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Case for and against Catalan independence

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Independence-seeking Catalans united Wednesday for a 400-kilometre (250-mile) human chain in a bold push to break from Spain despite fierce opposition from Madrid.

Catalan nationalists want a referendum on nationhood for the northeastern region of Spain, a demand that is rejected by the central government.

Here are the main arguments for and against Catalan independence:

LANGUAGE

Catalans speak a language that has some similarities but is quite distinct from the Castilian Spanish spoken in the rest of Spain.

Backers of independence complain that the central government in Madrid routinely attacks the use of Catalan, which has become a symbol of the region's autonomy.

They are especially angry over a draft law which would reinforce the use of Castilian Spanish in schools in the region of 7.5 million people.

Opponents of Catalan independence argue that while the use of Catalan in public was banned under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975, the language now enjoys strong protection and its use is obligatory in public schools.

Currently in Catalonia all school teaching is conducted in Catalan, under what is known as the "immersion" system. Spanish is taught as a language subject.

STATUTE OF AUTONOMY

Spain's Constitutional Court in 2010 struck down several articles of Catalonia's "statute of autonomy", which expanded the already significant powers of self-rule of the region and would have recognised Catalonia as a nation, albeit one within Spain.

The statute was approved by the parliament in Madrid in 2006 and endorsed by Catalan voters in a referendum. The court's decision to change it angered many Catalan nationalists.

Opponents of independence argue the court struck down articles of the statute that contradicted Spain's 1978 constitution, especially the principle of the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".

ECONOMY

Catalan separatists argue that Madrid collects 16 billion euros ($21 billion) more in taxes than it spends in the industrialised region each year.

They argue that the economic health of the region, which had to go cap in hand to Madrid in January to ask for 9.07 billion euros from a fund to help debt-laden regions, would be vastly better if it was in charge of its own finances.

Opponents of separatism say independence would mean Catalonia would have to leave the European Union, lead to an exodus of large firms and entail huge financial costs.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130911/case-and-against-catalan-independence