Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya, Spanish: Cataluña, Aranese: Catalonha, French: Catalogne) is an Autonomous Community of Spain, in the north-east corner of the country. Historically, Catalonia included the comarques (singular: comarca) of Vallespir, Conflent, Capcir, Alta Cerdanya and Rosselló, which following the Treaty of the Pyrenees came under French administration and nowadays form part of the département of Pyrénées-Orientales (66). These territories are commonly referred to in Catalan as Catalunya Nord.
Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain. It covers an area of 31,950 km² with an official population of 6.3 million, and its capital is Barcelona. An unofficial population figure of 7 million can be derived from the number of people signed up for the public health system. The difference between the official and unofficial figures is explained by illegal immigration.
Administration and Government of Catalonia
The Generalitat is the institution of self-government in Catalonia, it is made of a Parliament, a President and an Executive Council. 
The popularly elected Parliament of Catalonia has 135 seats and serves as the legislative tool of Catalonia.
The President and the Executive Council serve as the executive authority and are elected by the Parliament. The Government of Catalonia comprises 16 departments or ministries. 
With a few exceptions, most of the justice system remains under Spanish authority. However, it enforces the Catalan Civil Law system, which is different than the Spanish . Catalan Law regulates an ombudsman (Síndic de Greuges)  to handle problems that may arise between private citizens or organizations and the Generalitat or other local governments.
The region has been continuously achieving higher levels of autonomy since 1979. After, the Navarre and the Basque Country regions, Catalonia has the highest level of self-government in Spain. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in various matters of culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local governments.  In many aspects relating to education, health and justice, the region shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government.  One good example of Catalonia's high level of autonomy is its own police force Mossos d'Esquadra, who are currently in the process of taking over most of the role within Catalonia of the Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional, which are under the authority of the Spanish national government. However, even at the end of the substitution process in 2008 , the Spanish government will keep a few agents in the region for matters relating to terrorism and immigration. Like Mossos d'Esquadra, municipal police forces are under the authority of the government of Catalonia .
Unlike the autonomous communities of Navarre and the Basque Country, Catalonia lacks its own fiscal system; thus the economic sustainment of the regional administration depends almost entirely on funds raised by national-government taxation and budgeted to Catalonia. This has become a mainstream issue, as the Catalan Statue of Autonomy is to be reformed in 2005 . With widespread public support, plans to include a high degree of fiscal autonomy are being inked, after studies published by various universities confirmed high levels of fiscal deficit (that is, the region pays more than it receives).
See comarques of Catalonia for the administrative division in comarques (roughly equivalent to counties).
Spanish administration divides Catalonia into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona.
International Missions of Catalonia
As an autonomous community of Spain, Catalonia has no authority in international affairs. However, as the region had been gaining a high level of autonomy throughout the years, the Government of Catalonia had found the need to have some offices overseas. Most of these are to carry out duties in limited matters such as culture promotion, trade and foreign investment development, and even foreign labor contracting to ease problems with illegal immigration.
The Government of Catalonia has over 50 offices in over 30 different countries.
Link to COPCA (Catalonian Trade Bureau) with 37 offices.
Link to CIDEM (Catalonian Investment and Innovation Agency) with 2 offices. 
Link to COPEC (Catalan Culture Promotion Bureau) with 6 offices.
Links of some offices relating to various European lobby groups and labor contracting in developing countries.
History of Catalonia
See History of Catalonia, Catalan Countries
The territory that is now Catalonia was colonized by Ancient Greeks and Carthaginians. Like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, it participated in the pre-Roman Iberian culture and was part of the Roman Empire, followed by Visigothic rule. In the eighth century it was part of Moorish (Muslim-ruled) al-Andalus, but was conquered within a century by the expanding Carolingian Empire.
Identifiably Catalan culture begins in the Middle Ages under the rule of the Counts of Barcelona. As part of the Aragonese crown the Catalonia became a great maritime power, expanding by trade and conquest into Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and even Sardinia and Sicily.
The marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (1469) unified Christian Spain; in 1492, the last of al-Andalus was conquered and the Spanish conquest of the Americas began. Political power began to shift away from Catalonia towards Castile.
