Political Scientist: Little Enthusiasm Within European Union to Recognize Catalonia

Stephen Meserve is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science who specializes in comparative European politics.

Just days after declaring its independence from Spain, the region of Catalonia is facing a political crisis.

The coalition government of the region, which maintains its own culture and language, wants to be a distinct entity, separate from Spain. After a push for independence from Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont, the region held a referendum on Oct. 1, with about 90 percent of voters choosing independence, but with less than half of the region’s eligible voters participating. Spain’s top court declared the referendum illegal and the country’s prime minister threatened to remove Puigdemont from power.

The Catalan Parliament voted on Friday (Oct. 27) to declare its independence, after which Spain invoked a never-before-used constitutional amendment to take direct control of the region. It fired Puigdemont and his cabinet and removed the region’s parliamentary powers.

On Monday (Oct. 30), Spain’s chief prosecutor called for charges against multiple Catalan leaders, including sedition, embezzlement and provocation. Puigdemont and other members of his administration fled to Belgium, but the former president said today (Oct. 31) he is not seeking asylum there and would return if he were guaranteed a fair judicial process in Spain.

Stephen Meserve

Stephen Meserve

Other European countries and the European Union (EU) have supported Spain and stayed on the sidelines during the crisis in Catalonia. The EU’s stance makes sense to avoid supporting movements in other restive regions in the EU, said Texas Tech University’s Stephen Meserve, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, who specializes in comparative European politics. Meserve is available to discuss the situation with Catalonia and its possible results.


Stephen Meserve, assistant professor of political science,(806) 834-4048 or

Talking points

  • Without the Spanish national government’s approval and changes to the Spanish constitution, there is no clear legal means forward for Catalan independence.
  • The Spanish government appears to be moving ahead with charges against Catalan nationalist leaders, suggesting a conciliatory agreement with Catalan nationalists is not in the cards.
  • Surveys show Catalan independence has significant but not overwhelming support in the Catalonian region. Recent coercive Spanish moves against opposition could change this.
  • The EU is unlikely to sanction Catalan independence and immediately accept Catalonia as an EU member country. It would open too many questions for other countries with restive regions.

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