2 November 2017

*** Catalonia Takes the Independence Leap

The standoff over Catalan independence has entered a new phase of political fragility, economic uncertainty and social unrest. On Oct. 27, the Catalan parliament approved to unilaterally declare independence from Spain. Shortly after, the Spanish Senate authorized a series of measures against the rebellious region, dismissing members of the Catalan government and seizing several Catalan institutions, including the treasury, the interior ministry and the regional police. The central Spanish government in Madrid has no intention of permanently controlling Catalonia. It wants instead to hold regional elections Dec. 21 to elect a new Catalan government, though it will struggle in the meantime to actually enforce its punitive actions.

Up to this point, the Catalan conflict has been characterized by delay tactics, threats and ambiguity from both sides. Catalonia's Oct. 27 declaration of independence makes the conflict more concrete, but no less convoluted. This is the first time since the end of the Spanish Civil War that a region has openly challenged Madrid; it is the first time since Spain's return to democracy in the late 1970s that Madrid has decided to take direct control of an autonomous region's institutions. Whatever happens next, it will be unprecedented.

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