After years of public demonstrations demanding Catalan independence, political opposition, and finishing with the violent reaction of the Spanish national police, the Catalan parliament voted for a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain.
The vote followed a referendum at the start of the month in which, despite being declared as illegal and anti-constitutional by the Spanish government and the High Court, and with only 43 percent of turnout, over two million people, that is 90 percent of voters, voted for independence.
The referendum was tackled by the Spanish National Police in a particularly controversial manner due to its seemingly unjustifed use of force.
Since 2010, when the High Court ruled against Catalonia acquiring a status of a nation, the pro-independence feeling has been growing through yearly demonstrations, which has increasingly been prioritised on the agenda of the Catalan parties in power since then.
With any negotiations about a referendum or an independent Catalonia being withhold by the Spanish government and its leader Mariano Rajoy, the unilateral referendum and the law that would make effective a Catalan Republic was voted in the Catalan Parliament, still with notable opposition from pro-unity parties.
While the Catalan government and millions of Catalans recognise themselves as an independent state, the so-called “silent majority” has been calling for Spanish unity, with their last demonstration gathering 300,000 attendees and bringing some violent incidents.
Following the unilateral declaration of independence, the great majority of international reactions have supported Spain’s unity and stability with few exceptions.
Most European countries, as well as the US, China, and Russia amongst others, refused to recognise and opposed the Catalan Republic.
Theresa May stated that the UK continued to “want to see the rule of law upheld, the Spanish Constitution respected, and Spanish unity preserved”, despite Jeremy Corbyn urging her to intervene against the police violence following the referendum.
Equally, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said that the Catalan independence declaration means nothing and “Spain remains our only interlocutor”, but still asked the Spanish government to “favour force of argument, not argument of force”.
After the celebration of the referendum, the Spanish government applied the Constitution’s article 155, which entails the takeover of Catalonia’s autonomy, including its institutions and police force, by the central government.
With Spain blocking any secessionist dialogue and the Catalan government employing constant civilian disobedience, public opinion is divided and the future uncertain. The application of the article involves the deposition of the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, and he faces possible criminal charges for rebellion of up to 30 years.
While two of the independence movement’s main leaders are already in prison, Puigdemont is currently exiled in Belgium.
The application of the article will be followed by a Catalan general election on 21 December.