Catalan Question Reopened Once Again?

It has been two years since the unsuccessful referendum was declared by the regional Catalan government. Now with all the people in the streets of Barcelona, it seems that another wave of independence whirls in circles in the air once again.

The current protest broke up when nine crucial Catalan politicians who were in charge of the independence movement were sentenced from nine to thirteen years in prison for the declaration of unconstitutional referendum. The highest punishment, thirteen years in prison, was imposed on the previous deputy minister Oriol Junquearas. According to Guardian, ‘’more than 60% of the Catalan population believes they should be pardoned, the same proportion of the rest of the Spanish population believes the opposite’’. Moreover, the former prime minister Carles Puigdemont has been for 2 years in exile in Belgium and would be immediately arrested if he entered Spain.

In reaction to the court decision, Catalonia has experienced a massive surge of demonstrations. Many people have demonstrated peacefully, however, certain groups have turned into rioting. According to the police’s estimation, half a million people were protesting last Friday in Barcelona. Catalans have not been only protesting for the reduction of the punishment for nine Catalan politicians but they have been also seeking for more competencies, if not the entire separation from Spain. The Spanish government has applied security measures given the unforeseeable situation and the members of the security forces are on alert.

Since the protest broke up, approximately six hundred people have been heavily injured, more than a hundred people have been investigated and two hundred police cars have been damaged. At this moment it seems that the situation is coming slowly to the normal when the current protest is lightly plummeting. Nevertheless, another wave of demonstrations is expected on 10th November when the national parliamentary elections will take place. For Spain, it already represents 4th elections within four years.

However, how many Catalans do really seek independence? Under the latest surveys from September 2019, news portal La Razon states that 47,7 % refused the separation and showed desire to stay in within Spain. Based on the surveys, the society is divided in half. In every way, if we look closer there are more cleavage lines than just independence. Some people protest due to the court decisions which have sent foremost politicians into the prison. Another part of protests for independence is set within another group of Catalans that requires more rights. And some people just want things to come back to normal. The situation is not only chaotic and confusing for the observers, but also for the Catalans.

If looking at the Catalan questions through the theoretical scope – according to the Spanish constitutions – Spanish regions cannot secede. What would have then happened if Catalonia had left Spain?

Firstly, the economy of Catalonia might drop down due to the lack of trust of foreign investors. Very probably, given the unforeseeable situation, the influx of tourists would be plummeting too. In the further steps, Catalonia would have to seek the international recognition which might bring rather obstacles when looking on other territories in the world such as Taiwan or Kosovo which declared the independence and have not been internationally recognized by the UN’s member states so far. In the case that Catalonian’s vital interest would be to affiliate the European Union, that might also be rather problematic whereas it could be concluded that Spain might have opposed to this.

It is not probably far from the truth that solving the Catalan questions is almost mission impossible. What might possibly cease the whole situation?  Madrid delegating more powers to Catalan government, for sure. Nonetheless, for the further negotiations, we will have to probably wait for the upcoming national elections and the further steps of the newly elected government.

Written by Zdeněk Rod