After an initial referendum that was held on October 1 of this year, the parliament of Catalonia has overwhelmingly voted in favour of splitting from Spain (specifically Madrid).
70 of its parliamentarians voted in favour of the split, 10 disapproved and 2 left their voting slips blank.
Moments after the announcement was made, referendum supporters at Barcelona’s Citadel Park burst into applause and celebration.
Amidst the fireworks, cheering and the honking of cars, it was clear that this moment was a long awaited one for Catalans.
“Republic now!” the supporters chanted.
On cue, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appeared on a screen in the park. When he appeared, the crowd responded with a resounding jeer.
The Spanish leader proceeded to give his speech, asking for calm and level-headedness from the crowd, who then promptly erupted into screams.
Firefighters who had been setting up barricades were bold with their stand on the matter as well – many were proudly wearing the Estelada, the one-starred flag of the Catalan Republic.
The crowd cheered at their arrival. When asked on why he was excited to see firefighters, 24-year-old demonstrator Josep Vila replied, “Because they’re our firefighters”.
It is noteworthy to mention that while the turnout was large, less than 50 per cent of Catalans took part in the referendum vote; this official number is vastly different from the Catalan government’s projected 90 per cent.
Spain’s government reacted swiftly to the declaration and soon after on Friday (Oct 27), Prime Minister Rajoy announced the dismissal of Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont, his cabinet and the regional parliament.
He then called for a new election to replace the dismissed politicians.
This referendum comes as a significant downturn for Europe since Brexit, which took place just last year (June 2016).
Amidst this much political uncertainty, international organizations within the region, such as the European Union (EU), as well as world leaders (especially those in the region), are closely watching the event as it unfolds.
Most rallied behind Spain and similar to Rajoy, have asked Catalans for calm and a retraction of the referendum decision.
Here are some of their reactions:
The EU has long expressed the Catalonia/Spain conflict is an internal one.
Soon after the referendum announcement, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said the decision changes nothing and that Spain remains the EU’s “only interlocutor”.
For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 27, 2017
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echoed Tusk’s sentiments and commented that the bloc does “not need any more splits”.
He also told broadcaster BFMTV he “wouldn’t want the European Union to be made up of 95 states tomorrow”.
President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, was even more blunt in his position. In a statement, he told the masses that “no one in the European Union will recognize” Catalan’s vote for independence.
La mia dichiarazione sulla situazione in Catalogna ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/CexCJujAUJ
— Antonio Tajani (@Antonio_Tajani) October 27, 2017
Washington was too, quick to weigh in on the issue.
In a statement, Heather Nauert, US State Department spokeswoman, backed Spain’s decision to remain united.
She went on to express that “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united”.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) October 27, 2017
While officially, the United Kingdom (UK) has followed the opinions of other nations, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying that UK and Britain “does not and will not” recognize Catalonia’s vote due to it being “based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts”, some division was observed.
The Scottish government, which is led by the pro-independence Scottish National Party, has expressed solidarity with the Catalans.
Its external affairs minister, Fiona Hyslop, reminded the UK that Catalan’s Declaration of Independence “came about only after repeated calls for dialogue were refused”.
She added that she and her government “understand and respect the position of the Catalan Government”.
Arguably Europe’s strongest economy, Germany was quick to stand against Catalan’s vote.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, described Spain’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as “inviolable” but asked Spain and Catalan to “use all available opportunities for dialogue and de-escalation”.
— Steffen Seibert (@RegSprecher) October 27, 2017
Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, told reporters at a press conference near Montreal that both Spain and Catalonia must be willing to engage in “peaceful, non-violent” talks.
However, he added that the talks must take place “according to the rule of law, according to the Spanish constitution, [and] according to the principles of international law”.