The Bid for Independence: Is Catalonia about to break away from Spain?

Catalonia

Increasingly dubbed the biggest political crisis for a generation, Catalonia and its bid for independence has become a divisive issue both within Spain and throughout Europe. The Spanish region of Catalonia, led by Carles Puigdemont, has a population of 7.5 million people, who are currently deeply polarised by the political struggle between the regional government and the government of Spain, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Officials have said that in the vote on the 1st October, 90% of the 2.3 million people who voted backed independence, and under a regional law not recognised by Spain, the government of Catalonia have the power to declare their independence within two days of referendum results. Controversially, the Spanish government has rejected this move, stating that any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal.
International support for the Catalan region was bolstered after the Spanish government sent large numbers of police officers to the region ahead of the referendum in an attempt to prevent voters from casting their ballots. Anger increased when this devolved into violent clashes between police and civilians.
A senior official within the Spanish government has since apologised for the policing of the referendum. Despite this, these actions appear to be foregrounding a more concerning threat to the democratic rights of the Catalan people, as the Spanish government threatens to enact Article 155 of the 1978 Constitution. This states that “if a Self-governing Community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws […] may […] take all measures necessary to compel the Community to meet said obligations.” Such an unequivocal removal of Catalan autonomy could not only potentially cause the tensions in Spain to erupt into a full scale-conflict, but it seems to be a smoking gun for the case of the secessionists who want more control over affairs in their region. With this in mind, perhaps it is time for the Catalan people to step away from the Spanish government and begin fully regulating their own laws.
Crucially, however, with voter turnout for the referendum at only 43%, can it be said that the Catalan has a real mandate to issue a unilateral independence declaration? Indeed, in a bold move against the strength of secessionists, pro-unity Catalans have taken to the streets in Madrid to condemn the selfish actions of the Catalan government.

Catalonia 1 Photo Credit:// Oeste/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

And what exactly is it that they are fighting for? Why would Catalonian independence be problematic in Europe’s current political climate? Until recently, modern Europe has consisted of interconnected states and citizens, co-operating with each other and the rest of the world. A year after Britain’s decision to leave the EU, however, we see Europe threatened by a rise in terrorism, and a corresponding rise in xenophobic attitudes and isolationist policies among member states. ForIncreasingly dubbed the biggest political crisis for a generation, the Catalonian bid for independence has become a divisive issue both within Spain and throughout Europe. The Spanish region of Catalonia, led by Carles Puigdemont, has a population of 7.5 million people, who are currently deeply polarised by the political struggle between the regional government and the government of Spain, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Officials have said that in the vote on the 1st October, 90% of the 2.3 million people who voted backed independence, and under a regional law not recognised by Spain, the government of Catalonia have the power to declare their independence within two days of referendum results. Controversially, the Spanish government has rejected this move, stating that any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal.
International support for the Catalan region was bolstered after the Spanish government sent large numbers of police officers to the region ahead of the referendum in an attempt to prevent voters from casting their ballots. Anger increased when this devolved into violent clashes between police and civilians.

A senior official within the Spanish government has since apologised for the policing of the referendum. Despite this, these actions appear to be foregrounding a more concerning threat to the democratic rights of the Catalan people, as the Spanish government threatens to enact Article 155 of the 1978 Constitution. This states that “if a Self-governing Community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws […] may […] take all measures necessary to compel the Community to meet said obligations.” Such an unequivocal removal of Catalan autonomy could not only potentially cause the tensions in Spain to erupt into a full scale-conflict, but it seems to be a smoking gun for the case of the secessionists who want more control over affairs in their region. With this in mind, perhaps it is time for the Catalan people to step away from the Spanish government and begin fully regulating their own laws.
Crucially, however, with voter turnout for the referendum at only 43%, can it be said that the Catalan has a real mandate to issue a unilateral independence declaration? Indeed, in a bold move against the strength of secessionists, pro-unity Catalans have taken to the streets in Madrid to condemn the selfish actions of the Catalan government.

And what exactly is it that they are fighting for? Why would Catalonian independence be problematic in Europe’s current political climate? Until recently, modern Europe has consisted of interconnected states and citizens, co-operating with each other and the rest of the world. A year after Britain’s decision to leave the EU, however, we see Europe threatened by a rise in terrorism, and a corresponding rise in xenophobic attitudes and isolationist policies among member states. For Catalonia to gain their independence given these conditions would potentially be another separatist nail in the European ‘community’.
Puigdemont has demonstrated an acute awareness of the international tension surrounding this issue by asking the Catalonian government to suspend the declaration in favour of negotiations with authorities in Madrid. Similarly, writing for the Guardian, Ada Colau (Mayor of Barcelona) appealed to the European Commission to aid in negotiations for a peaceful solution to the issue; it seems that leaders on both sides of the conflict are keen to avoid exacerbating the conflict further.
This highly divisive issue can have no clear resolution, and it is unclear what Prime Minister Rajoy and Puigdemont’s next steps will be. One thing seems clear, however: while the Spanish government threatens the freedoms of its citizens by removing their right to express a democratic opinion, the international community should rally around Catalonia and its people.

Catalonia to gain their independence given these conditions would potentially be another separatist nail in the European ‘community’.
Puigdemont has demonstrated an acute awareness of the international tension surrounding this issue by asking the Catalonian government to suspend the declaration in favour of negotiations with authorities in Madrid. Similarly, writing for the Guardian, Ada Colau (Mayor of Barcelona) appealed to the European Commission to aid in negotiations for a peaceful solution to the issue; it seems that leaders on both sides of the conflict are keen to avoid exacerbating the conflict further.
This highly divisive issue can have no clear resolution, and it is unclear what Prime Minister Rajoy and Puigdemont’s next steps will be. One thing seems clear, however: while the Spanish government threatens the freedoms of its citizens by removing their right to express a democratic opinion, the international community should rally around Catalonia and its people.

 

Main Photo Credit:// Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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