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Barcelona and its region Catalonia votes to secede from Spain; Senate responds by approving regional takeover

A young woman sings the Catalan anthem in University Square on Oct. 26, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Thousands of students have rallied in support of the Declaration of independence and the Catalan Republic in Barcelona. (Paco Freire/SOPA/Zuma Press/TNS)
October 27, 2017

Catalonia, the region in northeast Spain that includes Barcelona, its regional capital, just voted to declare independence from Spain.

And, less than an hour later, the Spanish Senate voted to impose direct rule over the region, adding fuel to the fire of an already existing volatile situation.

Catalonia (Twitter)

The regional parliament on Friday passed a motion to establish an independent Catalan Republic, separate from Spain as its own country.

Catalonia (Twitter)

The motion “calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations ‘on equal footing’ with Spanish authorities to establish cooperation,” TIME reported.

“Separatist lawmakers erupted in applause as the vote was approved with 70 votes in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots. Most opposition lawmakers had left the chamber in protest moments before the vote,” it reported.

The vote took place as Spain was readying to pass measures in its Senate to take control over the region – it was expected to vote Friday on implementing direct rule over the region, as Spain does not support Catalonia’s bid to be independent.

Catalonia (Twitter)

Less than an hour after Catalonia declared independence, the Spanish Senate voted on whether or not to enact Article 155, which would allow the government to take “all measures necessary to compel” Catalonia amid a crisis – including firing leaders and taking over Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

It voted for the measure, which gives Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unprecedented power to overtake the Catalonian government.

Catalonia (Twitter)

Catalonians earlier this month tried to vote to declare independence from Spain, but that vote was was declared illegal by the country. It was reported that of the 43 percent of Catalonians who were eligible to vote, 90 percent of them voted for independence.

Catalan is seeking independence primarily for financial reasons – it is one of the wealthiest areas of Spain and contributes nearly 20 percent to Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The Telegraph reported more on why Catalonia is seeking independence:

The Catalan region has long been the industrial heartland of Spain – first for its maritime power and trade in goods such as textiles, but recently for finance, services and high-tech companies.

It is one of the wealthiest regions of Spain – it accounts for 19 percent of Spain’s GDP, equal with the Madrid region. Madrid, however, has a higher per capita GDP, as do the Basque Country and Navarre regions.

Secession would therefore cost Spain almost 20 percent of its economic output, and trigger a row about how Catalonia would return 52.5 billion euros of debt it owes to the country’s central administration.

It would have a gross domestic product of $314 billion (£195bn), according to calculations by the OECD, which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world. That would make it bigger than Portugal or Hong Kong.

Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make it wealthier than South Korea, Israel or Italy.

And Catalonia’s contribution to the Spanish economy is twice that of Scotland’s to the UK.