by Taylor Brown
Early in the month, Catalonia held a referendum to determine whether the region would declare independence.The Spanish government’s attempts to stop any referendum resulted in hundreds being injured during police raids and protests.
What is Catalonia? Catalonia is a region is Spain with its own linguistic and cultural identity. The region possesses its own government, flag, and health care system. It’s even home to FC Barcelona, a popular men’s soccer franchise located in the capital city of Catalonia. In 2013, the wealthy region contributed to 20 percent of Spain’s GDP.
On October 1st, 2 million of the region’s 5.3 million registered voters showed up to the polls amidst threats from Spain’s high courts and police. According to The Guardian, the vote’s outcome was an overwhelming yes from 90% of those who partook in the vote.
What happens now? The Catalan parliament must actually declare independence for any sort of implementation or exit proceedings. The Catalans have asked for negotiations but deliberations with Madrid seems unlikely. If Catalonia’s secession is set in motion, Madrid could be forced to impose direct rule on the region. Direct influence from the Spanish government would mean Catalonia’s loss of autonomy; the catalonian parliament would lose control of public services.
Spain has everything to lose. If Catalonia succeeds in its attempts for independence, Spain will take an economic hit. Furthermore, Spain will lose the revenue that comes from Catalonia’s prosperous region, there would be catastrophic effects for the Spanish economy. The ripple effect of Catalonia’s attempted succession is already being felt by Spain’s economy. Their original economic growth forecast for 2018 was expected to be 2.6 percent, as reported by Reuters. That number is now in jeopardy due to the country’s current domestic crisis. So far Spanish officials are unified on a hard front: The Independent asked Prime Minister Mariano Rajo whether the division of Spain was imminent. He responded with, “Absolutely not. Spain will not be divided and national unity will be preserved. We’ll do everything that legislation allows to ensure that.” For now the division of Spain seems unlikely, but there is no knowing what will happen in months to come.
This is the first major political conflict in Spain since their transition back to democracy in the 1970’s. The Catalan crisis doesn’t seem to be lessening, and soon someone will have to make a move. If either side wants a peaceful and effective outcome, then negotiations will be their next step.