recovered its pre-war economic levels and in the 1960s was the second fastest growing economy in the world in what became known as the Spanish miracle. During this period there was a spectacular growth of industry and tourism in Catalonia that drew large numbers of workers to the region from across Spain and made the area around Barcelona into one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas.
After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia voted for the adoption of a democratic Spanish Constitution in 1978, in which Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy, restoring the Generalitat (exiled since the end of the Civil War in 1939) in 1977 and adopting a new Statute of Autonomy in 1979. Today, Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelona, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourist destination. In 1992, Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympic Games.
The new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, approved after a referendum in 2006, was contested by important sectors of the Spanish society, especially by the conservative Popular Party, which sent the law to the Constitutional Court of Spain. In 2010, the Court declared non valid some of the articles that established an autonomous Catalan system of Justice, better aspects of the financing, a new territorial division, the status of Catalan language or the symbolical declaration of Catalonia as a nation. This decision was severely contested by large sectors of Catalan society, which increased the demands of independence.
A referendum held in Catalonia in 2014 indicated that 92% of the 2.3 million voters supported Catalonia's transformation into a state. 80% of the 2.3 million voters expressed their preference that this state would be independent. Estimates for the turnout as published by the news media ranged from 37.0%, as given in The Economist and El País among others, to 41.6% as per the Catalan government's preliminary data. On 9 November 2015, Catalan lawmakers approved a plan for secession from Spain by 2017 with a majority vote 72 to 63. The plan was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court, but the Catalan government has insisted that it will complete the plan despite the suspension. On 9 June 2017, the Catalan government announced that an independence referendum would be held 1 October 2017. However, Spanish courts had declared the referendum to be illegal, and the Public Prosecutor's Office of Catalonia ordered the seizure of paraphernalia related to the referendum, including ballots, ballot boxes, promotional materials, and websites. On 20 September 2017, eleven days prior to the referendum, the Civil Guard mounted Operation Anubis to raid the offices of government ministries and detain officials involved in the referendum, which resulted in large protests by independence supporters.
A controversial independence referendum was held in Catalonia on 1 October 2017, using a disputed voting process. It was declared illegal on 6 September 2017 and suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain because it breached the 1978 Constitution. Subsequently, the European Commission agreed that the referendum was illegal. The referendum asked the question: "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?". More than 2,020,000 voters (91.96%) answered "Yes" and around 177,000 answered "No", on a turnout of 43.03%. The Catalan government estimated that up to 770,000 votes were not cast due to polling stations being closed off during the police crackdown, although the "universal census" system introduced earlier in the day allowed electors to vote in any given polling station. Catalan government officials have argued that the turnout would be higher were it not for Spanish police suppression of the vote, and that were it not for closures and police pressure, turnout could have been as high as 55%. On the other hand, many voters who did not support Catalan independence did not turn out. Anti-independence groups have alleged that there are irregularities in the voting, such as the same people voting more than once.
In the first interview since the referendum, Catalonia's regional president, Carles Puigdemont, stated he would declare independence as soon as a final vote tally was determined, and would subsequently act in a matter of days. Spain's King Felipe criticized the referendum for "erod[ing] the harmony and co-existence within Catalan society itself, managing, unfortunately, to divide it".
On 5 October, the Constitutional Court of Spain suspended the Catalan parliamentary session on Monday, 9 October, after Puigdemont said they would be pushing for a declaration of independence. On 10 October, Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence. The referendum led to the arrests of Jordi Sànchez, speaker of the Catalan National Assembly and Jordi Cuixart, the leader of pro-independence group Òmnium Cultural. On 22 October 2017, Catalans demonstrated against prime minister Mariano Rajoy's plan to impose direct rule.
