Catalonia Independence Referendum Blog

Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia
Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, and Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia (La Moncloa/Ariet/Generalitat de Catalunya)
  • Catalans take to the streets after top civil servants are arrested.
  • Spain has “crossed a red line,” according to regional president Carles Puigdemont.
  • Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy urges Catalans to step back from the brink but vows to do “whatever is necessary” to stop their independence vote. Read more

Attitudes in Spain’s Basque Country Mirror Those in Catalonia

Flag of the Basque Country in Getaria, Spain, April 20, 2011
Flag of the Basque Country in Getaria, Spain, April 20, 2011 (Barbara Dieu)

Attitudes in Spain’s Basque Country have mirrored Catalonia’s surge in separatism.

When the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Spain’s Constitutional Court had been correct in declaring a Basque independence referendum illegal, the region accepted it.

But when the same Constitutional Court threw out part of Catalonia’s autonomy statute that same year, it galvanized the separatist movement.

The Catalans are now determined to vote on independence. Opponents fear a domino effect. They worry that, if the Catalans are successful, the Basque Country may push for independence next.

That seems unlikely. Read more

Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Florian Philippot’s ouster from the National Front makes political sense.

Philippot was for years Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man. Together they transformed the reactionary party, which has deep roots in the French Algerian exile community, into a broad Euroskeptic and nativist force that could appeal to rust-belt voters.

They de-demonized the National Front. Le Pen won 34 percent support in this year’s presidential election, doubling her father’s record from fifteen years earlier.

But it still wasn’t enough. Read more

Catalan Referendum Animates Flemish, Leaves Dutch Cold

View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014
View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014 (Visit Flanders)

The Dutch aren’t sure what to make of Catalonia’s independence bid. Only in the last few days have their news media started paying attention to what’s happening in the region.

Flemish media are more interested. Maybe because they have pragmatically managed their differences with the French-speaking Walloons for decades and are wondering why the Catalans and Spanish can’t do the same? Read more

Iraq’s Kurds Deserve the West’s Support for Their Own State

View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011
View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011 (James Gordon)

Western countries are falling into the familiar habit of discouraging Kurdish self-determination.

American and European officials have urged Iraq’s Kurds to delay their independence referendum, scheduled for next Monday.

The reasons are by now well-known: a Kurdish state would anger the Turks, destabilize Iraq and complicate the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

All of which is true, but there will always be a reason to deny the Kurds self-rule. They have been stateless for generations. If it isn’t Turkish apprehensions today, it will be fears of an Iranian-Turkish condominium tomorrow.

The Kurds, one of the most progressive people in the Middle East, deserve better. Read more

Trump Treats Foreign Policy Like Reality TV

American president Donald Trump waits to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 19
American president Donald Trump waits to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 19 (UN/Eskinder Debebe)

American president Donald Trump has made a decision about the future of the Iran nuclear deal — but he isn’t sharing it with anyone yet.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed on Wednesday that the president has made up his mind. But he also revealed that Trump had refused to share his decision even with America’s closest allies.

“Prime Minister [Theresa] May asked him if he would share it with her. He said no,” Tillerson said.

What is this, a cliffhanger? Read more

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Receive our best stories in your inbox every Wednesday. Click here to learn more or enter your details below to sign up.

Spanish Raids, Arrests Cross “Red Line”: Puigdemont

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Spain has “crossed a red line,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after gendarmerie raided offices of his regional government in Barcelona and arrested a dozen civil servants.

“On October 1, we are called to defend democracy from a repressive and intimidating regime,” Puigdemont told Catalans in a televised speech.

He argued that the actions of the Spanish state, which considers a planned independence vote illegal, are “totalitarian” and amount to the suspension of Catalan home rule. Read more