Catalonia Declared Independence — Here's What That Means & What Might Happen Next

Catalonia declared independence on Friday after a 70 to 10 vote in favor of declaring themselves legally separate from Spain, which would transfer all legal powers to an independent Catalonia, The Washington Post reports.

Crowds in support of independence stood outside Parliament and cheered and waved the Catalan flag as the results were announced, according to CNN. One woman from the crowd cried, “We're finally free. We are oppressed here. We're fighting for our freedom.”

There was, however, discontent among some Catalans, BBC reports: “It's disastrous,” said one man. “It's the result of an extended manipulation which does not reflect the will of the Catalan people.”

“We have won the freedom to build a new country,” Catalonia’s vice president, Oriol Junqueras, tweeted after the announcement.

But less than an hour later, the Spanish Senate voted 214 to 47 to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, which has never been used before, The Post reports. The Article would allow for the Spanish central government to take direct rule over Catalonia, according to BBC. According to BBC, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the senators that direct rule afforded under the Article was necessary to restore “law, democracy and stability” to Catalonia.

“Catalans must be protected from an intolerant minority that is awarding itself ownership of Catalonia, and is trying to subject all Catalans to the yoke of its own doctrine,” the PM Rajoy said, according to The Post.

“Exceptional measures need to be adopted when there are no other ways to go back to normality,” PM Rajoy said.

“Those measures are not against Catalonia but aiming to stop Catalonia being abused," he added. "Not to suspend the autonomy of Catalonia but to consolidate it; not to cut back rights but to restore them to legality. What's threatening Catalonia is not Article 155 but the behavior of the government of Catalonia.”

PM Rajoy took to Twitter to announce that he had dismantled the Catalan government, dismissing Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and Catalan ministers, dissolving the Parliament and demanding all Catalan diplomats return to the region, The Post reports. Furthermore, according to CNN, it was said that the Spanish central government would take over the Catalan administration starting this weekend.

“Spain is a serious country, a great nation and we will not allow some people to blow up our Constitution,” PM Rajoy said to journalists in Madrid. He added for Spanish citizens to remain calm at this time, and said that the government would be planning how to respond in a “proportionate way.”

“The government will make any decisions needed to go back to legality, and we will do that this evening,” PM Rajoy said.

According to CNN, Spain’s general prosecutor confirmed that there would be a lawsuit filed against President Puigdemont, members of Parliament who voted in favor of independence and the Catalan government.

Puigdemont said that the decision to declare independence was made by legitimately elected lawmakers, according to CNN. “We are facing a period in which we will need to stay strong and in peace, dignified and civil as we have always been, and I'm sure we will keep being so,” Puigdemont said.

Foreign leaders have also weighed in on the declaration for independence. According to The Post, the U.S. State Department released a statement in support of Spain. “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” the State Department said. The United Kingdom and Germany have also already remarked that they would not be recognizing an independent Catalonia.

The European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the European Union “doesn't need any more cracks, more splits,” BBC reports. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted, “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.”

Puigdemont responded to Tusk on Twitter, “Catalans always favor the force of arguments."