On 27 October 2017, the Catalan parliament voted in the afternoon to declare independence, a vote which 3 opposition parties boycotted. Right after the declaration was made, the Spanish Senate gave the Spanish government permission to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978,. This was not the consequence of an impromptu meeting of the Senate, but the result of decision of the Senate, but the result of the parliamentary timing of the process triggering this article. That evening, after an emergency cabinet meeting and with the green light of the Senate, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the Executive Council of Catalonia, dissolving the Parliament of Catalonia and calling a snap regional election for 21 December 2017. Afterwards on 30 October 2017, Spain's top prosecutor announced that Carles Puigdemont and 13 other sacked Catalan cabinet ministers were being charged with rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds. Puigdemont and 5 other cabinet ministers slipped out of Spain and fled to Brussels, Belgium that same day. On 2 November, 9 other members of the Catalan cabinet were jailed after appearing in court in Madrid, including Oriol Junqueras, Catalan vice-president, and Raül Romeva, Catalan foreign affairs chief.
The climate of Catalonia is diverse. The populated areas lying by the coast in Tarragona, Barcelona and Girona provinces feature a Hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). The inland part (including the Lleida province and the inner part of Barcelona province) show a mostly Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). The Pyrenean peaks have a continental (Köppen D) or even Alpine climate (Köppen ET) at the highest summits, while the valleys have a maritime or oceanic climate sub-type (Köppen Cfb).
In the Mediterranean area, summers are dry and hot with sea breezes, and the maximum temperature is around 26–31 °C (79–88 °F). Winter is cool or slightly cold depending on the location. It snows frequently in the Pyrenees, and it occasionally snows at lower altitudes, even by the coastline. Spring and autumn are typically the rainiest seasons, except for the Pyrenean valleys, where summer is typically stormy.
The inland part of Catalonia is hotter and drier in summer. Temperature may reach 35 °C (95 °F), some days even 40 °C (104 °F). Nights are cooler there than at the coast, with the temperature of around 14–17 °C (57–63 °F). Fog is not uncommon in valleys and plains; it can be especially persistent, with freezing drizzle episodes and subzero temperatures during winter, mainly along the Ebro and Segre valleys and in Plain of Vic.
Catalonia has a marked geographical diversity, considering the relatively small size of its territory. The geography is conditioned by the Mediterranean coast, with 580 kilometres (360 miles) of coastline, and large relief units of the Pyrenees to the north. The Catalan territory is divided into three main geomorphological units:
The Catalan Pyrenees represent almost half in length of the Pyrenees, as it extends more than 200 kilometres (120 miles). Traditionally differentiated the Axial Pyrenees (the main part) and the Pre-Pyrenees (southern from the Axial) which are mountainous formations parallel to the main mountain ranges but with lower altitudes, less steep and a different geological formation. The highest mountain of Catalonia, located north of the comarca of Pallars Sobirà is the Pica d'Estats (3,143 m), followed by the Puigpedrós (2,914 m). On the Pre-Pyrenees is located the Serra del Cadí, that separates the valley of Cerdanya from the Central Depression.
Central Catalan Depression is a plain located between the Pyrenees and Pre-Coastal Mountains. The Depression lands are located between 200 and 600 metres (660 and 1,970 feet). The plains and the water that descend from the Pyrenees have made it fertile territory for agriculture and there are built numerous irrigation canals. Other important plain is the Empordà, located on the northeast.
The Catalan Mediterranean system is based on two (more or less) parallel ranges to the coast, in a Northwest direction towards the Southwest. These two mountain ranges are the Coastal and the Pre-Coastal. The Coastal Range is minor extent and it has lower altitudes, while the Pre-Coastal is larger in both length and height. The most relevant mountains of this area are Montserrat, Montseny and Ports. Within the ranges are a series of plains, the entities over which form the Coastal and the Pre-Coastal Depressions. The Coastal Depression is located on the East of the Coastal Range towards the coast. The Pre-Coastal, on the other hand, is located in the interior, between the two mountain ranges, and constitutes the basis of the plains of Vallès and Penedès.
Catalonia is a showcase of European landscapes on a small scale. Just over 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 square miles) hosting a variety of substrates, soils, climates, directions, altitudes and distances to the sea. The area is of great ecological diversity and a remarkable wealth of landscapes, habitats and species.
The fauna of Catalonia comprises a minority of animals endemic to the region and a majority of non-native animals. Much of Catalonia enjoys a Mediterranean climate (except mountain areas), which makes many of the animals that live there adapted to Mediterranean ecosystems. Of mammals, there are plentiful wild boar, red foxes, as well as roe deer and in the Pyrenees, the Pyrenean chamois. Other large species such as the bear have been recently reintroduced.
