Francesc González

Carles Puigdemont recently declared Catalonia an independent state with its own parliament. In its declaration of independence, Catalonia asked other countries and international organisations to acknowledge Catalonia as an independent state. Unfortunately for Catalonia, no country stood up to protect them. This is because it is a delicate matter within the EU. Most countries say it is a problem the Spanish government should deal with. This was easy to say — until Puigdemont fled to Brussels.

The reason why Puidgemont fled to Brussels is simple. After Puigdemont declared Catalonia an independent state, the Spanish government immediately responded with harsh measures. The Spanish senate voted in favour of limiting the autonomy of Catalonia. The first measure was closing all embassies of Catalonia in other countries, deposing the Catalan parliament, and deposing the commander of the Catalan police. After this, the Spanish government decided that new elections should take place in December.

But what happened to the former parliament of Catalonia? On Thursday the 2nd of November, an European warrant was issued from the Spanish law towards this former parliament. This warrant urges the former parliament to be brought to court for causing a rebellion, sedition, and misuse of government funds — these things all relating to the declaration of independence of Catalonia. Most members of the former parliament showed up in court, facing a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The cases of these ex-ministers — among them is the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras — are now under investigation. They are all imprisoned during the investigation. Surprisingly, Puigdemont and four other former ministers of the Catalan parliament did not show up in court on the day of the trial.

Puigdemont and the four ministers had fled to Brussels in order work in safety and freedom. Furthermore, they think that they will not get a fair trial in Spain. Spain wants the five politicians to be imprisoned during the case. They fear that possible evidence might be destroyed, or that the politicians could flee. Belgium received this European warrant on Friday the 3rd of November, and the five ministers turned themselves in. We can only speculate as to what Brussels will do. Will it act in favour of the politicians or in favour of Spain?

There are three things the investigating judge can do. The first, even though very unlikely, is to reject the European warrant. When the European warrant is instead approved by the investigating judge, he can do two things. He can imprison the five former ministers for as long as the investigation is ongoing, or he can release them under certain conditions. The investigating judge will work together with the Belgian court of justice in order to decide what to do. Surprisingly, social media plays an important role in this. In order to measure and investigate the possibility that these ministers might flee the Belgian court of justice, an investigating judge will look into the tweets, the Facebook pages, and other social media accounts of these politicians for signs that they might want to flee. Therefore, Puigdemont has been very careful in using social media, hoping he will get away with a bail or specified conditions.

Whether or not the Spanish government will be given custody of the politicians is decided by the Belgian Raadkamer, an institution of the Belgian court that decides whether or not a case should go to trial. They need to come up with an answer within 15 days. Timing is very important in this specific case, since new elections will be held on the 21st of December.

Before these five politicians fled, it was only considered a matter Spain itself should deal with, but now Brussels is involved. Therefore it will not be much longer before other European countries get involved. They might even have to take sides. We will see what the effects will be.

Another important effect of the independency of Catalonia is the effect on business. Before the declaration of independence of Catalonia, many headquarters of Spanish and international companies were based in Catalonia, but at this point, many companies are leaving. The reason for this is that the tumult and chaos are expected to have a negative effect on business. This can already be noticed on the stock market. After the referendum, the value of the stocks of businesses located in Catalonia dropped massively. Another reason why banks are leaving the Catalan region is that even if Catalonia does become independent, it will not be a member of the European Union, so it will not be under the control of the European Central Bank. Most banks want the support and security of the European Central Bank, so they decide to leave Catalonia.

The Spanish government supports companies and banks that want to transfer their headquarters from Catalonia to another Spanish region, since it would be hard for Catalonia to be financially independent when many companies and banks leave the region. Furthermore, for as long as these companies remain on Spanish territory, they contribute to Spanish wealth, so Spain benefits a lot from helping companies transfer. They did this by passing a decree that makes it easier to transfer headquarters among Spanish regions. Spain did this specifically to help CaixaBank, which wants to make a transfer to Mallorca. Due to this decree, almost 2,000 companies left the region. Among them are other huge Spanish banks and companies, such as Banco Sabadell, biotechnology company Oryzon, and telecom company Eurona.

All in all, a lot has happened after the declaration of independence of Catalonia. Members of the former parliament fled to Brussels, hoping to escape an imprisonment of 30 years. By doing this, they made it a more international problem than it already was. Furthermore, the impact on the economy is massive, with many companies and banks leaving Catalonia due to the unstable political situation, since they all want to be under the protection of the European Central Bank. We will see whether or not Catalonia stays strong and holds on to its declaration of independence despite all these disastrous effects.