Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region of Spain that is currently pushing towards independence. Catalonia’s actions—as well as the Spanish Government’s response to those actions—have been handled poorly and have left the region with no good options and only varying degrees of failure.
The drive for independence comes from Catalonia’s resentment for the rest of the country. While the region only makes up a fairly small portion of Spain, it accounts for one fifth of Spain’s total economic output and for a fifth of its tax revenue.
Catalonia believes it is being extorted, that it is propping up the poorer regions of the country and is not getting sufficient government benefits—such as infrastructure improvements—considering how much of the nation’s tax revenue it contributes.
On Oct.1 the region held a referendum to decide on becoming an independent state. The vote was declared illegal by the Spanish Government and met with excessive resistance. Violence between the Spanish police and the citizens broke out in the area as the police sought to shut down polling places and arrest opposition leaders. Largely due to the extreme backlash from the Spanish Government, 90 percent of participants voted to secede.
On Oct. 27 Catalonia used the vote to unilaterally declare its independence from Spain and become its own sovereign nation. Currently, Spain is attempting to gain state control over Catalonia and the fate of the region is unclear.
Catalonia has no good options at this point. The Spanish government will never recognize Catalonia as an independent nation. The region makes up too much of the county’s economy. It would be like if both New York and California decided to leave the United States and become their own countries. Any further attempt at cession would only bring about an armed conflict, one that Catalonia has no chance of winning. Even if for some reason Catalonia managed to gain full independence, it is unlikely that it would become a successful country.
For one, leaving Spain means leaving the European Union. This would be an economic blow since a large portion of the region’s wealth can be attributed to its involvement in the EU’s single market and the freedom of movement given to EU citizens. The new country would have to apply to become a member and that would be a lengthy process that is not guaranteed to be successful.
Many large businesses have already moved from the region due to the instability and in the unlikely chance of an independent Catalonia, any company that wants to do international business would likely relocate. The blow to their economy coupled with the significant amount of debt they owe to Spain would make it difficult to fund things like border control, a military, central banking and international relations. All of these things are currently provided by the Spanish government and an independent Catalonia would have to start paying for them.
Catalonia has started something that there is no way they can finish and in turn have jeopardized the significant amount of autonomy they already had within the country. There are only a few possible outcomes for the region and none of them end well.