Spain is facing one of its most severe political crises in recent history. The long lingering conflict over Catalonia’s efforts for independence has reached new levels of hostility after the regional government declared 01 October as the date of Catalonia’s referendum for independence.

„The irreconcilable positions of Madrid and Barcelona are indeed creating a risk of violent escalations.“

Independence and Opposition

Driven by the perceived fiscal and political disadvantages it suffers at the hands of the central government in Madrid, Catalonia’s desire for autonomy has a long history and large support throughout the region and in the population, evidenced by several large-scale rallies counting hundreds of thousands of attendants. The Spanish government, citing the Spanish constitution, is strongly opposed to the Catalonian endeavour and bent on preventing the polls from taking place. After declaring the referendum as illegal, Madrid has assumed a decidedly harsh tone and taken action to forestall any further proceedings in the matter.

Potential for Escalations

Officers of the national and civil guard deployed to the region in almost unparalleled numbers have raided offices and buildings in search of election ballots and boxes, accompanied by scuffles with protesters. Several highranking regional officials have been arrested. The mounting threats of the central government have even included taking effective control over Catalonia, an unprecedented step in post-Franco Spain. Catalonia’s goal of achieving independence has largely been pursued peacefully throughout recent years. But the escalating tone between Madrid and Barcelona, the drastic measures of the central government and the strong feelings in the population may pave the way for the hitherto almost inconceivable scenario of violent escalations in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia.