A year ago, secessionist movements were all the rage in Europe — until they were not. After a nerve-rattling campaign, Scots narrowly voted in September to remain part of Britain. Two months later, Catalonia’s drive for an independence referendum fizzled into a nonbinding vote after being thwarted by Spanish courts. But if Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain breathed a sigh of relief that the issue was behind him, he has reason again to worry. Catalan politicians have managed to revive the independence issue. Setting aside personal and political rivalries, they have formed a broad alliance of candidates whose aim is to turn a regional parliamentary election scheduled for September into a plebiscite on breaking away from Spain. Should their alliance secure a majority in the Sept. 27 vote, the secessionist leaders say they will proclaim independence within 18 months.
The election, which was formally called on Monday by the Catalan leader Artur Mas, puts the thorny issue of Catalan independence back at the top of the national political agenda, just ahead of general elections expected before the end of the year.
If nothing else, the quick return of the issue has demonstrated that while an independence referendum may have been previously blocked by Madrid, the grievances that animate Catalonia’s secessionist drive have yet to be addressed.
Those grievances have long included a mix of Catalonia’s distinctive language and identity as well as complaints that the region, one of the richest in the country, has been economically squeezed to subsidize poorer parts of Spain.