Catalonia is a northeast region of Spain with a population around 7.5 million people (one sixth of Spain’s population) and home to one of the most popular cities for tourism, Barcelona. Catalonia has their own language, Catalan, and a distinctive culture setting them apart from the rest of Spain. They also have their own parliament and executive branch in Catalan.
On October 27, the Catalan parliament under the leadership of Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont pushed forward a late night vote for independence which many representatives boycotted. This parliament vote was preceded by an October 1 referendum where the Catalan people voted for independence by over 90 percent. The vote was ruled illegal by the Madrid government though, and the turnout was 43 percent which is obviously not representative of the majority of Catalonia. That night, violence broke out all around Catalonia between pro-independence protesters and Spanish police, causing injury to 900 people. The Spanish government issued arrest warrants for the leaders of the independence movement October 28.
At this time, President Carles Puigdemont and four other parliamentary leaders fled to Brussels for political asylum to escape Madrid’s arrest, but many other members of parliament chose to stay and take a stand for Catalonian independence, with some being arrested and, in the future, tried in Spain’s courts. Next week, the Belgian government will hold a hearing to see if Puigdemont and his fellow conspirators can stay in Brussels and what their future fate will be. According to B.B.C., the extradition process may take years.
What would a Catalonian independence mean for Spain and for Europe? Statista.com, a statistics website, says Barcelona is the twenty-fifth most travelled to city for tourism worldwide, bringing in almost nineteen million tourists a year. C.N.B.C. reports Catalonia is the most prosperous of all Spain’s regions due to tourism, exports, and manufacturing and economically accounts for 19 percent (€263 billion) of the economy.
Therefore, Spain would be losing the largest chunk of their economy and tax revenue, in addition to potentially increasing their €1.2 trillion debt or suffering massive budget cuts to government programs. Establishing a border would cause problems financially for both Spain and Catalonia, and Catalonia would have to create new government structures for banking and foreign relations.
A Catalonian split from Spain would be a remarkable event, but most likely will not take place due to the Spanish constitution prohibiting any dissolving of the national unity. Catalonia is an economic powerhouse compared to the rest of Spain, but it still carries with it the largest debt of any Spanish region and therefore should not see themselves as financially different from the rest of Spain. Whether Catalonia gains independence or not, it is very probable they will be an example to the many other distinct lingual and cultural groups in Europe that do not have national sovereignty.