In a strident display of defiance, the Spanish region of Catalonia on Friday voted for independence after 70 of its parliamentarians pressed for the region’s secessionist bid. The Spanish government, however, moved to impose direct rule over Catalonia immediately, plunging the country into an uncertain future. Reflecting on the development, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm and maintained that the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia, the epicentre of Spain’s territorial crisis.
Following a passionate debate from advocates and opponents of independence, a motion was passed in the regional parliament in Barcelona declaring Catalonia as an independent, sovereign and social democratic state. A state of euphoria prevailed outside the regional parliament, with a crowd of more than 2,000 independence supporters gathered in the Ciutadella shouting “Liberty” in Catalan and singing traditional songs.
What is Catalonia and crisis surrounding the region ?
One of Spain’s most prosperous regions, Catalonia already has a high degree of autonomy. However, the region harbours a list of historic grievances, which got aggravated during the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship, when its culture and politics were quashed. The northeastern region also accounts for about 16 per cent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.
The entire sequence of events unfolded after Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1, which was deemed illegal by the central government and courts in Madrid. Although it endorsed independence, only 43 per cent voters turned out as Catalans who oppose independence largely boycotted it. The crisis subsequently triggered a split in the region and fostered resentment within Spain.
Aftermath of today’s development and reaction of other nations
In the wake of Catalonia’s declaration for independence, Spanish shares and bonds were sold off, reflecting business concern over the turmoil in the wealthy region. In an unprecedented move in Spain since the return of democracy in the late 1970s, the upper house of Spain’s parliament in Madrid authorised Rajoy’s government to rule Catalonia directly.
Reflecting on the Catalonia’s decision, European Council President Donald Tusk said the independence vote changed nothing and the European Union would only deal with the central government in Madrid. The US state department also threw its weight behind the Madrid, stating that it would back the Rajoy’s government to keep Spain united and Catalonia was an integral part of the country.
With inputs from Reuters, AFP