Spain is facing one the country’s biggest political crises in decades as the region of Catalonia is planning a vote on secession. Here is what you should know about the issue of Catalonian independence:

Where is Catalonia?

Map of Catalonia within Spain and Europe
Map of Catalonia within Spain and Europe. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Catalonia is a region in the northeastern portion of Spain bordering France considered an Autonomous Community within the Kingdom of Spain, with the status of historical region in the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The region consists of the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona.

Although Catalonia has been part of Spain since the 15th century, the region became culturally and politically autonomous in the 20th century. Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions. It has 16 percent of the country’s population and generates 20 percent of its gross domestic product.

Most people in Catalonia speak Catalan and Spanish, both official languages.

What is the independence referendum?

Earlier this month, the Catalonia parliament approved an independence referendum scheduled for October 1, 2017. There is just one question on the ballot with a yes or no response: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”

If the vote is Yes, the Catalan leadership plans a declaration of independence within 48 hours.

Why does Catalonia want to break away from Spain?

According to the Catalan government-funded Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió, the reasons include wanting increased autonomy (26 percent), the belief that Catalonia would improve if it struck out on its own (23 percent), and the desire for a new model for running a country (19 percent).

How has Spain reacted to the referendum?

The government of Spain considers the vote to be illegal, and the Constitutional Court has ordered a halt to the referendum.

Spanish police have also arrested 14 senior Catalan officials and raided key regional buildings in an attempt to stop the referendum from occurring. An estimated 10 million ballots have been seized.

The Spanish government has threatened to take control of Catalonia’s finances and abolish its regional autonomy.

How would Spain be affected by Catalonian independence?

Catalonian secession would have a severe and detrimental impact on Spain’s economy. The region accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economic output, a fifth of the republic’s taxes, a quarter of exports, and over half of new startup investment in 2016, according to Politico.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the executive of the European Union, said the EU would respect the results of the referendum. An independent Catalonia, however, would be required to follow the same accession procedures as the member states that joined in 2004, said Juncker.

Joe Carter is an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College, an editor for several organizations, and the author of the NIV Lifehacks Bible.

Photo Credit: Catalan independence march in Barcelona on September 11, 2017. By, via Flickr.