Waters of Balearic Sea are rich in biodiversity, and even the megafaunas of ocean; various type of whales (such as fin, sperm, and pilot) and dolphins live within the area.
Most of Catalonia belongs to the Mediterranean Basin. The Catalan hydrographic network consists of two important basins, the one of the Ebro and the one that comprises the internal basins of Catalonia (respectively covering 46.84% and 51.43% of the territory), all of them flow to the Mediterranean. Furthermore, there is the Garona river basin that flows to the Atlantic Ocean, but it only covers 1.73% of the Catalan territory.
The hydrographic network can be divided in two sectors, an occidental slope or Ebro river slope and one oriental slope constituted by minor rivers that flow to the Mediterranean along the Catalan coast. The first slope provides an average of 18,700 cubic hectometres (4.5 cubic miles) per year, while the second only provides an average of 2,020 hm3 (0.48 cu mi)/year. The difference is due to the big contribution of the Ebro river, from which the Segre is an important tributary. Moreover, in Catalonia there is a relative wealth of groundwaters, although there is inequality between comarques, given the complex geological structure of the territory. In the Pyrenees there are many small lakes, remnants of the ice age. The biggest are the lake of Banyoles and the recently recovered lake of Ivars.
The Catalan coast is almost rectilinear, with a length of 580 kilometres (360 mi) and few landforms—the most relevant are the Cap de Creus and the Gulf of Roses to the north and the Ebro Delta to the south. The Catalan Coastal Range hugs the coastline, and it is split into two segments, one between L'Estartit and the town of Blanes (the Costa Brava), and the other at the south, at the Costes del Garraf.
The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and the Ebro, all of which run into the Mediterranean.
After Franco's death in 1975 and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain in 1978, Catalonia recovered and extended the powers that it had gained in the Statute of Autonomy of 1932 but lost with the fall of the Second Spanish Republic at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
This autonomous community has gradually achieved more autonomy since the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local government, and shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice. In all, some analysts argue that formally the current system grants Catalonia with "more self-government than almost any other corner in Europe".
The support for Catalan nationalism ranges from a demand for further autonomy and the federalisation of Spain to the desire for independence from the rest of Spain, expressed by Catalan independentists. The first survey following the Constitutional Court ruling that cut back elements of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, published by La Vanguardia on 18 July 2010, found that 46% of the voters would support independence in a referendum. In February of the same year, a poll by the Open University of Catalonia gave more or less the same results. Other polls have shown lower support for independence, ranging from 40 to 49%. Other polls shows more variable results, according with the Spanish CIS, as of December 2016, 47% of Catalans rejected independence and 45% supported it. Although it is established in the whole of the territory, support for independence is significantly higher in the hinterland and the northeast, away from the more populated coastal areas such as Barcelona.
Since 2011 when the question started to be regularly surveyed by the governmental Center for Public Opinion Studies (CEO), support for Catalan independence has been on the rise. According to the CEO opinion poll from July 2016, 47.7% of Catalans would vote for independence and 42.4% against it while, about the question of preferences, according to the CEO opinion poll from March 2016, a 57.2 claim to be "absolutely" or "fairly" in favour of independence.
In hundreds of non-binding local referendums on independence, organised across Catalonia from 13 September 2009, a large majority voted for independence, although critics argued that the polls were mostly held in pro-independence areas. In December 2009, 94% of those voting backed independence from Spain, on a turn-out of 25%. The final local referendum was held in Barcelona, in April 2011. On 11 September 2012, a pro-independence march pulled in a crowd of between 600,000 (according to the Spanish Government), 1.5 million (according to the Guàrdia Urbana de Barcelona), and 2 million (according to its promoters); whereas poll results revealed that half the population of Catalonia supported secession from Spain.
Two major factors were Spain's Constitutional Court's 2010 decision to declare part of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia unconstitutional, as well as the fact that Catalonia contributes 19.49% of the central government’s tax revenue, but only receives 14.03% of central government's spending.
