Catalonia, a region of Spain, has recently declared itself independent from the European Union territory due to a referendum passed on October 1st. The decision demonstrated great support from the people of Catalonia—who boast of their own language, culture, and tradition separate from that of Spain—to become their own sovereign nation state. However, Spanish officials in Madrid are refusing to accept this choice as legitimate and are retaliating by claiming the declared independence unconstitutional and pressing charges against the head figures of the independence party.
The Spanish government is seeking to prosecute Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont, and others involved in the decision, for charges of rebellion, embezzlement, and sedition. The charges, backed by the Supreme Court of Spain, are to be interpreted as clear threats and intimidation techniques in their fight to keep the territory of Catalonia. Their extreme disagreement with independence is largely motivated by economic reasons as Catalonia includes Barcelona, the tourist hub and main attraction of Spain.
In a controversial decision, Carles Puigdemont has left Catalonia for Belgium, a country welcoming him in as they themselves share feelings of detachment from their own people. The Catalonian people have interpreted his displacement in different ways, some blaming him of abandoning their cause at a critical and crucial turning point, and others supporting him in hopes that Carles Puigdemont will be protected against the charges pending against him and will be able continue their fight for independence. Puigdemont defends his movement by claiming that he is in no way seeking asylum or fleeing the region, and is instead in Belgium in order to work with EU officials to grant Catalonia the sovereignty he has vouched for and that it merits.
Catalan citizens have clearly demonstrated their momentous and urging want for independence through protests that have caused riots. During the climactic march for independence in Barcelona, held in the beginning of October, the people could be heard shouting “these streets will be ours,” demonstrating extreme anger and accusatory and aggressive behaviour towards the Spanish police which they deemed an “occupying force.” Ultimately, according to the LA Times, the riots incited violence which led to injuries for at least 893 Catalans and 33 Spanish officers.
The Catalan officials in charge of the independence are fighting alongside their citizens to defend themselves from these charges and move forwards in their declaration of independence. Carles Puigdemont hired lawyer Paul Bekaert, a man who has defended Basque terrorists in the past, a decision clearly made to taunt and send a message to Spanish officials. However, it is unclear if he will be able to come back to Catalonia as the head of the independence party seeing as two civic leaders of the party have already been placed under arrest.
As of now, there seems to be no chance of peace negotiations between the Catalonian side and the Spanish side. Both are utilizing precedent, law, and procedure to take the other side down. Negotiations are also complicating themselves as other EU countries become involved, such as Belgium, and must ultimately showcase support for either side through action or nonaction.
In the meantime, the support for Catalonian independence grows for the Catalans as they’ve stated in interviews to NPR to see the prosecution of the leaders of their party as further violation of their sovereignty, independence, and collective mentality. Another referendum concerning their separation from Spain is set to take place December 21st, and with the charges facing the current Catalonian independence leaders, it is unclear who will continue to take over and advance the party and its interests.