Catalonia’s ill-advised, and illegal independence referendum has placed Spain on the verge of a constitutional crisis. If Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont follows through on his promise to declare independence in a matter of days the stage will be set for a major confrontation between the government and Catalonia. The Spanish government would almost certainly block the move by any and all means including the use of force. Spain is well within its rights should it feel compelled to use military force. Catalonia’s government leaders, police officials, and referendum organizers incited rebellion against the state with their actions thus far.
Madrid cannot and will not allow an independence declaration to stand. If Catalonia is permitted to detach itself from the rest of the country and form a new nation-state, the Kingdom of Spain would dissolve within a year, carved up and Balkanized. The Basque region will follow Catalonia’s lead and declare independence next. Although a permanent ceasefire exists between the Spanish government and Basque Separatists, Catalan moves are being watched closely in the western Pyrénées. A whiff of independence is already in the air and if Madrid wavers even slightly in its standoff with Catalonia, Basque Country’s declaration will come quickly.
The rest of Europe is watching this crisis carefully, cognizant that the wrong move by either the Spanish government, or the Catalans may trigger a chain reaction of similar events across the continent. Spain is not the only EU nation with a separatist movement within its borders, and a few European nations have experience in fending off separation such as Belgium. Some European leaders are calling for a dialogue between Madrid and the Catalans, however, the statements generally end there. At this point no one wants to appear to be interfering in another nation’s domestic affairs. And for the moment the Catalan situation falls squarely into that category.