Parties that consider themselves either Catalan nationalist or independentist have been present in all Catalan governments since 1980. The largest Catalan nationalist party, Convergence and Union, ruled Catalonia from 1980 to 2003, and returned to power in the 2010 election. Between 2003 and 2010, a leftist coalition, composed by the Catalan Socialists' Party, the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia and the leftist-environmentalist Initiative for Catalonia-Greens, implemented policies that widened Catalan autonomy.
In the 25 November 2012 Catalan parliamentary election, sovereigntist parties supporting a secession referendum gathered 59.01% of the votes and held 87 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament. Parties supporting independence from the rest of Spain obtained 49.12% of the votes and a majority of 74 seats.
Artur Mas, then the president of Catalonia, organised early elections that took place on 27 September 2015. In these elections, Convergència and Esquerra Republicana decided to join, and they presented themselves under the coalition named "Junts pel Sí" (in Catalan, "Together for Yes"). "Junts pel Sí" won 62 seats and was the most voted party, and CUP (Candidatura d'Unitat Popular, a far-left and independentist party) won another 10, so the sum of all the independentist forces/parties was 72 seats, reaching an absolute majority, but not in number of individual votes, comprising 47,74% of the total.
The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia is the fundamental organic law, second only to the Spanish Constitution from which the Statute originates.
In the Spanish Constitution of 1978 Catalonia, along with the Basque Country and Galicia, was defined as a "nationality". The same constitution gave Catalonia the automatic right to autonomy, which resulted in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1979.
Both the 1979 Statute of Autonomy and the current one, approved in 2006, state that "Catalonia, as a nationality, exercises its self-government constituted as an Autonomous Community in accordance with the Constitution and with the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which is its basic institutional law, always under the law in Spain".
The Preamble of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia states that the Parliament of Catalonia has defined Catalonia as a nation, but that "the Spanish Constitution recognizes Catalonia's national reality as a nationality". While the Statute was approved by and sanctioned by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, and later by referendum in Catalonia, it has been subject to a legal challenge by the surrounding autonomous communities of Aragon, Balearic Islands and Valencia, as well as by the conservative People's Party. The objections are based on various issues such as disputed cultural heritage but, especially, on the Statute's alleged breaches of the principle of "solidarity between regions" in fiscal and educational matters enshrined by the Constitution.
Spain's Constitutional Court assessed the disputed articles and on 28 June 2010, issued its judgment on the principal allegation of unconstitutionality presented by the People's Party in 2006. The judgment granted clear passage to 182 articles of the 223 that make up the fundamental text. The court approved 73 of the 114 articles that the People's Party had contested, while declaring 14 articles unconstitutional in whole or in part and imposing a restrictive interpretation on 27 others. The court accepted the specific provision that described Catalonia as a "nation", however ruled that it was a historical and cultural term with no legal weight, and that Spain remained the only nation recognised by the constitution.
The Catalan Statute of Autonomy establishes that Catalonia is organised politically through the Generalitat of Catalonia, conformed by the Parliament, the Presidency of the Generalitat, the Government or Executive Council and the other institutions created by the Parliament.
The Parliament of Catalonia (in Catalan: Parlament de Catalunya) is the legislative body of the Generalitat and represents the citizens of Catalonia. It is elected every four years by universal suffrage, and it has powers to legislate in different matters such as education, health, culture, internal institutional and territorial organization, election and control of the president of the Generalitat and the Government, budget and others, according with the Statute of Autonomy. The last Catalan election was held on 27 September 2015, and its current president is Carme Forcadell, incumbent since that year.
The president of the Generalitat of Catalonia (in Catalan: president de la Generalitat de Catalunya) is the highest representative of Catalonia, and is also responsible of leading the government's action. Since the restoration of the Generalitat on the return of democracy in Spain, the presidents of Catalonia have been Josep Tarradellas (1977–1980, president in exile since 1954), Jordi Pujol (1980–2003), Pasqual Maragall (2003–2006), José Montilla (2006–2010), Artur Mas (2010–2016) and Carles Puigdemont (2016-2017). The position is currently administered directly from Madrid due to direct rule.
