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Basque town votes in referendum on independence from Spain

Published time: April 13, 2014 19:06
File photo. Thousands of people take part in a Basque separatist demonstration demanding autonomy for the Basque Country and Navarra province, in the northern Spanish Basque city of San Sebastian. (AFP Photo / Rafa Rivas)

File photo. Thousands of people take part in a Basque separatist demonstration demanding autonomy for the Basque Country and Navarra province, in the northern Spanish Basque city of San Sebastian. (AFP Photo / Rafa Rivas)

Citizens of Etxarri Aranatz in Navarre voted in an unofficial referendum on Sunday over whether they wished to be citizens of a separate Basque country and secede from Spain.

From 9am, nearly 2,500 eligible residents voted on the question: “Would you be a citizen of an independent Basque Country?”

The Basque country is made up of the regions of Álava, Biscay and Gipuzkoa, in Northern Spain. The area has had a long history of regional demands for autonomy along with Catalonia, and both regions have their own language.

Locals of Navarre celebrated over the course of the day with Basque songs and traditions. Support for Basque independence is particularly strong in Navarre.

“This is a significant and meaningful day today, not only for the Basques but also for the Catalans and also for all nations in Europe that actually are in the process of self-determination,” Anna Arqué, Catalan spokesperson for the 'European Partnership for Independence' (EPI) told RT.

Etxarri Aranatz is a town in the heart of Navarra and 40 km from Pamplona. The majority of its residents consider themselves Basque and speak the Basque language – which is only spoken by just over a quarter of all Basques.

While both Catalonia and the Basque Country have strong regional identities, they have very different roots and Catalonia’s language lies more strongly at the heart of its regional identity.

Last Tuesday, Spain rejected a proposal which would have allowed Catalonia to secede from Spain. The Spanish Congress debated a motion to allow Catalonia to be run by its regional government. Spain rejected the proposal - as anticipated - 299 votes against and only 47 in favor.

The United Left, Catalan pro-independence factions and Basque nationalists all supported the motion. A referendum is to be held on November 9.