Spain is in a state of political unrest as the northeast region of Catalonia, which includes the city of Barcelona, voted for independence from Spain on Oct. 1, resulting in violence and protests. If the region is granted independence from the rest of the country, this could have serious implications for all regions of Spain. The impactful decision is expected to be made in the next few days. So, what happens if Catalonia becomes independent?
Catalonia may declare independence on Monday, Oct. 9.
The preliminary results of the referendum vote on Sunday showed that 90 percent of registered voters in Catalonia are in favor of independence. However, the votes came with a price of violence. Nearly 850 people, as well as 33 police, were hurt as police tried to enforce a Spanish court order suspending the vote, which involved storming into polling stations to stop voters.
In an interview with BBC on Oct. 4, Catalan's leader, Carles Puigdemont said his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next." Pro-independence parties, which control the regional parliament, are planning to meet on Monday, Oct. 9 to declare independence after a parliamentary session. The session will determine the results of the vote. Despite this anticipated debate, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, as well as King Felipe VI, believe Catalonia has "broken the democratic principles of the rule of law," as the king said in a televised address. Spain's 1978 constitution, they claim, deems an independence referendum vote, like this one, illegal.
Catalonia would be knocked out of the European Union, and then Spain could have some major problems.
After Catalonia's decision to seek independence, Prime Minister Rajoy, with the support of the European Union, says Catalonia will be removed from the alliance. If the region is no longer apart of the EU, it's hard to tell if it will survive financially on its own. Currently, the region has the largest annual gross domestic product of all Spanish regions, being roughly 215 billion euros ($257 billion). This may seem like they would be fine on their own, however, Spain supplies most of Catalonia's goods. According to CNN Money, dropping out of bloc would likely raise the cost of exporting goods produced in Catalonia to EU members and other nations. But how badly does Spain need the Catalans?
Well, Spain might have an economic crisis without Catalonia, as well. A Catalonia "Brexit" or "Catalexit" would leave the rest of the country with a huge deficit, considering Catalonia, a region of about 7.5 million, provides about one-fifth of the nation's economic output.
One of the main reasons Catalonia is seeking independence is for economic reasons. Residents of the region think they give more than they get. Although Catalonia only represents about 16 percent of the national population, it's citizens contribute 20 percent of taxes — and get back 14 percent.
This is likely one of the reasons Spain is resistant towards the region declaring independence. Just before the vote on Sunday, Prime Minister Rajoy said that the government would use all legal means to block the independence movement. What could happen if the national government takes military action before a decision is made?
A declaration of "state of siege" could lead to martial law.
If no compromise takes place in the coming days, the national government could take control of the Catalonian police. Or worse, if the king feels the government's power is under attack, Spain could declare a state of siege, according to the Associated Press, which could allow for the suspension of civil rights and imposition of martial law.
While the possibility of a compromise is the most desirable option, both the national government and the Catalonia region have armed forces of their own that are ready to fight. Sunday's violence was an indication of how far both sides are willing to go for what they want. Whether that means compromise or civil war, neither sides seem to be backing down just yet.