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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Catalonia endorses autonomy plan
Catalonia president Pasqual Maragall at rally before vote
Catalonia's president campaigned for a "Yes" vote
Catalan voters have backed a new charter to give their region greater independence from Madrid.

The results showed 73.9% voted for the autonomy plan and 20.8% against in a referendum on Sunday. But turnout was low, at 49%.

Catalonia's regional parliament will now have enhanced powers in taxation and judicial matters. The Catalans will also have nation status within Spain.

Catalonia will get more control over airports, ports and immigration.

The plan was backed by the Spanish government, Catalonia's ruling Socialists and moderate nationalists - but opposed by both the conservative Popular Party and by leftists who favoured outright independence.

But given the low turnout, it is uncertain how strong a mandate the new charter will have, the BBC's Danny Wood in Barcelona reports.

'Greater recognition'

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the people of Catalonia had "spoken clearly" in favour of the charter, which would bring "greater recognition of the identity" of the region.

The referendum was the final step in a process which began last September, when Catalonia's parliament approved a new version of the Statute - the document that organises the relationship and the division of political powers between Spain and Catalonia.

"I think it is a step forward for the country [Catalonia]," said 28-year-old "Yes" voter Marc Oliva.

Other supporters said Catalonia deserved the extra powers in recognition of its large economic contribution - accounting for one-fifth of Spain's economy, even though it is home to less than one-sixth of the population.

The real question is not 'being a nation within', but more bureaucracy and more taxes
Miguel, Madrid

But "No" voters said Catalan politicians were playing with fire, and other regions could now demand greater independence.

"I don't like the idea of Spain breaking up," said 38-year-old Gabino Escribano.

Some critics of the plan have warned that the Basque country, which has suffered from an armed separatist struggle for more than 30 years, may now be encouraged to formulate its own demands.

However, observers say the progress of Catalonia's autonomy plan may have influenced the ceasefire announced by the armed Basque separatists Eta earlier this year.

See Catalans casting their votes at polling stations

Press cool on Catalan vote
19 Jun 06 |  Europe
A tale of two Spanish cities
11 Feb 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Catalan MPs pass autonomy plans
30 Sep 05 |  Europe
Catalan concerns over EU vote
17 Feb 05 |  Europe

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