|The concept of the Catalan Countries includes territories of the following sovereign states:|
|(for Western Strip) (for Carxe)|
|The region called le Pays Catalan (in France) or Catalunya Nord (in Catalonia) in the Pyrénées-Orientales department|
|The city of Alghero|
|Catalan is the official language|
There is no universal territorial definition of the Països Catalans. It may refer strictly to the territories in which the varieties of Catalan are traditionally spoken, or the entire political entities in which Catalan has some official status, in spite of the fact that those entities include areas where Catalan is not actually spoken (the map to the right covers this latter usage).
As a political term it refers to a number of political projects as advocated by Catalan independentism. These, based on the linguistic fact, argue for the existence of a common national identity that would surpass the limits of each territory covered by this concept and would apply also to the remaining ones. These movements advocate for "political collaboration amongst these territories. This often stands for their union and political independence. As a consequence of the opposition these political projects have received –notably in some of the territories described by this concept– some cultural institutions avoid the usage of Països Catalans in some contexts, as a means to prevent any political interpretation; in these cases, equivalent expressions (such as Catalan-speaking countries) or others (such as the linguistic domain of Catalan language) are used instead.
Catalan is the official language of Andorra, co-official with Spanish and Occitan in Catalonia, co-official with Spanish in the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community —with the denomination of Valencian in the latter— and co-official with Italian in the city of Alghero. It is also part of the recognized minority languages of Italy along with Sardinian, also spoken in Alghero. It is not official in Aragon, Murcia or the Pyrénées-Orientales, even though, recently, the General Council of Pyrénées-Orientales officially recognized Catalan, along with French, as language of the department, on December 10, 2007.
In large areas included in the territories designated by some as Països Catalans, Catalan nationalist sentiment is uncommon or nonexistent. In the case of the Valencian Community, Esquerra Repúblicana del País Valencià (ERPV) is the most relevant party explicitly supportive of the idea but, despite participating in elections in a number of Valencian cities, its representation is limited to a total of five city councilors in the municipalities of Sueca, Vall de Laguar, Simat de la Valldigna and Xixona; at the regional level, it has run twice (2003 and 2007) in the regional Parliament election, receiving less than 0.50% of the total votes (other minor political parties supportive of the concept have achieved so far well below results than those of ERPV). This notwithstanding, some of the most vocal defenders or promoters of the Catalan Countries concept (such as Joan Fuster, Josep Guia or Vicent Partal) were Valencian.
The subject became very controversial during the politically agitated Spanish Transition in what was to become the Valencian Community, especially in and around the city of Valencia, by the late 70s and early 80s when the Spanish Autonomous Communities system was taking shape, the controversy had reached its height. Various Valencian right wing politicians (originally from Unión de Centro Democrático) fearing what was seen as an annexation attempt from Catalonia, fueled a violent Anti-Catalanist campaign against local supporters of the concept of the Països Catalans, which even included a handful of unsuccessful attacks with explosives against authors perceived as flagships of the concept, such as Joan Fuster or Manuel Sanchis i Guarner. The concept's revival during this period was behind the formation of the fiercely opposed and staunch anti-Catalan blaverist movement, led by Unió Valenciana, which, in turn, significantly diminished during the 90s and the 2000s as the Països Catalans controversy slowly disappeared from the Valencian political arena.
This confrontation between politicians from Catalonia and Valencia very much diminished in severity during the course of the late 1980s and, especially, the 1990s as the Valencian Community's regional government became consolidated. Since then, the topic has lost most of its controversial potential, even though occasional clashes may appear from time to time, such as controversies regarding the broadcasting of Catalan television in Valencia —and vice versa— or the usage by Catalan official institutions of terms which are perceived in Valencia as Catalan nationalistic, such as Països Catalans or País Valencià (Valencian Country).
Nonetheless, in the addenda to the Constitution there is a clause allowing an exception to this rule in the case of Navarre, which can join the Autonomous community of the Basque Country should the people choose to do so.
The term was both challenged and reinforced by the use of the term "Occitan Countries" from the Oficina de Relacions Meridionals (Office of Southern relationships) in Barcelona by 1933. Another proposal which enjoyed some popularity during the Renaixença was "Pàtria llemosina" (Llemosine Motherland), proposed by Victor Balaguer as a federation of Catalan-speaking provinces; both these coinages were based on the theory that Catalan is a dialect of Occitan.
None of these names reached widespread cultural usage and the term nearly vanished until it was rediscovered, redefined and put in the center of the identitary cultural debate by Valencian writer Joan Fuster. In his book Nosaltres els valencians (We, the Valencians, published in 1962) a new political interpretation of the concept was introduced; from the original, meaning roughly Catalan speaking territories, Fuster developed a political inference closely associated to Catalan nationalism. This new approach would refer to the Catalan Countries as a more or less unitary nation with a shared culture which had been divided by the course of history, but which should logically be politically reunited. Fuster's preference for Països Catalans gained popularity, and previous unsuccessful proposals such as Comunitat Catalànica (Catalanic Community) or Bacàvia (after Balearics-Catalonia-Valencia) diminished in use.
Today the term is politically charged, and tends to be closely associated with Catalan nationalism and Catalan independentism. The idea of uniting these territories in an independent state is supported by a number of political parties, being the most important in terms of representation ERC. Other groups with no representation in the relative regional parliaments, such as ERPV, PSAN, Estat Català, CUP also support this idea to a greater or lesser extent.
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