Spain

  • Spain's Crisis Sharpens

    The crisis in Spain dramatically escalated on October 27 with Catalonia’s regional parliament declaring independence and the Spanish Senate responding with the approval of unprecedented powers for Madrid to seize control of the autonomous region.

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called an emergency cabinet meeting and could fire Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers—he now has the power to do so under Article 155 of Spain’s constitution. Under these circumstances, the Spanish government would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police, and publicly owned media.

    “The question is going to be: how does the Spanish government implement Article 155 in the wake of the declaration of independence,” said Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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  • European Union Must Defuse Standoff Between Madrid and Catalonia

    The time has come for the European Union (EU) to push for a peaceful resolution to the standoff between Madrid and the Catalan separatists. It is highly unlikely that that the separatists will passively acquiesce to the central government’s move to curb Catalan autonomy under Article 155—triggered by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet on October 21—and the resulting scenario could involve much worse violence than was seen during the October 1 referendum. The EU must step in as a mediator, not to force its agenda on negotiations, but to maintain the peace and help restore credibility and trust between the sides. Otherwise, the Union risks the erosion of the values it purports to be built upon.

    The EU thus far has tried its best to distance itself from the Catalan situation, with European Council President Donald Tusk saying there is “no space...

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  • Another Independence Referendum in Catalonia?

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on October 21 announced his government’s intention to remove the leaders of Catalonia’s regional government and called for elections to be held as soon as possible.

    “By deciding to hold elections in Catalonia, the Spanish government is essentially calling a repeat referendum on independence in an extremely polarized situation,” said Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    “Whether that election will have any credibility—despite its legality—will depend on which parties participate, whether activists are released from jail, and whether the true costs of independence—which will be severe—can be debated in a rational manner,” she added.

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  • Castello Joins VOA to Discuss the Catalan Separatist Movement


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  • In Catalonia, a ‘Coup d’État Masquerading as a Referendum’

    Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum has thrown Spain into turmoil.

    In light of the escalating tensions, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is now toying with the idea of invoking the never-before-used Article 155 of the Spanish constitution that would suspend Catalonia’s regional autonomy. With a view to taking such action, Rajoy on October 11 asked the region’s leaders whether they had formally declared independence from Spain.

    The confusion stems from the words and actions of Catalonia’s leaders. On October 10, Carles Puigdemont, president of the government of Catalonia, signed a declaration of independence. Further, in a speech to the Catalan parliament Puigdemont declared independence from Spain;...

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  • The Only Thing Catalonia and Crimea Have in Common Is the Letter C

    A Bloomberg piece in October titled “Why Catalonia Will Fail Where Crimea Succeeded” by Russian writer Leonid Bershidsky is an example of moral equivalence run amok.

    He compares two completely unrelated events—referenda in Crimea and Catalonia—as though they bear any similarity, and as though they carry the same moral weight.

    “The Catalan situation draws comparisons with that in Crimea in 2014, and they are not as easy to dismiss as Catalan independence supporters might think,” he wrote.

    Yes they are.

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  • The Catalonian Jigsaw: Where to Now?

    The controversial conditions surrounding Catalonia’s recent independence referendum show that a unilateral declaration of independence does not embody the will of the people, no matter how much Catalan nationalists claim otherwise. 

    Long-standing tensions between the Spanish government and the Spanish region of Catalonia rose to a climax on October 1 as Catalans went to the polls in an independence referendum deemed illegal by Spain’s constitutional court and the European Union. Rather than a clear mandate for Catalan independence, the referendum revealed a deeply divided society, and the lack of a clear and legal path to secession from Spain. 

    Voting statistics from the referendum indicate a lack of sweeping support for an independent Catalonia. Although two million Catalans backed independence, a larger majority (58 percent of those eligible to vote) did not participate...

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  • Castello Joins KQED Radio to Discuss Catalonia Independence Referendum


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  • Future Tense: What Next for Catalonia?

    Catalonia’s controversial independence referendum has left Spain with many unanswered questions and an unclear path forward, according to Carles Castello-Catchot, chief of staff in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    On October 1, the regional government of Catalonia in northern Spain went ahead with a referendum that Spain’s constitutional court had deemed illegal. A majority of the 2.3 million people who voted in the referendum favored independence for Catalonia. The Catalan government has announced it will move forward with a declaration of independence forty-eight hours after the election.

    The competing narratives have left the country “in a legal black hole where everything is up for discussion,” Castello-Catchot said in a Facebook Live interview on October 2. 

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  • EU Membership on the Line: Independence Would Prove Costly for Catalonia

    Catalonia would lose membership of the European Union (EU) if it were to declare independence from Spain—a development that would have serious economic consequences for this affluent region, according to the Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell.

    “That means barriers will go up immediately; no free movement for people who have Catalan passports; no free movement of goods of services to and from Catalonia; their relationship with the euro will be suspect, like Kosovo which uses the euro with no legal power to do so; there would be no common agricultural policy money for Catalonia,” said Burwell, painting a dire scenario that, she believes, has not been given adequate consideration in the Catalan people’s headlong rush toward independence.

    Noting that she has never seen a poll that shows Catalans want to leave the EU, Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, added: “The fact that we did not have a debate about what this actually means...

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