Catalonia has been making headlines recently in its quest to break off from Spain and be independent. Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, stated that the referendum for independence was not “intended to be a traumatic break…We want a new understanding with the Spanish state.”
Catalonia is its own distinct region. Located in the Northeast of Spain, the region is known for having its own unique language and culture. Aside from these distinctions are grievances with regard to Spain providing Catalonia with its “fair share.” For example, economics professor Elisenda Paluzie estimates Catalan residents represent about 16 percent of the country’s population, yet Catalonian’s contribute about 20 percent of Spain’s taxes, and then receive about 14 percent of that back for public expenses.
Spain’s central government has declared the vote unconstitutional and illegitimate. Secession is a constitutional matter, and in 1978, Catalonia voted in favor of Spain’s constitution. While giving Catalonia autonomy, the constitution did proclaim “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.” Spain’s constitution can only be changed by the action of Spain’s parliament. Thus, by proceeding to hold votes on this matter, Catalonia is breaking Spanish law. Its important to note that under international law, there is no accepted right to create your own independent state.
Catalonia has always had a strong separatist movement. One that has gained much more momentum in the recent months. Over 2.2 million people voted in the independence referendum, and although it represents just 42% of the eligible voting population, over 90% voted for independence. Most Spanish leaders believe the lopsided vote total is due in part because those who side against the referendum find it to be a sham vote or did not want to go out and risk conflict with the police.
Striking images from the weekend there show violence by Spain’s police forces, stopping people by any means necessary from showing up to polling stations. With over 893 civilians and 33 officers injured over the weekends demonstrations, there is growing urgency to find a solution to this issue, with Catalan leaders urging the European Union to push for international mediation between the sides.