Spanish PM Asks Catalonia: Have You Declared Independence Or Not?

Spanish PM Asks Catalonia: Have You Declared Independence Or Not?
October 11 21:22 2017 Print This Article

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has asked the Catalan government to clarify whether or not it has declared independence, as he considers the unprecedented step of suspending the region’s autonomy and imposing direct rule from Madrid.

On Tuesday evening, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, said while the referendum this month had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign republic, he would not immediately push ahead with independence from Spain.

Although he signed a declaration of independence, he proposed that its effects be suspended for a few weeks to allow for dialogue.

Rajoy, who has refused to rule out invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take control of Catalonia, was quick to seize on the ambiguity of Puigdemont’s position, accusing him of deliberately sowing confusion.

The prime minister also rejected calls for external mediation between the two governments, insisting the Catalan question remained a domestic matter.

“The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally require the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared independence after the deliberate confusion created over whether it has come into effect,” he said in a television address on Wednesday.

“This request, which comes before any of the measures that the government could adopt under article 155 of our constitution, is meant to offer our citizens the clarity and security that such an important issue requires.”

 

Despite growing pressure from domestic political parties, the Spanish government has made it clear it will not sit down and talk to its Catalan counterpart until the latter drops all talk of independence.

If independence is declared, Madrid could reach for article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the government to take control of an autonomous region that “does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”.

Invocation of 155 is seen as a last resort, and would throw Spain and the EU into uncharted territory.

Senior European commission officials have so far ruled out intervening, insisting the crisis is an internal Spanish matter. The use of the article could change their minds and trigger mediation efforts.

One thing is certain: with tensions high after the polling day violence and thousands of police officers still deployed to the region, any show of force from the Spanish state will trigger massive demonstrations.

 

“The Catalan president’s answer to these questions will inform what happens over the next few days,” he said. “If Mr Puigdemont demonstrates a willingness to respect the law and re-establish institutional normality, we could bring a close to a period of instability, tension and the breakdown of co-existence.

“That is what everyone wants and expects; it’s what they’ve been demanding. We must put an urgent end to the situation in Catalonia. There must be a return to normality and calm as swiftly as possible.”

Speaking later on Wednesday, Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), urged Puigdemont to “be black and white” about whether independence had been declared but offered a possible way out of the crisis.

If independence had been declared, said Sánchez, then the PSOE would back the actions of the Spanish government. But he also said that he and Rajoy had agreed that there should be a commission to examine the possibility of changing the way the country’s autonomous regions are governed through constitutional reform.

The idea, Sánchez added, was to find a formula to “allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain”. While talks on the matter will not begin for six months – meaning there is still ample scope to apply article 155 – the move could go some way to showing that negotiations are possible if Puigdemont backs away from independence. It also shows that Rajoy and Sánchez are increasingly united in the face of the secessionist threat.

 

In an address to parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Rajoy described the referendum as an “illegal and fraudulent” act, dismissed Puigdemont’s independence plans as a “fairytale” and said Spain would resolve the standoff on its own.

He was adamant that there could be no discussion of Spain’s national unity as laid out in the constitution.

“That’s something that the many mediators who have offered themselves over recent days should bear in mind,” he said.

“Most of them have offered to help in good faith to find a way out of this situation. I can only thank them for their concern and their interest. But there is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience or illegality.”

He has repeatedly pointed out that the referendum and the laws underpinning it are a violation of the Spanish constitution, which is based “on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”.

[Guardian UK]

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