12 Sep 2012

Independence demanded in Barcelona

10:13 am on 12 September 2012

More than a million people marched through Barcelona on Tuesday to demand independence for Catalonia.

The occasion was an annual independence rally during a financial crisis that's engulfing all of Spain.

The BBC reports the size of the turnout forced organisers to change its route.

The rally is held annually on 11 September to mark the Siege of Barcelona 300 years ago.

Catalonia wants fiscal independence and political autonomy. It is Spain's wealthiest region and represents a fifth of the Spanish economy.

Last month, Catalonia demanded a bailout from Madrid of 5 billion euros, on the basis that it believes the central government owes the region that much in overpaid taxes.

But the BBC reports the region faces big economic challenges. Catalonia needs to borrow 13 billion euros in loans this year to refinance debt, on top of funding its deficit for the current year.

Other regions have also appealed to the government for bailouts. Andalusia asked for an immediate injection of 1 billion euros last week. Valencia and Murcia have also requested bailouts.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia's regional leader, Artur Mas, are due to meet on 20 September.