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There is a separate article on the historic territory of Catalonia.
For the part of historical Catalonia which is now part of France, see Northern Catalonia.

Comunitat Autònoma de Catalunya
Comunidad Autónoma de Cataluña
Comunautat Autonoma de Catalonha
Flag of Catalonia
Image:Locator map of Catalonia.png
Capital Barcelona
Official languages Spanish and Catalan
In Val d'Aran, also Aranese.
 – Total
 – % of Spain
Ranked 6th
 32 114 km²
 – Total (2003)
 – % of Spain
 – Density
Ranked 2nd
 6 506 440

Total (2002)
GDP: $146.1 billion
GDP per /capita: $26,550 (2nd)

 – English
 – Spanish
 – Catalan

 catalán (m; catalana (f)
 català (m); catalana (f)
Statute of Autonomy December 22, 1979
ISO 3166-2 ES:CT
Internet TLD .cat (not territorial)
National anthem Els Segadors

 – Congress seats
 – Senate seats
President Pasqual Maragall i Mira (PSC)
Political information

Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya; Spanish: Cataluña; Aranese Occitan: Catalonha); is one of the seventeen autonomous communities that constitute Spain. Its territory corresponds to most of the historic territory of the former Principality of Catalonia. Catalonia was officially recognised as a 'nationality' in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy enacted in 1979 pursuant to the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

The autonomous community of Catalonia covers an area of 31,950 km² with an official population of 6.8 million (2004). Immigrants represent 6.8 % of total population. Official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and (in Val d'Aran) Aranese.


Administration and Government of Catalonia

The Generalitat is the institution of government in Catalonia. It consists of a Parliament, a President and an Executive Council. [1]

The Parliament of Catalonia has 135 seats and serves as the legislative body of government.[2]

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. [3]

See comarques of Catalonia for the official division in comarca (roughly equivalent to counties), used by the Generalitat. Local administration consists also of municipalities. Catalonia is divided in four provinces: Barcelona, Girona (Gerona in Spanish), Lleida (Lérida in Spanish), Tarragona.


Restoration of Catalan self-government

After Franco's death (1975) and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain (1978), Catalonia recovered its autonomous status (lost with the fall of the Second Spanish Republic at the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War in 1939).

With a few exceptions, most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions. The legal system is common to all Spanish territories except for the civil law, which is regulated and administered independently within Catalonia [4]. Catalan civil law regulates an ombudsman (Síndic de Greuges) [5] to handle problems that may arise between private citizens or organizations and the Generalitat or other local governments.

The region has gradually achieved a greater degree of autonomy since 1979. After the Navarre and the Basque Country regions, Catalonia has the greatest 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. [6] In many aspects relating to education, health and justice, the region shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government. [7] One good example of Catalonia's degree of autonomy is its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra (literally 'squad lads'), which is 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 transition process in 2008 [8], the Spanish government will keep a few agents in the region for matters relating to terrorism and immigration. Like the Mossos d'Esquadra, municipal police forces are under the authority of the government of Catalonia [9].

As an autonomous community of Spain, Catalonia has no official status or recognition at an international level. However, as the region has progressively gained a greater degree of autonomy in recent years, the Catalan Government has opened some representative offices overseas. Most of these carry out limited functions such as the promotion of Catalan culture, trade and foreign investment, and even the contracting of foreign labour (with a view to easing problems with illegal immigration).



The Catalan-speaking world
Phonology and orthography
Institut d'Estudis Catalans
Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua
History of Catalonia · Counts of Barcelona
Crown of Aragon · Treaty of the Pyrenees
War of the Spanish Succession
Catalan Countries
Catalonia · Valencia · Balearic Islands
Northern Catalonia · Franja de Ponent
Andorra · Alghero
Generalitat de Catalunya
Generalitat Valenciana
Consell General de les Valls (Andorra)
Castells · Correfocs
Myths and legends
Catalan literature · Antoni Gaudí · Modernisme
La Renaixença · Noucentisme
Salvador Dalí · Joan Miró
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Catalonia is the original heartland of Catalan, and remains the most important and largest territory where the language is spoken.

Catalan is one of the two official languages of Catalonia, as laid down in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy [14]: the other is Castilian (Spanish), which is the majority language throughout Spain (its official status confirmed by the 1978 Spanish Constitution). Catalonia has regulated its institutions and their various competences within the framework provided by the Spanish constitution in the "Sau Statute."

The similarity of Spanish and Catalan eases bilingualism, but they are certainly not dialects of a single language. Catalan is regarded by most linguists as being an Ibero-Romance language (the group that includes Spanish), but it has many features of Gallo-Romance languages such as French.