For some time, Catalonia continued to retain its own laws, but these gradually eroded (albeit with occasional periods of regeneration). Over the next few centuries, Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spain. At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (between the Castilian-French axis and the Catalan-English axis) in 1714, Barcelona fell to French troops. Philip V abolished the Crown of Aragon and all Catalan institutions, prohibiting public use of Catalan language for the first time, with the Decret de Nova Planta (New Regime Decree); this decree has never been formally abolished.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Catalonia became a center of Spain's industrialization; to this day it remains the most industrialized part of Spain, rivaled only by the Basque Country. In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia several times gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy, but as in most regions of Spain, Catalan autonomy and culture were crushed to an unprecedented degree after the defeat of the Second Spanish Republic (founded 1931) in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) brought Francisco Franco to power. Even public use of the Catalan language was banned.
After Franco's death (1975) and the adoption of a democratic Spanish constitution (1978), Catalonia recovered cultural and some political autonomy. Until recently, Catalonia was generally recognized as the most economically dynamic region of Spain. However, this appears to be changing fast - the tendency of foreign companies to set up their headquarters and main factories in Madrid and the increasing popularity of other autonomous regions as destinations for foreign capital has accelerated over the last decade. Catalonia's traditional competitive advantages are being seriously eroded as lack of local and central government investment in public infrastructure (roads, schools, university research, etc.) becomes increasingly apparent. The region's educational system also compares poorly with several others in Spain, and very poorly at the European level. As a result, the risk of Catalonia failing to make a successful transition from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based one is looming ever larger. To make matters worse, various international companies have shifted their plants from Catalonia to former Eastern Bloc countries (where labour expenses are much lower and workers are generally more skilled). Recent EU expansion to 25 nations may mean that Catalonia is no longer able to compete at either the technical level or on price with many countries in Eastern Europe - a fear that is widely expressed in specialist publications and in the local business press but which is omitted from official information for foreign investors. Tourism has been a bulwark of the Catalan economy ever since the late 60s. However, it shows signs of flagging, too, as tourists tire of the now overdeveloped and pricy Costa Brava and opt for more exotic destinations in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. Several British tour operators have already struck large resorts like Lloret del Mar and Salou from their brochures. The local debate on promoting "quality tourism" may have come too late.
Catalonia constitutes the original nucleus and the most important and extensive territory where Catalan is spoken.
Catalan is one of the two official languages of Catalonia, as laid down in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy ; the other is Castilian (Spanish), which is the majority language of Spain and official in all of Spain as laid down by the 1978 Spanish Constitution. Catalonia has regulated its institutions and their various competencies within the framework the Spanish constitution provides in the "Sau Statute."
Occitan, in its Aranese variety (a dialect of Gascon) is official and subject to special protection in the Val d'Aran (Aran Valley), which is notable, as this small region of 7,000 is the only place where Occitan (spoken mainly in France and some Italian valleys) has full official status.
The following information refers only to the Autonomous Region of Catalonia, and generally cannot be extrapolated to other Catalan-speaking territories.
According to the 2001 Linguistic Census , about 5,900,000 people in Catalonia, nearly 95% of residents, understand the Catalan language. The percentage of people aged two and older who can speak, read and write Catalan is as follows:
|Knowledge of Catalan
Over the last 20 years, knowledge of Catalan has advanced significantly in all these areas, with the ability to write it having experienced the most pronounced increase, from 31.6% of the population in 1986 to 49.8% in 2001.
By age groups, those between 10 and 29 have the higher level of Catalan-language literacy (e.g., 98.2% aged 10-14 understand it, and 85.2% can write it); this is attributed to these individuals having received their full education in Catalan.
Geographically, Catalan is most understood in northeast Catalonia (Alt Pirineu , Val d'Aran), at 97.4%, followed by south and western Catalonia, whereas Barcelona's metropolitan area sees the lowest knowledge, at 93.8%. The situation is analogous for written-language skills, with central Catalonia scoring the highest percentages (61.4%), and Barcelona the lowest (46.4%).
Barcelona is one of the centers of Spanish book industry in Spanish and the major center in Catalan.
According to a study carried out in 2003 by the Generalitat de Catalunya , Catalan is used by 50.1% of the population in everyday situations.