The Executive Council (in Catalan: Consell Executiu) or Government (Govern), is the body responsible of the government of the Generalitat, it holds executive and regulatory power. It comprises the president of the Generalitat, the First Minister (or the Vice President) and the Ministers (consellers). Its seat is the Palau de la Generalitat, in Barcelona.
Catalonia has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra (officially called Mossos d'Esquadra-Policia de la Generalitat de Catalunya), whose origins date back to the 18th century. Since 1980 they have been under the command of the Generalitat, and since 1994 they have expanded in number in order to replace the national Civil Guard and National Police Corps, which report directly to the Homeland Department of Spain. The national bodies retain personnel within Catalonia to exercise functions of national scope such as overseeing ports, airports, coasts, international borders, custom offices, the identification of documents and arms control, immigration control, terrorism prevention, arms trafficking prevention, amongst others.
Most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions, the highest body and last judicial instance in the Catalan jurisdiction, integrating the Spanish judiciary, is the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. The criminal justice system is uniform throughout Spain, while civil law is administered separately within Catalonia. The civil laws that are subject to autonomous legislation have been codified in the Civil Code of Catalonia (Codi civil de Catalunya) since 2002.
Navarre, the Basque Country and Catalonia are the Spanish communities with the highest degree of autonomy in terms of law enforcement.
Catalonia is organised territorially into provinces, further subdivided into comarques and municipalities. The 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia establishes the administrative organisation of three local authorities: vegueries, comarques, and municipalities.
Catalonia is divided administratively into four provinces, the governing body of which is the Provincial Deputation (Catalan: Diputació Provincial, Spanish: Diputación Provincial). The four provinces and their populations are:
There are at present 948 municipalities (municipis) in Catalonia. Each municipality is run by a council (ajuntament) elected by the residents in local elections. The council consists of a number of members (regidors) depending on population, who elect the mayor (alcalde or batlle). Its seat is the town hall (ajuntament, casa de la ciutat or casa de la vila).
Comarques are entities composed by the municipalities to manage their responsibilities and services. The current regional division has its roots in a decree of the Generalitat de Catalunya of 1936, in effect until 1939, when it was suppressed by Franco. In 1987 the Government adopted the territorial division again and in 1988 three new comarques were added (Alta Ribagorça, Pla d'Urgell and Pla de l'Estany), and in 2015 was created the last comarca, the Moianès. At present there are 41.
The comarca of Val d'Aran (Aran Valley) has a special status and its autonomous government is named Conselh Generau d'Aran.
The vegueria is a new type of division defined as a specific territorial area for the exercise of government and inter-local cooperation with legal personality. The current Statute of Autonomy states vegueries are intended to supersede provinces in Catalonia, and take over many of functions of the comarques.
The territorial plan of Catalonia (Pla territorial general de Catalunya) provided six general functional areas, but was amended by Law 24/2001, of 31 December, recognizing the Alt Pirineu i Aran as a new functional area differentiated of Ponent. On 14 July 2010 the Catalan Parliament approved the creation of the functional area of the Penedès.
A highly industrialized land, the nominal GDP of Catalonia in 2014 was €200 billion (the highest in Spain) and the per capita GDP was €27,000 ($30,000), behind Madrid (€31,000), the Basque Country (€30,000), and Navarre (€28,000). In that year, the GDP growth was 1.4%. In recent years there has been a negative net relocation rate of companies based in Catalonia moving to other autonomous communities of Spain. In 2014, for example, Catalonia lost 987 companies to other parts of Spain (mainly Madrid), gaining 602 new ones from the rest of the country.
Catalonia's long-term credit rating is BB (Non-Investment Grade) according to Standard & Poor's, Ba2 (Non-Investment Grade) according to Moody's, and BBB- (Low Investment Grade) according to Fitch Ratings. Catalonia's rating is tied for worst with between 1 and 5 other autonomous communities of Spain, depending on the rating agency.
In the context of the 2008 financial crisis, Catalonia was expected to suffer a recession amounting to almost a 2% contraction of its regional GDP in 2009. Catalonia's debt in 2012 was the highest of all Spain's autonomous communities, reaching €13,476 million, i.e. 38% of the total debt of the 17 autonomous communities, but in recent years its economy recovered a positive evolution and the GDP grew a 3.3% in 2015.
