Crisis in Catalonia


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.


Where: Catalonia (region of north-east Spain)

Population: 7.5 million

Injured:  Over 900, including 33 police officers

Current status: Still a region of Spain

Key actors

deployed the police, claiming the vote was illegal

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.

had earlier warned that Spain would invoke Article 155 of the constitution allowing for Spain to take power from Catalan leaders.

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”.

criticized Spain for blocking the vote. EU decided not to intervene terming it an “internal matter”.

want Catalonia to be independent and condemned the Spanish government.

Timeline of the crisis

Pressure applied on the Spanish government by the UN, and Catalan protesters and pro-independence politicians to allow Catalonia to be independent.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Catalan leader signs the declaration of independence but paused it from taking effect while waiting for talks with the Spanish government.

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.

Puigdemont and his four followers turned themselves in to Belgian authorities.

Pro-independence parties win a slim-majority (47.5%) in Catalonia’s parliamentary elections, called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

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.

Carles Puigdemont detained by German police under European arrest warrant as he crossed border from Denmark en route to Belgium.

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