Spain. The Catalan independence vote, which took place on October 1, came to characterize much of the year. The struggle for independence came to open a wound in the EU. About Catalonia, why not the Basque Country, Flanders, Wallonia, Scotland? No wonder then that the European Commission already the day after the election determined that the vote was not legitimate; the United States and NATO also rejected Catalonia’s quest for freedom.
According to Countryaah.com, Catalan Independents have for several years strived to establish a legitimate referendum, most recently inspired by the vote in Scotland in 2014. In February, the Spanish Constitutional Court stopped Catalonia’s request for a referendum, but on June 9, regional president Carles Puigdemont announced that an October 1 vote would be held. When the Catalan Parliament voted in early September for a law on a referendum on independence on October 1, the Spanish Constitutional Court annulled the law, saying that the Catalan government will be prosecuted. On September 20, Spanish police arrested 13 Catalan politicians and confiscated millions of ballots.
The election was a great success for the Catalan separatists, to the extent that they won a crushing percentage as a percentage: the jas side received 90% of the vote, but of Catalonia’s 5.5 million eligible voters only 2.2 million. Thus, voter turnout was low, only 40%, which in most referendums has been rejected as indicative.
Around 800 people were injured during the referendum in clashes between police and protesters. The Spanish police had the task of stopping the referendum, for example by seizing ballot boxes, and they managed to shut down nearly 30% of the 6,000 polling stations; at a local one even fired rubber bullets at voters. The EU, which rejected the election, urged the central government to restrain and criticize the violence. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on Spain to “ensure a thorough, independent and impartial investigation of all acts of violence”.
Catalonia hesitated long before the Declaration of Independence came, but on October 27, the regional parliament (70 votes in favor, 10 against and two blank) agreed to proclaim independence. It did not take an hour until the Madrid government had obtained the approval of the Spanish Senate to abolish Catalan autonomy and dismiss the regional government. Article 155 of the Constitution was used to “restore the legality” of the region. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also announced that a new election in Catalonia would take place in December. A few days later, the deposed regional president Puigdemont surrendered to Brussels, many thought he would seek political asylum in Belgium because charges had been brought against him. He was charged with, among other things, insurrection and misuse of public funds. An international search for Puigdemont and other Catalan separatist leaders was later withdrawn by the Spanish authorities. On November 8, the Spanish Constitutional Court revoked the Catalan Declaration of Independence.
The new elections in Catalonia on December 21 ended with a win for the separatists. Together, the three separatist parties received 70 out of 135 seats and thus a majority in the Catalan parliament. The turnout was unusually high, 82 percent.
On August 17, Barcelona suffered a terror attack. At least 14 people died when a van drove into a crowd on the popular pedestrian street La Rambla. The terrorist group Islamic State (IS) took on the deed. A day later, the tourist resort of Cambrils, 12 miles south of Barcelona, was also hit by a car attack. Several people were injured before the police managed to stop the perpetrators; five of them were killed by police. Three of the perpetrators were identified as Moroccan citizens; also this attack was signed IS. A few days later, the terrorist in Barcelona was shot dead by the police. At a strike in Alcanar south of Barcelona a few days before the terrorist attack on La Rambla, eight suspected terrorists were killed and four arrested. This terror cell is believed to have been behind the deaths in Barcelona and Cambrils.
The number of migrants to Spain increased sharply during the year. This since the road via Turkey was closed and more and more people avoided the road to Europe via Libya. According to the Spanish Coast Guard, in 2016 nearly 7,000 migrants were rescued trying to get to Spain by sea. On New Year’s Day, more than 1,000 African migrants tried to make their way through the barriers between the Moroccan border and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. About fifty police officers were injured in the clashes; all migrants were driven back to Morocco. A few months later, however, about 500 migrants managed to get to Ceuta, and a day later another 300 managed to get to Ceuta, which, like Melilla, is the EU’s only land border with Africa.
In April, the Basque separatist group ETA announced that it was disarming itself, including by submitting a list of twelve ceasefires in France. It was in 2011 that ETA proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire and announced that the armed part in the fight for an independent Basque was over.
