Catalonia and why secession movements fail

Supporters of keeping Catalonia in Spain march in Barcelona, October 29, 2017
Barcelona, Oct. 29, 2017: More than 1 million people march in support of Spanish unity. Local leaders failed to realize how much their concerns would resonate (source: dpa)
  • Independence can bring drastic economic consequences that scare voters
  • Local politicians are typically less skilled than their national counterparts
  • Secession movements in Europe will likely fail
  • Decentralization is a better alternative

Catalonia’s attempt to break away from Spain has failed, and the independence project has been shelved for now. Madrid’s response to Barcelona was resolute and at times violent, but it achieved its goal. In the end, Catalonia’s leaders preferred not to fight for their principles, while the supporters of Spanish unity – in Catalonia as well as in other parts of the country – saw their opposition vindicated. The inability of the Catalan leaders to stick to their guns when the going got tough has revealed and possibly widened a few cracks within their own ranks.

The Catalan secession attempt has shed light on several issues, which can be helpful in predicting Europe’s future economic and political geography. This report examines three key questions and puts forward some thoughts about what could happen next.

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