In 2011, Catalonia ranked the 64th largest country subdivision by GDP (nominal). Catalonia belongs to the organisation Four Motors for Europe.
The distribution of sectors is as follows:
The main tourist destinations in Catalonia are the city of Barcelona, the beaches of the Costa Brava in Girona, the beaches of the Costa del Maresme and Costa del Garraf from Malgrat de Mar to Vilanova i la Geltrú and the Costa Daurada in Tarragona. In the High Pyrenees there are several ski resorts, near Lleida. On 1 November 2012, Catalonia started charging a tourist tax. The revenue is used to promote tourism, and to maintain and upgrade tourism-related infrastructure.
Many savings banks are based in Catalonia, with 10 of the 46 Spanish savings banks having headquarters in the region. This list includes Europe's premier savings bank, La Caixa. The first private bank in Catalonia is Banc Sabadell, ranked fourth among all Spanish private banks.
The stock market of Barcelona, which in 2016 had a volume of around €152 billion, is the second largest of Spain after Madrid, and Fira de Barcelona organizes international exhibitions and congresses to do with different sectors of the economy.
The main economic cost for the Catalan families is the purchase of a home. According to data from the Society of Appraisal on 31 December 2005 Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second most expensive region in Spain for housing: 3,397 €/m² on average (see Spanish property bubble).
Airports in Catalonia are owned and operated by Aena (a Spanish Government entity) except two airports in Lleida which are operated by Aeroports de Catalunya (an entity belonging to the Government of Catalonia).
Since the Middle Ages, Catalonia has been well integrated into international maritime networks. The port of Barcelona (owned and operated by Puertos del Estado, a Spanish Government entity) is an industrial, commercial and tourist port of worldwide importance. With 1,950,000 TEUs in 2015, it is the first container port in Catalonia, the third in Spain after Valencia and Algeciras in Andalusia, the 9th in the Mediterranean Sea, the 14th in Europe and the 68th in the world. It is sixth largest cruise port in the world, the first in Europe and the Mediterranean with 2,364,292 passengers in 2014. The ports of Tarragona (owned and operated by Puertos del Estado) in the southwest and Palamós near Girona at northeast are much more modest. The port of Palamós and the other ports in Catalonia (26) are operated and administered by Ports de la Generalitat, a Catalan Government entity.
The development of these infrastructures, resulting from the topography and history of the Catalan territory, responds strongly to the administrative and political organization of this autonomous community.
There are 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi) of roads throughout Catalonia.
The principal highways are AP-7 (Autopista de la Mediterrània) and A-7 (Autovia de la Mediterrània). They follow the coast from the French border to Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia. The main roads generally radiate from Barcelona. The AP-2 (Autopista del Nord-est) and A-2 (Autovia del Nord-est) connect inland and onward to Madrid.
Public-own roads in Catalonia are either managed by the autonomous government of Catalonia (e.g., C- roads) or the Spanish government (e.g., AP-, A-, N- roads).
Catalonia saw the first railway construction in the Iberian Peninsula in 1848, linking Barcelona with Mataró. Given the topography most lines radiate from Barcelona. The city has both suburban and inter-city services. The main east coast line runs through the province connecting with the SNCF (French Railways) at Portbou on the coast.
There are two publicly owned railway companies operating in Catalonia: the Catalan FGC that operates commuter and regional services, and the Spanish national RENFE that operates long-distance and high-speed rail services (AVE and Avant) and the main commuter and regional service Rodalies de Catalunya, administered by the Catalan government since 2010.
High-speed rail (AVE) services from Madrid currently reach Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona. The official opening between Barcelona and Madrid took place 20 February 2008. The journey between Barcelona and Madrid now takes about two-and-a-half hours. A connection to the French high-speed TGV network has been completed, but is awaiting the completion of stations along the route to begin passenger service in April 2013. This new line (currently the LGV Perpignan–Figueres-Vilafant) passes through Girona and Figueres with a tunnel through the Pyrenees. There is a direct train from Barcelona Estació de França to Paris Austerlitz along the older railway tracks.