Crisis in Catalonia


“The way Spain has now behaved in Catalonia, after the referendum, is a total disgrace. If this continues,   it will all reach the point of no return.”
– Andre Vitchek

 

                       Facts:

      Where:

               A region in the north-east of Spain

      Population:

               7.5 million

      Deaths:

               None reported

      Injured:

              Over 900 people injured including 33                 police officers.

      Combatants:

              The Spanish police and the “citizens”                 of Catalonia

      Current Status:

              Still a region of Spain

 

                 Overview

Tensions are high in Catalonia after an unofficial vote (organized by the region’s government) for independence from Spain on October 1, 2017. Everyone in Catalonia is affected by the protests and violent actions of the Spanish government in this fight for independence. The pro-independence protesters in the region feel that Catalonia gives more to the Spanish government (especially in terms of taxation) than they receive. The Spanish government has explicitly stated that it will not allow Catalonia to be independent and duly stripped it of its powers and took over leadership.

                 Key Actors:

  • The Spanish government deployed the police, claiming the vote was illegal
  • Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, wants independence from Spain and hopes for talks to resolve the conflict. He also called on the EU to mediate. He is wanted by the Spanish government on charges of sedition and rebellion relating to the ‘illegal’ (yet peaceful) October 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.
  • Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy had earlier warned that Spain would invoke Article 155 of the constitution allowing for Spain to take power from Catalan leaders.
  • The European Union wants to avoid recognizing a referendum which would set a precedent for other secessionist movements in other parts of Europe. Also, it considers the crisis an internal matter for Spain and, in the words of European council president Donald Tusk, “formally speaking there is no space for an EU intervention”.
  • The United Nations criticized Spain for blocking the vote. EU decided not to intervene terming it an “internal matter”.
  • Human Rights groups want Catalonia to be independent and condemned the Spanish government.

 

                                                 Timeline:

  • 2012 – 2017 – Pressure applied on the Spanish government by the UN, and Catalan protesters and pro-independence politicians to allow Catalonia to be independent.
    • The government refused but Catalan leaders eventually agreed on a referendum for October 1, 2017. Immediately after the vote, Spain’s PM said there was no vote recognized by law. Even the EU said the vote was “not legal” after the vote. Prior to it, the EU was mum on the matter.
  • 2015 – Pro-independence politicians won the regional elections. They swore to work towards an independent Catalonia, a very wealthy region which contributes a big chunk of Spain’s federal budget, which often helps other states according to Catalans.
  • September, 2017 – Spanish government warned that it would invoke article 155 of the constitution. This would allow Spanish leaders in Madrid to take over power in Catalan without the approval of the regional leaders.
  • October 1, 2017  Catalans voted, with over 90% of 2.26 million voters wanting independence, with a 42.3% voter turnout.  The Spanish government deployed law enforcement to stop this illegal vote which led to serious clashes between Catalans and the police.
  • October 10, 2017 – Catalan leader signs the declaration of independence but paused it from taking effect while waiting for talks with the Spanish government.
  • October 5, 2017 – Major financial institutions like Banco Sabadell decide to move headquarters away from Catalonia after pressure from the government and unfavourable political climate. Others like CaixaBank also likely to follow suit.
  • October 27, 2017 – Spanish government takes away all the special powers of Catalonia and . Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, announces that Catalan regional elections will be held on December 21, 2017.
  • November 2, 2017 – Protest by Catalans outside Catalonia’s regional parliament and other towns against the decision by Spain to detain eight regional ministers.
  • November 3, 2017 – Spanish judge issued a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont and four of his followers who travelled to Belgium. Belgium chose to “study” the warrants first.
  • November 6, 2017 – Puigdemont and his four followers turned themselves in to Belgian authorities.
  • December, 2017 – Pro-independence parties win a slim-majority (47.5%) in Catalonia’s parliamentary elections, called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
  • March 1, 2018 – Catalan separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, who is wanted by the Spanish government on charges of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of public funds, announces that he is ending his bid to be reappointed president of Catalonia. He will step down in favor of detained activist Jordi Sanchez.
  • March 25, 2018 – Carles Puigdemont detained by German police under European arrest warrant as he crossed border from Denmark en route to Belgium.

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