The president of France, Emanuel Macron, and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, would like nothing so much as to see Europe solidify. Becomes more unified over the next ten years, not less.
Similarly, the prime minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, would like nothing so much as to see Spain solidify. Specifically, to rid itself of Catalonian separatism, so that Spain becomes more unified over the next ten years, not less.
But it’s not clear that anyone of these the leaders will be able to keep their followers in line. The immediate problem is Rajoy’s. Though most Americans cannot conceive of such a thing, yesterday’s Catalonian referendum, which the central government in Madrid did everything it could to stop, including using force, confirmed that separatist sentiment was strong. Despite the chaos surrounding the proceedings, some 42% of Catalonians managed to cast their ballots – and of these fully 90% voted for independence.
The immediate outcome of the referendum is a constitutional crisis. On the morning after the night before no one can say with certainty what will happen next in the struggle between Madrid (capital of Spain) on the one hand, and Barcelona (capital of Catalonia) on the other. Again, similarly, on the morning after the night before no one can say with certainty what will happen next in the struggle between leaders loyal to Brussels (headquarters of the European Union) on the one hand, and followers loyal to various isms on the other – isms such as separatism, nationalism, and populism.
But make no mistake about it. Spain, while no match for France or Germany, is one of Europe’s powerhouses. If it falters, so does the European Union. And, if it falters, so does liberal democracy.