November 9, 2015
Catalonia Secession: Spanish Region Votes To Secede From Spain By 2017, Spain Vows To Stop It

Catalonia lawmakers voted for secession Monday, setting up a fight between the semi-autonomous region and the Spanish government, MSN is reporting.

In a 72-63 vote, Catalonia's regional parliament approved a "road map" towards secession, a nine-point plan that moves the region toward becoming an independent nation within 18 months. The first phase of the plan, according to the Wall Street Journal, calls on Catalonia's parliament to start writing laws creating independent social security and tax authorities within 30 days.

Raul Romeva, head of the pro-secessionist "Together for Yes" alliance, called Monday's vote a turning point for the history of Catalonia.

"There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a [semi-autonomous region], but to be a state with everything that means. Today we don't only open a new parliament, this marks a before and after."

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy immediately and unequivocally rejected Catalonia's secession resolution.

"I've said it continuously and I reiterate it today – the government will not allow this to continue. Catalonia is not going anywhere, nothing is going to break."

Catalonia is a mountainous region in northeastern Spain, with the French border to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Its capital and largest city, Barcelona, is about 385 miles east of Madrid.

Map of Catalonia in Spain. Image via Shutterstock/Rainer Lesniewski]
Map of Catalonia in Spain. [Image via Shutterstock/Rainer Lesniewski]

The region has been pushing talk of secession off and on for decades, according to the Telegraph. In recent years, as Spain -- like much of Europe -- has been embroiled in a financial crisis. Comparatively wealthy Catalonia has largely escaped the damage, and many Catalonian's resent what they see as their tax money propping up the rest of the country. Catalonia secession would be hugely damaging to Spain's already-troubled finances, as the industrial region produces some 18 percent of Spain's GDP.

But the roots of Catalonia's quest for independence from Spain go back centuries. During 900 years of conflict and political maneuvering, Catalonia has developed a separate and distinct culture from the rest of Spain. The local language, Catalan, was heavily suppressed by the Franco Regime, which tried to quash Catalonian independence once and for all. However, after the Franco regime ended and Spain became a democracy once again, Catalonia was granted limited autonomy and efforts to suppress the local language ended.

With the passing of Monday's secession resolution, the stage is set for a potentially long and drawn-out series of political and legal moves intended to keep Catalonia a part of Spain. The first salvo will likely come from Spain's Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule Monday's resolution illegal and void almost immediately. However, the resolution specifically orders the new Catalonian government to ignore the dictates of Spain's courts.

The next step could be fines and suspension from office of any elected officials who defy the Court's rulings. A law authorizing just that was passed last month.

One possible compromise that could halt the current secession movement would be a nationwide referendum on Catalonian independence, much like the 2014 U.K. referendum to allow Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom (that referendum failed). Spain's prime minister has categorically rejected the idea of ever holding such a referendum.

Any moves the Spanish prime minister makes to quash Catalonian secession would have to be carefully carried out in a way that doesn't rally other Catalonians and Spaniards to the Catalonian cause, says University of Valencia law professor Carlos Flores Juberías.

"It's a very delicate situation that requires a deft balance. He has to show firmness, but any action he takes must be surgically targeted."

Do you think Catalonia should move forward with plans for secession? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image via Shutterstock/conejota]