Significantly, over 55% of respondents use Spanish to address their parents (versus 42% who choose Catalan). This is attributed to massive immigration from Southern Spain on the second half of the 20th century up to the 1980s, as a consequence of which many Catalans have one or both parents from outside Catalonia. However, a majority (52.6%) use Catalan with their children (42.3% Spanish). This can be attributed to some Spanish-speaking citizens shifting from their mother tongue to Catalan at home.
Outside the family, 48.6% of the population indicate that they address strangers exclusively or preferentially in Catalan, while the proportion of those who use Spanish is 41.7%. 8.6% claim to use both equally.
See Catalan language for further information.
According to the 2001 Aranese Linguistic Census , knowledge of Aranese in the Occitan-speaking territory of Aran is as follows:
|Knowledge of Aranese
Comparing to previous data from 1996, the number of those able to understand Aranese has declined slightly (90.5% in 1996), while at the same time there has been a marginal increase in the number of those able to write it (24.97% in 1996).
By age groups, the largest percentage of those with knowledge of Aranese is in the 15-19 and 65-69 groups (both above 96%), while those aged 30-34 score lowest (just over 80%). Literacy is higher in the 10-19 group with over 88% declaring themselves able to read, and 76% able to write Aranese. Those over 80 are the least literate, with only about 1.5% of them being able to write the language.
According to their place of origin, it is significant to note that in the Val d'Aran those born outside Spain outnumber Spaniards born outside Aran and Catalonia in the active use of Aranese (17% of non-Spaniards can write Aranese, while the percentage for Spaniards excluding Catalans is 10%).
Politics of Catalonia
During the late 19th century and the 20th century, Catalonia was one of the centers of Spanish industrialization. The struggle between the Barcelonese conservative bourgeoisie and the working class, often immigrants from the rest of Spain, dominated Catalan politics.
Catalan nationalist and federalist movements arose in the nineteenth century, and when the Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931 Catalonia became an autonomous region. In 1939, Francisco Franco came to power and suppressed Catalan autonomy and tried to suppress the Catalan language and Catalan culture. During the last decade of Franco's rule renewed nationalist sentiment built up in Catalonia.
Franco died in 1975 and democracy was restored soon after. Once again Catalonia became an autonomous region within Spain. The Catalan nationalist leader Jordi Pujol came to power in the first regional elections in 1980 and his party, Convergence and Unity (Convergència i Unió or CiU), won successive elections for 23 years.
Terra Lliure ("Free Land"), widely deemed a terrorist group, tried to achieve independence through violence against Spanish interests and population, but it never achieved the support and results of Basque ETA and dissolved after negotiations with the national government.
Despite his radical background Pujol became increasingly conservative in office and supported José María Aznar's conservative People's Party (PP) government in Madrid. Nationalist factions became increasingly dissatisfied with his rule, especially the ERC. At the same time the Catalan Socialists' Party (Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya, PSC-PSOE), based in the industrial heartland of Barcelona, regained its strength.
One of the keys to Catalan politics is the fact that Barcelona, because it attracts migrants from all over Spain and Latin America, is a majority Spanish-speaking city, particularly in working-class areas, while the rural regions, and the middle- and upper-class urban areas, remain solidly Catalan-speaking. The Socialists have become the party of those who resent the dominance of middle-class Catalan nationalists over Barcelona. In any case, while Catalan is experiencing a spectacular revival, the dominating presence of Spanish-speakers will continue to make universal use of Catalan unlikely. Recently there has been an influx of African and East European immigrants, but this has not influenced the political system yet even though the demographic impact of immigration can clearly be seen on the streets.
At the regional elections held on November 16 2003, at which Pujol retired, the combined parties of the left defeated the CiU for the first time and Pasqual Maragall i Mira became President of the Generalitat. Maragall's Socialists, however, actually lost seats: the big winners were the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya or ERC), which favours full Catalan independence, and the Greens. While PSC mantains the post of President of the Generalitat (Maragall), ERC nominates the conseller primer (prime minister) — currently, Bargalló.
Maragall's government is an alliance between PSC, ERC, and ICV.
