Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Spain Supreme Court Launches Investigation Into Carles Puigdemont

Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Spain Supreme Court Launches Investigation Into Carles Puigdemont

Nicholas Zalewski
Image of former Catalonia autonomous community President Carles Puigdemont surrounded by Catalonian flags.
Source: Bloomberg

Spain’s national court has made global headlines by announcing a terrorism investigation into Carles Puigdemont and Rubén Wagensberg. This investigation is regarding protests organized by Catalonian politicians as an orchestrated effort in response to the sentencing of nine politicians for their roles in the referendum for independence of Catalonia. In the protests, access to the airport was blocked which led to over a 100 flights having to be cancelled along with people injured in the protests as well.  

As one of the targets of the terrorism investigation, Carles Puigdemont responded in a rather arrogant manner by saying “All I’m missing now is to be accused of having a secret account in Panama,”.

With this response, it would be expected that he must clearly be innocent, but this is far from the truth. This makes it more ironic when he also stated, “The Spanish Judicial Matrix has adapted the maxim of bad journalism: Don’t let reality stand in the way of a good indictment.”.

The problem for him however is that the Spanish national government declared his referendum for Catalonian independence to be illegal. The European Commission confirmed this to be true under current Spanish law. This led the European Commission to not get involved when Spain cracked down after Catalonia attempted to unilaterally declare its independence, but instead considered it an internal matter for Spain to resolve itself as a member state.

Protestors burn the Spanish flag in Catalonia in the 2019 protests. Source: Marta Perez/ EFA

Constitutionality of Catalonia Independence Referendum

The main debate over whether or not the infamous referendum for independence of Catalonia in 2017 is based on the first two articles of the Spanish constitution and the Spanish Constitutional Court has ruled such a referendum to be illegal.  Because of this, the European Commission was not going to get involved. The Commission likely would have taken an active role if Catalonia was legally allowed to hold a referendum on independence, the majority of voters voted in favor of independence, yet the Spanish government still refused to reject the autonomous community’s declaration of independence.

While the referendum was not binding, it is also important to look at the results. While 92 percent did vote for independence, only 43 percent of people eligible to vote cast a ballot. This is a very low turnout for a referendum, particularly for a topic as significant as deciding whether or not Catalonia should secede from Spain to become an independent nation, while simultaneously leaving the European Union. As it stands, only 39.9 percent of the population that was eligible to vote in the referendum voted for independence, significantly less than half of voters. It is also important to point out that in 2022, 52 percent of Catalans are against independence while only 41 percent support independence, 8 percentage points lower than in 2017.

Protestors demonstrate on Catalonia’s national day in 2021. Source: REUTERS/ Albert Gea

How Realistic is Independence for Catalonia?

Unfortunately for Catalonians interested in independence, it appears that it has become important to ‘win the fight’ just for the sake of being able to declare themselves ‘victorious’, without thinking of the consequences for the region. First and foremost, Catalonia will not be able to join the European Union anytime soon as a member state if it becomes an independent nation from Spain. This could then consequentially have an impact on Catalonia’s economy. While Catalonia is one of the wealthiest autonomous communities of Spain presently, this could change if it were no longer within the European Union. There is currently immense debate about how much Brexit has cost the United Kingdom economy, which may become the reality for Catalonia as an independent nation.

It sometimes appears that people are allured by the potential to be a smaller and wealthier nation, and Catalonia may envision itself as a wealthy nation of only 7.9 million people, instead of part of Spain with over 46 million inhabitants. In the European Union, Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita in the European Union, the equivalent of 257 percent of the EU average GDP per capita. However, this is not what it seems at first. It’s high GDP per capita is partially due to workers who live in the nation, yet do not work there. Their labor contributions are included in Luxembourg’s economy, yet not included in the population of the nation which inflates the GDP per capita. In 2019, over 200,000 workers commuted to work in Luxembourg from France, Germany, and Belgium. This figure represents 44 percent of the Luxembourgish workforce, showing the economy is not what it initially appears to be at a glance. It is important for Catalonian politicians to realize that Luxembourg’s economy is unique due to conditions unlikely able to be replicated in Catalonia, particularly if it finds itself outside the European Union.


It is hard to predict the future, yet it is very possible that Carles Puigdemont and Rubén Wagensberg will be found guilty. Carles needs to work on his composure and take the investigation seriously, otherwise the media could start comparing his behavior to that of President Donald Trump’s in various court cases. Both men knew that the referendum was illegal, yet they went ahead with it. As the national government unsurprisingly did not allow Catalonia to become independent after the illegal referendum, chaos ensued and besides the two being investigated, pro-Catalonia politicians in general did very little if anything to encourage citizens to remain calm rather than wreak havoc. Carles needs to eat a large slice of humble pie before making further public remarks towards the investigation and admit what he did was wrong and illegal. It is no secret that Catalonia will not become an EU member state if it becomes independent, yet pro-independence Catalonians ignore the reality in order to believe in an alternate dimension where they can achieve all of their desires.

Please Read The Follow For More Information:

Chiappa, Claudia. “Spain opens terrorism probe into Puigdemont”. Politico. 29 February 2024.

Turner, Ben. “Catalan independence: Five years on from referendum, is there any hope for separatists?”. Euronews. 10 January 2022.

“The simmering row over Spanish-language teaching in Catalan schools”. The Economist. 4 January 2024.

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Let’s Tune In To The EU…

by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min