Ballot papers printed in a French region of the Pyrenees, were sent to Catalonia in the run up to the referendum, after some 10 million ballot papers were seized by Spanish police near Barcelona.
Ahead of the region’s referendum on independence, real fears among separatists had been mounting that the vote would not go ahead, Euronews reported.
Madrid’s efforts to stop the vote, included confiscating all printed materials which prompted setting up a secret network between France and Catalonia to get the required number of voting slips printed.
Based in a French region on the other side of the Pyrenees, called “North Catalonia” the secret network helped with the ballot printing, which were then secretly sent to Southern Catalonia.
This act of solidarity highlighted the close ties that have existed between the two communities for centuries. Despite numerous attempts from various central powers, the Catalan heritage has lived on.
In Perpignan, the capital of the Eastern Pyrenees, there is even a body which officially represents the Catalan government. It was set up to strengthen cooperation and exchange between “French Catalonia” and its Spanish-based counterpart.
The L’Association des Maires, des Adjoints et de l’Intercommunalité des Pyrénées-Orientales [the Association of Mayors, Deputies and Intercommunity in the Eastern Pyrenees], voiced support for the Catalan representatives after several officials from the Catalan government were arrested.
The Catalan National Assembly, is also represented in France. In the Eastern Pyrenees where some 400 000 people live, a quarter can understand and/or speak Catalan and it has been recognised as one of the community’s languages, together with French.
Two political parties hope to organise a referendum soon to create a new community to replace the Eastern Pyrenees, called North Catalonia.
The French government’s 13 new “super-regions” in France, has merged the country’s former regions. In the south, bordering Spain, the newly-formed “Occitanie” is a fusion of the two former regions “Languedoc-Roussillon” and “Midi-Pyrenees”.
But several thousand people took to the streets of Perpignan campaigning in favour of the name “Pays Catalan”, or the Catalan Country.
The pro-Catalan movement in France, launched a campaign called “Yes to the Catalan Country”, which put forward candidates in the last parliamentary elections.