Europe and the territorial conflict in Spain: the European election in Catalonia and Basque Country

17 June 2019
Europe and the territorial conflict in Spain: the European election in Catalonia and Basque Country - © Joanes Andueza / Unsplash

The latest electoral cycle in Spain –the European parliament, general elections and elections in some autonomous communities and in the municipalities – has resulted in a resurgence of traditional social-democracy, under the leadership of Pedro Sánchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).

These elections were marked by a strong polarisation in two respects: the ideological sphere between the right-wing and left-wing fronts and the territorial sphere, especially in Catalonia, between the independentist and unionist parties.

The left, with Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE at the head, emerged as the clear winner in the contest between right and left. Conversely, the same cannot be said on the territorial stage. As has become customary in recent years, the Spanish post-electoral map reflects the diversity in sociological and national terms between Catalonia, the Basque Autonomous Community and the rest of the territory.


Map of the 2019 European election results in Spain

Source: Spanish Interior Ministry.


In the vote count for Spain in general the PSOE was victorious in all the autonomous communities with the exceptions of Catalonia (maroon territory) and the Basque Autonomous Community (green territory), where it was the second and third political force respectively. The party that received the most votes in Catalonia was JxCAT-JUNTS (Catalan conservative and nationalist party), led by former Catalan president Puigdemont currently living in Belgium – as a political exile for some and as a fugitive from justice for others. The PSOE occupied second place, but almost tied with ERC – a Catalan republican and independentist party –, whose leader Oriol Junqueras is currently in prison, where he has been for over a year, accused of leading the Catalan referendum of 1 October 2017. In the Basque Autonomous Community, the vote count of the two winning parties, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and EHBildu – a Basque socialist and independentist party – harvested 55% of the votes.

If we analyse the results in Spain as a whole (see the table below) the total for these four parties ­– JxCAT-JUNTS, ERC, PNV and EHBildu– accounts for 11-13% of the vote. For their part, the Basque Autonomous Community and Catalonia account for 25% of the GDP.

Table showing results for the 2019 European election in Spain

PSOE (Socialist Party)7.359.61733
PP (Conservative Party)4.510.19320
Ciudadanos (Liberal Party)2.726.64212
Podemos-IU (Left-wing Party)2.252.37810
VOX (Extreme right)1.388.6816
JxCAT-JUNTS, ERC, PNV, EHBildu + other small peripheral nationalist parties2.916.16012

Source: Spanish Interior Ministry.


Seeking a solution to the territorial conflict will be one of the main challenges facing the next government in Spain. This issue will also be projected onto the European stage. On one side, there is the Spanish government, which is concerned about Spain’s image abroad; and on the other, the Catalan government, which is interested in internationalising the Catalan cause. Puigdemont and Junqueras taking their seats in the European parliament – or not being able to – and the more than likely arrival of the Catalan cause in the European Court, will force the European institutions to take a position. In this sense, the president of the Basque Autonomous Community, Iñigo Urkullu, has proposed that the European Commission should put together a mechanism for intervention and mediation by the EU to facilitate a negotiated solution to the Catalan conflict that could be used in the future to help resolve any other territorial conflict that might exist within a Member state. While the European institutions arriving at such a point appears to be a complex matter, the policy of silence and inaction on issues like this worsens the EU’s image and the perception that it lacks foresight and coordination. I believe that if the European project continues the EU will at some point have to face the “internal” reconfiguration or even the territorial fragmentation of some Member states. Upcoming events will enable us to see to what degree the EU is prepared to involve itself in such challenging “internal affairs”.

Mikel Erkoreka is researcher of the Ituna Center for Basque Economic Agreement and Fiscal Federalism Studies and lecturer in the Faculties of Law and Economy of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). He got his PhD in History from the UPV/EHU and is graduated in Economics. His main research interest are the Basque Economic Agreement, fiscal federalism, European Union and international taxation.



  • Eureka
  • Opinion

Erkoreka, M. Europe and the territorial conflict in Spain: the European election in Catalonia and Basque Country.

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