US newspaper The New York Times believes that "the [Catalan] independence movement is not going away". In an article, they say that the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, didn't worry about the independence movement until the Catalan Parliament declared independence in October: "Before then, Mr. Rajoy seemed to hope that the problem would eventually fade".
The newspaper bases their thesis on the results of the 21st December election in which pro-independence parties won the majority of seats in the new Parliament. Moreover, they add that "Spain is staring at a festering, long-term conflict, (...) driven by emboldened separatists whose demands could now be harder than ever to ignore".
The Times reports comments made by president Carles Puigdemont from Brussels on election night that "As a minimum, we’ve won the right to be listened to. (...) Whether you like or not the topic, you have to have a dialogue".
"Yet even now Mr. Rajoy seems reluctant to take an approach to the Catalan crisis any different from the one that has pushed Spain nearly to the point of fracturing", says the paper, noting that, despite the pro-independence victory, the Spanish prime minister "chose to emphasize the success of the anti-secessionist party, Cuidadanos".
The article says that Thursday's results mean that "Mr. Rajoy’s party will no doubt face a stronger challenge from its rival [Ciudadanos] to be seen as the main flag bearer for Spanish unity". The conclude that "even if the separatist parties bury their recent disagreements to form a new coalition government in January, Mr. Rajoy could reapply his emergency powers and extend direct rule over Catalonia, if he judges that the new Catalan administration is set to violate the Constitution".