Spain has been under a spotlight for approximately a month now. Starting on Sept. 13, Catalonia began enacting plans to separate from Spain. After over a thousand years of fighting, independence didn’t look to be coming any time soon. Now that Catalonia has declared its independence, they must repair their strained relationships with Spain and the European Union.
Among Catalans themselves, conflict grew between separatists and non-separatists. For separatists, they became upset with Spain being the primary benefactor from their trades with Europe. Non-separatists recognized the economic instability that would occur without Spain to keep them afloat. To resolve these issues of indecision, an independence referendum was set for October 1st. At this point, Spain stepped in to stop Catalonia. The Public Prosecutor’s Office gave an order to the Catalan police to close and obstruct any type of polling location to keep the masses from voting.
Catalan and Spanish police were told to use any means necessary to keep the public away. As ordered, the police did not hold back at all. As the crowd of about two million people approached the designated locations to vote, Catalan police began pulling hair to drag voters away and firing on the crowds with rubber bullets to keep the election from proceeding.
We must now ask what the Catalans, Spanish government and the European Union should do with regard to one another? Unfortunately for the people of Catalonia, their relationship with the Spanish government and the European Union look extremely strained.
Spain desires to keep Catalonia as a piece of its country because they rely on Catalonia for most of their trade relations with the rest of Europe. The Spanish government see the declaration as foolish. Spain also realizes that the European Union will not regard Catalonia by themselves and seeks to show Catalonia the error with independence.
The Spanish government has not apologized since those attacks on the people of Catalonia. First and foremost, if Spain truly wants to reconcile the relationship between state and country, the Spanish government must not only apologize to Catalonia for its interference with the democratic process, but also recognize that their actions to attack Catalans went too far.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont took his time to declare independence, waiting for Spain to play their hand. President Puigdemont had tried to appease all factions within Catalonia. However, since the group of non-separatists is large, the aspect of pleasing all factions is not happening. By turning his back on the majority of voters, President Puigdemont ultimately ignored his own people in favor of doing something. In retrospect, his actions look rushed and unplanned, and perhaps not the best qualities for a leader to display.
The European Union has been oddly ignored by the mainstream media. The EU functions as a medium for European countries to interact socially, politically, but most importantly, economically. It is imperative for Catalonia, upon declaring independence, to keep positive relations with the European Union as to keep their trading prowess strong amongst the remainder of Europe.
While this relationship’s strength is important for Catalonia, all signs point to the unfortunately reality that the European Union does not side with the Catalans and their desire for independence. One senior diplomat from the EU told Reuters that when it comes to picking sides, “there is not much to gain from backing Barcelona and a lot to lose from angering Madrid.” Depending on potentially negative rulings from the European Union, Catalonia may be in deeper trouble from not having enough backing to remain a stable country without Spain’s assistance.
Even though they have declared their independence officially, Catalonia must go through an even longer process of repairing important relationships in order to continue in their celebrations. If these relations are left unfixed, Catalonia will have a falling out and potentially might lose everything they’ve been working to create. By repairing inner and outer relations, Catalonia has a better chance of getting the European Union’s approval and remaining economically afloat.