Over 7,000 new cases of covid-19 in one day
The number of new cases of covid-19 in Spain continues to increase. Today alone, more than 7,000 new cases are reported, according to figures from the Ministry of Health. Particularly vulnerable are the Madrid region, the Balearic Islands and the regions of Valencia and Catalonia. The government therefore decides to deploy the military in order to be able to track down those who have been infected and to reduce the number of infections. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also urges Spaniards to download an app, RadarCovid, which can help them detect if they have been in the vicinity of an infected person. However, it is emphasized that the situation today is not as serious as it was in March.
The flow of migrants to the Canary Islands is increasing
As it has become more difficult for migrants to get from Africa to Europe across the Mediterranean, more and more people have instead started trying to get to the Canary Islands. 3,448 people have arrived there from 16 August 2019 to the same date 2020, which is six times more than the year before. However, many die along the way. Between January 1, 2020 and August 19 of the same year, 239 people died during the trip compared to 201 in 2019 and 43 in 2018, according to figures from the IOM. At the same time, the number of migrants arriving in Spain across the Mediterranean has halved during the same period. This is largely due to the fact that many North African countries have taken measures to make traffic more difficult, following agreements with the EU.
Signs of economic recovery
About half of the Spanish companies forced to close in March and April as a result of the corona pandemic have reopened, according to government figures. It is seen as a sign that the economy has now begun to recover somewhat. At the same time, 3,650 new cases of covid-19 are reported. This means that Spain has or has had a total of 386,000 cases of the viral disease.
New corona restrictions in Spain
Spain is having great difficulty overcoming the spread of covid-19. In one day, 3,000 new cases of the viral disease are reported. As a result, Health Minister Salvador Illa is introducing new restrictions: all dance venues will now be closed, restaurants and bars will only be open until one o’clock at night and no new guests will be allowed after midnight, and smoking in the streets will also be banned. In addition, visits to nursing homes are limited, and everyone who moves into a nursing home must be tested whether they are infected with covid-19 or not. Regional authorities are asked to test more people who belong to the risk groups. According to official figures, just over 28,600 people have died in covid-19 in Spain. However, the number of new deaths is significantly lower now than before during the pandemic. Most of the newly infected are young people, and a large proportion of them show no symptoms of being ill. Only about three percent of those who fell ill are estimated to be in need of hospital care.
Podemos is accused of receiving money from Venezuela
A court in Madrid is launching an investigation into allegations against several leading figures in the left-wing Podemos, which now rules Spain with the Socialist Party (PSOE). They are about unconfirmed information that the party received money from the Venezuelan government, in violation of Spanish election laws. However, no charges have been brought and representatives of the party deny that there is anything in the accusations. The accusations come from José Manuel Calvente, who was previously the party’s legal adviser, and who left the party at the end of 2019 after being accused of sexual harassment. According to some observers, the accusations weaken the party’s position in government and may mean that the larger party, the PSOE, becomes less willing to make new compromises, including the tax increases that Podemos wants to push through.
Belgian court: Catalan ex-minister not extradited
A former Catalan minister, Lluis Puig, will not be extradited from Belgium, where he is in exile, to Spain. A Belgian court has ruled that the Spanish authority requesting Puig’s extradition does not have the power to do so. Prosecutors, however, say the decision should be appealed. Madrid wants Puig extradited to stand trial for his part in the referendum on independence for Catalonia held in the autumn of 2017 (see October 2017).
Ex-King Juan Carlos leaves Spain
Former King Juan Carlos announces that he will leave Spain so as not to cause problems for his son, King Felipe VI. Juan Carlos has ended up in bad weather after appearing in a corruption deal (see March 2020). Later in the month it appears that he has settled in the United Arab Emirates. Opinion polls show that a majority of Spaniards, just over 56 percent, believe that the ex-king’s move abroad is the wrong way to handle the matter. An even larger proportion believe that his actions may harm King Felipe VI who tried to improve the monarchy’s reputation through a new code of conduct.