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. 

In an attempt to stop the vote, the Spanish government deployed police officers throughout Catalonia. Around 900 people were injured in the police crackdown, which earned the condemnation of the international community, but not its willingness to mediate the conflict. Castello-Catchot described how the issue of Catalan independence is still considered an internal issue that Spain must resolve on its own. 

While he expressed his hope that the Spanish and Catalan governments could arrive at a political solution, “both governments have placed themselves in very extreme corners,” said Castello-Catchot. “None of them want to give in to a potential concession,” he added.

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council. 

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