19th Mar 2018

Spain's PM appeals to court over Catalan independence

  • "We need restraint, moderation and common sense," said Spanish PM Rajoy. (Photo: María Dolores de Cospedal)

The Spanish government and Catalan authorities took a step further on Friday (28 July), in their showdown ahead of an independence referendum planned for 1 October in Catalonia.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy announced that he would appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal against a text, passed in the Catalan parliament earlier this week, which would facilitate the adoption of a bill to organise the referendum.

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The government "is ensuring legality, and the defence of Catalan institutions and their functioning," Rajoy said in a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

The reform of the parliament's rules, passed by Catalan MPs on Tuesday, allows a political group to push a bill through an emergency single reading, reducing the time for debates and the possibilities for amendments.

A draft referendum bill was presented early July, which says the parliament would declare Catalonia's independence "within two days" if voters opt for it on 1 October.

The Catalan parliament's reform would "liquidate national sovereignty," Rajoy said on Friday.

He decided to appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal after the Council of State, an advisory body, said that there was enough "legal ground to appeal over unconstitutionality".

Rajoy also insisted that the referendum "will not take place", because the Constitutional Tribunal already said, last year, that it would be illegal.

But last month, Catalan leader Puigdemont told EUobserver and a group of journalists that "nothing will stop" the vote from taking place.

On Friday, while Rajoy was deciding to go to the Constitutional Tribunal, the Catalan parliament continued to prepare for the possibility of independence and adopted a fiscal code to create a Catalan tax administration.

On Monday, the parties of the Catalan ruling coalition, Junt per si and CUP, are expected to officially table the referendum bill, which could be adopted under the new rule in a parliament session on 6 September.

"We need to go back to normality and, for that, the Catalan government must hear that it cannot announce to everyone that it wants to liquidate the law," Rajoy said in his press conference.

"We need restraint, moderation and common sense," he said, adding that the government would defend the law "with serenity and restraint."

Last week, the Spanish government announced that Catalonia's public accounts would be monitored to ensure that no public money is used to organise the referendum and that civil servants do not participate organising it.

In recent days, the Guardia Civil, the Spanish law enforcement agency, also questioned Catalan officials as part of an investigation over sedition, perversion of justice and embezzlement.

Asked about the growing tensions, a European Commission spokeswoman told journalists on Thursday that the EU executive does not "comment or get involved in such national ongoing proceedings."

This article was corrected on Friday at 16.50. It originally said that the reform of the Catalan parliament procedure would facilitate a vote to declare independence, whereas in fact it would facilitate the adoption of the bill calling for the independence referendum.


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