CiU — Convergència i Unió (Convergence and Unity) - federation
CDC — Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (Democratic Convergence of Catalonia)
UDC — Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (Democratic Union of Catalonia)
ERC — Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia)
ICV-EUiA — Iniciativa per Catalunya-Verds – Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (Green Initiative for Catalonia-Left United Alternative)
PP — Partit Popular (People's Party)
PSC-PSOE — Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya-Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Socialist Party of Catalonia-Spanish Socialist Workers' Party)
Summary of votes and seats
Votes and seats are compared with those won at the 1999 election.
Voting: 3,319,276 62.5%
Invalid votes: 8,793 00.3%
Valid votes: 3,310,483 99.7%
Party Votes % Seats
Convergència i Unió 1,024,425 30.9 (-06.8) 46 (-10)
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya 544,324 16.4 (+07.7) 23 (+11)
Iniciativa Verds-Esquerra Alternativa 241,163 07.3 (+04.8) 9 (+06)
Partit Popular 393,499 11.9 (+02.4) 15 (+03)
Partit Socialista de Catalunya 1,031,454 31.2 (-06.6) 42 (-10)
Others 75,618 02.3 -
Total 3,310,483 135
The Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia borders on Valencia to the south, Aragon to the west, France and Andorra to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east and southeast.
Awareness of environmental problems tends to be much lower in Catalonia (and in Spain as a whole) than in Northern Europe. CO2 emissions in Catalonia have increased by 40% since 1992 and 60% of the country's electricity comes from aging nuclear power stations (a figure exceeded in Europe only by France and Lithuania). Despite Catalonia's change of government in 2004 from a conservative CiU/PP alliance to a "red/green" tripartite coalition of PSC, ERC, and ICV parties, there is little evidence of greater concern for the environment. The ICV was put in charge of the Ministry of the Environment but has largely continued the outgoing administration's environmentally-unfriendly policies. The Ministry's decision to build the controversial Bracons tunnel through an area of outstanding natural beauty, and a scheme to site an incinerator burning 90,000 metric tonnes of industrial waste  in a heavily-populated valley are just two cases in point. Although Catalonia participates in many international environmental forums, the political will to pursue "green" polices is generally lacking. This may be explained by the greater acceptance of political corruption found in Southern Europe, the fragility of public institutions, and a lack of genuine commitment to grass-roots democracy.
- Catalan Pyrenees: Val d'Aran in the north face, Pica d'Estats 3141 m., Puigmal 2911 m., Cerdagne depression, Perthus pass (near the ancient Roman road).
- Catalan Litoral mountains: Montseny, Montserrat, Montsant.
- Iberic system: Maestrat.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia
There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:
Catalonia's festivals and traditions unify Catalan society and help to give it its particular character. Amongst the most striking of festive events are the correfocs, in which "devils" play with fire and with the people. These devils are not the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive, dancing to the sound of the tambourine and the traditional gralla , while they set off their fireworks.
But perhaps the most spectacular of the Catalan festivals are those of the colles castelleres, groups of enthusiasts who form impressive human towers (up to ten people high). This is an old tradition of the Tarragona region, which has now spread to many parts of Catalonia, and has become a real spectacle, or sport, that attracts thousands of Catalans. Amongst other important festivities are the carnival in Vilanova i la Geltrú and the Patum in Berga.
Then, there is the very special music of the cobles , the wind bands that play sardanes. The sardana is a circular, open dance, that originated in the Empordà region (north of the country by the Mediterranean sea) and the Pyrenees (Catalan Pirineus), and is now danced in many squares and streets.
As in other countries, there is a Santa Claus tradition. In Catalonia it is enacted in the very popular figure of the Tió de Nadal.
The anthem of Catalonia is "Els Segadors" (The Reapers). National day is September 11, after the defeat and surrender of Barcelona to the French-Castilian army of Philip V of Spain.
The major football club FC Barcelona is "more than a club" and acts as an unofficial "national" team for Catalonia. This is despite the fact that "Barça" (as the team is popularly known) has had a remarkable number of Dutch players over the last few years, as well as two Dutch managers. Televisió de Catalunya (the region's public television broadcasting corporation, which is financed from the public purse by the Catalan government) strongly promotes the club for political and ideological reasons and has business tie-ups with it.
Last updated: 10-24-2005 23:16:14