Last week's referendum has brought new tensions to Europe.

The European markets shook this week, as last weekend Catalonia, an autonomous area comprising four provinces in northeastern Spain, held a referendum and voted in support of its independence from Spain. This week we would take a look at what happened and also where that leaves us now.

To begin with, the political status of Catalonia has long been a pressing concern on the Iberian peninsula. The region has long claimed it is a distinct nation, owing to historical evidence that up to the 16th century, it used to be separate from Spain. In modern history, Catalonia has fought for its independence all throughout the 20th century: it first received a status as an autonomous region within Spain in 1932, which was taken away during Franco’s rule. The autonomous status of Catalonia was restored in the 1970s when Spain returned to democratic rule. Catalans are allowed to speak their own language and have their own government, though officially it is subordinate to the Spanish government.

Over the last few years tensions regarding Catalan nationality have risen, culminating in last week’s referendum. Spain is naturally opposed to losing land and people which have been part of its territory over the last five centuries. Catalonia also happens to be a fairly rich territory. In general, if Catalonia declares independence, this would be perceived by Spanish authorities as an attempt to disrupt Spain’s territorial integrity and could even lead to (civil) war.

Is Catalonia independent? Right now, no. The referendum’s goal was to assess whether the Catalan population wants to be independent from Spain. They voted 90% in favor, but it is up to the Catalan government to decide whether to act on this vote or not. The referendum itself caused violent clashes with the Spanish police, so the Catalan authorities might bide their time, working out a way to avoid future conflict. The Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has spoken about involving international diplomats to help hold peaceful negotiations.

Naturally, the seriousness of this situation has caused ripples through the financial markets. Spanish stocks lost 2.7% this week, while banks that are based in Barcelona (the capital of Catalonia) were a whole 7% down. Spanish bonds have also decreased.

So, what happens now? Some analysts believe that Catalonia is not fully prepared for independence, in terms of its political organs and readiness for policy making. The region has relied on Spain, and by extension, the European Union for many of its day-to-day activities, so severing that relationship will be hard. If Catalonia declared independence without Spain’s approval, it would find itself in a tight spot. Spain’s economy will also suffer immensely, and future clashes and protests will hinder business activity. Investors could give up on Spanish assets altogether, which could plunge the government into a recession.

It is more likely that there will be a negotiation, which could win Catalonia additional levels of control over its activities, but would still not be a complete independence from Spain.

Because of the current protests and blocked roads, it has been impossible for some businesses to operate as usual. If things continue to be so chaotic and uncertain, Spain’s economic growth would stall.

Right now all eyes are on the Iberian Peninsula. If the King of Spain agrees to meet for peaceful negotiations, the pressure would ease off Spanish assets. However, if Catalonia moves ahead and declares independence, we could see a new crisis in Spain, and consequently Europe.