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.


According to the 2001 Linguistic Census [15], 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
Ability Individuals Percentage
Understands 5,872,202 94.5%
Speaks 4.630.640 74.5%
Reads 4.621.404 74.4%
Writes 3.093.223 49.8%
Population 6.215.281 100%

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 centres of the Spanish book industry in Spanish and the main one for Catalan-language publishing.

Social Use

According to a study carried out in 2003 by the Generalitat de Catalunya [16], 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 from the second half of the 20th century until 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 [17], knowledge of Aranese in the Occitan-speaking territory of Aran is as follows:

Knowledge of Aranese
Ability Individuals Percentage
Understands 6,712 88.88%
Speaks 4,700 62.24%
Reads 4,413 58.44%
Writes 2,016 26.69%

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%).

Present-day Parliament of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, held in Barcelona
Present-day Parliament of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, held in Barcelona

Politics of Catalonia

See also Politics of Catalonia

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Catalonia was one of the main centres of Spanish industrialisation.

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 Republic was declared in 1931, Catalonia became an autonomous region. Following the fall of the Second Republic after the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, the authoritarian dictatorship of General Francisco Franco annulled Catalonia's autonomy statute and prohibited any official promotion or recognition of the Catalan language (although its private everday use was never proscribed). During the last decade of Franco's rule, there was a resurgence of nationalist sentiment in Catalonia as in the other 'historic' region of the Basque provinces.

Following Franco's death in 1975 and the restoration of full democracy by 1978, Catalonia regained its status as an autonomous region within Spain. The Catalan nationalist leader Jordi Pujol came to power in the first regional elections in 1980 and his two-party coalition, Convergence and Unity (Convergència i Unió or CiU), won successive elections for 23 years.

Terra Lliure ("Free Land"), which was essentially a terrorist group, sought to achieve independence through violence against Spanish interests and the wider population, but it never achieved the infamy or reach of the Basque terrorist organisatoin ETA, and disbanded after negotiations with the national government.

Following the 1996 national elections in Spain, and despite his long track-record as a Catalan nationalist (especially during the Franco era), Pujol suprised many by lending CiU's support to the minority government formed by the conservative - and essentially centralist - People's Party (Partido Popular or PP) led by José María Aznar. Some nationalist factions became increasingly dissatisfied with Pujol's rule, especially the ERC. At the same time, the Party of Catalan Socialists (Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya or PSC), a sister-party of Spain's main socialist party (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol or PSOE) based in the industrial heartland of Barcelona, began to enjoy renewed electoral popularity.

One of the 'fault-lines' in contemporary Catalan politics arises from the fact that Barcelona, with its strong metropolitan economy, continues to attract migrants from all over Spain and Latin America. As a result, Spanish remains the language spoken by the majority of Barcelona's inhabitants, particularly in working-class areas. By contrast, Catalan remains the predominant language in middle-class and upper-class urban areas, as well as among the region's rural population. The PSC has to some extent become the party of those who resent the dominance of middle-class Catalan nationalists over Barcelona. In any case, while Catalan has undoubtedly experienced a spectacular revival since the death of Franco, the dominant presence of Spanish-speakers will continue to make universal or exclusive use of Catalan unlikely. Recently there has been an influx of African and East European immigrants, but this has not yet influenced the political scene, 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 a somewhat uneasy coalition between the PSC, the ERC, and the ICV.

Current political issues

Unlike the autonomous communities of Navarre and the Basque Country, Catalonia lacks its own fiscal system; thus the economic financing of the regional administration depends almost entirely on funds raised by national-government taxation and budgeted to Catalonia. This has become a mainstream issue, particularly as the the proposed reform of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy is currently the subject of intense political debate at regional and national level. From an economic perspective, the regional government aims to achieve a high degree of fiscal autonomy (based on the argument that the region pays in more to the national Spanish coffers than it receives).

There is currently (Autumn 2005) a raging political controversy in Spain as a result of the Catalan parliament's proposed draft of a replacement Autonomy Statute (supported by some 90% of the parliament's elected deputies) which seeks to define Catalonia as a 'nation'[18]. The polemic centres on the politically sensitive issue of whether such a definition can be said to harbour separatist overtones which offend against Spain's 1978 Constitution (the preamble of which refers to "the Spanish nation").


  • 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.

Voters:                               5,307,837
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


See also Category:Geography of Catalonia

The Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia borders on Comunidad Valenciana to the south, Aragon to the west, France and Andorra to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east and southeast.


  • 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.
Foix river
Foix river

Major rivers:

The Environmental Policy

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 region'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 [19] 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.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia

There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:

See also

External links

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