Catalonia separatist movement risks taking radical path

Increasingly hardline Catalan separatists are taking advantage of the void left by the decapitation of the region's independence movement to step up their protests by blocking roads and clashing with police, raising fears of radicalisation, analysts say.

Catalonia separatist movement risks taking radical path
Radical separatists blocked the roads in Catalonia on Monday. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities have jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders and called for the extradition of six others who have fled abroad, including Catalonia's former president Carles Puigdemont who was arrested Sunday in Germany.    

This crackdown on the independence movement's established leaders “generates incentives for the adoption of a hardline” by radical separatists, said Berta Barbet, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

“Since the conflict is increasingly more raw and social divisions are greater, the risk of radicalisation is ever more real,” she added.   

But Barbet said she did not believe Spain will see a return to the armed violence that plagued the country when Basque separatist group ETA and Catalan nationalist group Terra Lliure were active.

ETA, accused of killing more than 800 people in a decades-long campaign of bombings and shootings to establish an independent Basque state, announced it was disarming in April 2017.

Terra Lliure, which disbanded in 1995, committed its only killing with a bomb attack in 1987.


'Catalan spring' 

After years of peaceful protests in Catalonia in favour of independence, demonstrations on Sunday against Puigdemont's arrest led to clashes with police that left nearly 100 people injured.

Catalan police decked out in riot gear shoved and hit demonstrators with batons to keep the crowd from advancing on the office of the Madrid government's representative in Barcelona.

Demonstrators set fire to recycling containers and threw glass bottles, cans, and eggs at police.

A protestor stands up to police during clashes on Friday night. Photo: AFP

Despite appeals for calm from some separatist leaders, the protests called by the radical Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) continued Tuesday with protesters blocking major motorways in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain.

“The Catalan spring has erupted,” the group said in a statement on Sunday, in a reference to a series of protests which began in Arab nations in 2011.   

“We have crossed the point of no return… we will reappropriate the streets and stop the country,” the statement added in a call for a general strike in Catalonia like the ones held late last year when the region's separatist crisis heated up.   

During those strikes demonstrators blocked dozens of roads across Catalonia and forced the closure of key tourist spots such as Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church.

READ MORE: IN PICS: Roads blocked in Catalonia in Pro-Puigdemont protests

Paralyse the state

The legal action against Catalan separatists “is activating the social movement in the streets again, reinforcing it and making it more tense,” said Jordi Amat, the author of several essays on the independence movement.    

The failure of Catalonia's unilateral declaration of independence, which led Spain's central government to take direct control of the region in October and launch the crackdown on separatist leaders, has caused the pro-independence movement to change strategy, he added.   

Whereas before the goal was to “gain legitimacy internationally”, now “the only strategy they can use is destabilisation” of the Spanish state, Amat said.    

This explains why Catalan separatist lawmakers, who regained their absolute majority in the Catalan parliament at snap polls in December, keep proposing candidates for regional president who are disqualified by their legal problems such as Puigdemont, he added.

“For many separatists, this destabilisation also should be taken to the streets… there is a will to paralyse the mechanics of the state,” Amat said. 


Catalonia's two main separatist parties, the conservative PDeCAT and the leftist ERC, tried timidly to lower tensions at the end of last year while the smallest separatist party, the far-left CUP, has called for greater

The conservative party is under pressure from its leader, Puigdemont, to take a tougher line against Spain while the ERC has been severely shaken up by the jailing of its leader, Oriol Junqueras, and the flight abroad of its number two, Marta Rovira.

“The leaders who could channel the movement have found themselves offside and this is a scenario that allows the CUP to promote its strategy,” said Amat.    

The CRD organisers of demonstrations are aligned with the CUP party.    

Barbet, however, believes that the threat posed by the courts may divert the separatists from a more radical path.   

“Virtually everyone in power can end up with serious legal problems and many think twice before making a decision,” she said.    

That's why no separatist leader “clearly defends the option of a hard break (with Spain) and in this way it is very difficult for radicalisation to go very far,” she added.

By AFP's Daniel Bosque

For members


14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain