Madrid (AFP) - Catalonia, which on Sunday holds a regional election focused on independence, is one of Spain's most economically important regions.
This is why:
IT IS SPAIN'S SECOND-BIGGEST REGION
Catalonia is home to 7.5 million of Spain's nearly 47 million people, making it the second biggest region after Andalusia in the south with 8.4 million. Nearly 73 percent of Catalonia's inhabitants speak Catalan and around 15 percent are foreigners.
IT IS RICH
Catalonia accounted for 19 percent of Spain's gross domestic product (GDP) last year, or nearly 200 billion euros ($224 billion), making it the country's richest region.
Its GDP per capita has fallen slightly since the economic crisis erupted in 2008, but remains higher than the national average: just under 27,000 euros last year, according to the National Statistics Institute.
IT HAS BIG BUSINESSES
Over 586,000 companies are based in Catalonia, most of them small and medium-sized businesses. It is home to nearly 2,150 bigger firms employing more than 200 people, such as clothes giant Mango and Gas Natural. Volkswagen has a factory in the region where it makes vehicles under its Seat brand.
IT GETS MASSES OF TOURISTS
With its capital Barcelona and Mediterranean beaches, Catalonia draws more foreign tourists than any other Spanish region. Just over 16.8 million foreigners visited last year, one quarter of Spain's total.
IT EXPORTS AND DRAWS INVESTMENT
Catalonia accounted for 25 percent of all Spanish exports last year, according to the economy ministry. Since 2011 it has exported more products abroad than to the rest of Spain.
It received 17 percent of total foreign investment in Spain last year, some 2.9 billion euros. That figure was down by nearly 16 percent from 2013 but picked up again in the first half of 2015.
IT HAS BIG DEBTS
Catalonia is the third most indebted of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions. Its debt in the second quarter of 2015 was equivalent to nearly a third of its GDP, according to the Bank of Spain.
IT HAS RELATIVELY LOW UNEMPLOYMENT
The unemployment rate in Catalonia in the second quarter of 2015 stood at 19.1 percent, extremely high but below Spain's national average of 22.4 percent.
IT HAS MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE
Catalonia's capital Barcelona is home to Spain's second busiest airport, with 37.6 million passengers last year, second only to Madrid.
Its port is the nation's third busiest after Algeciras and Valencia, according to the World Shipping Council.
IT HAS POWERFUL SEPARATIST PARTIES
The "Together for a Yes" joint list, uniting regional president Artur Mas's conservative CDC party with left-wing and civil groups, could win over half the seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament if it joins forces with the separatist anti-capitalist party CUP, according to polls.