No less than 45,000 Catalans were marching on Thursday at midday, in the Brussels European Quarter. They have been demanding that the European Union both respects, and ensures the respect for, their wish for independence.
Those taking part are, in particular, demanding that Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, the two figures of the separatist associations, the ANC (the National Catalan Assembly) and Òmnium Cultural, which have initiated the demonstration, be released. They are also seeking the release of the deposed Catatalan Vice President, Oriol Junqueras, and the former adviser (Minister) for the Interior Joaquim Forn.
Amongst the crowd coming to Brussels, a multitude of them have been carrying the Estelada, the Catalan separatist flag.
José Cid, a demonstrator, explained, “We are demanding the support of the European Union, so that our right to self-determination is acknowledged.” He maintained, “I am in favour of Catalonia’s independence. If the majority of people decide as I have done, I would like this choice to be respected. I would also like an independent Catalonia to stay in the European Union. Other countries have done so. We are, after all, the part of Spain which is the most fervent supporter of Europe. Economically, Catalonia should be able to stand on its own two feet.”
He further stated, “Without the rest of Spain, Catalonia will be more easily able to develop its economic project. Moreover it will then be able to participate in the European Union, along with other member states. Now, as a province, we collaborate to support the poorest parts of Spain. Tomorrow, as a member state of Europe, we could support the countries of the European Union, which have a greater need. Again, as a province, we have no problem with this. Currently the issue is more than simply an economic problem. We are especially concerned that Spain is not respecting our traditions, our freedoms, our education system, our language and our culture, to name but a few…”
Carla, aged 32, also defends Catalonian independence because it would guarantee a better future for young Catalans. She regrets, “We pay a lot in taxes, which particularly goes to Madrid and we get little in return. This is in particular in terms of health and education infrastructure. For young Catalans, it has been difficult to find decent work since the global economic crisis, as the wages are low. Independence will make education more accessible, with both more places and teachers. Our taxes should be able to finance this. This may also finance the motorway infrastructure. Other parts of Spain have fast roads, yet our roads are dreadful in Catalonia.”
On a more personal level, Carla says, “We have been fighting peacefully for our property for generations, my parents and grandparents having already fought for the same things.”