Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

Defenders of Spain's unity fight back

  • In Barcelona. The demonstrations were presented as the response of the "silent majority" against the separatists' activism. (Photo: Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa/dpa)

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated over the weekend in Spain against Catalonia's independence and for a dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona, while pressure is mounting on Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont not to declare independence on Tuesday (10 October).

Between 350,000 and 900,000 people - according to diverging figures from organisers and Catalan authorities - took to the streets of Barcelona on Sunday (8 October), carrying Spanish, Catalan and EU flags.

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The day before, between 50,000 and 150,000 people had demonstrated in Madrid to defend Spain's unity.

The demonstrations were presented as the response of the "silent majority" against the separatists' activism.

In a tweet posted on Sunday evening, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told demonstrators that they are "not alone" and that they all would "preserve the unity of Spain"

Puigdemont is due to address the Catalan parliament on Tuesday about the "current political situation", and many expect him to declare the region's independence as a result of the 1 October referendum.

According to provisional results, the Yes to independence side won with around 90 percent, in a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court and which the Spanish government and the EU do not recognise.

Rajoy warned over the weekend that he would "take any of the decisions that the law allows according to how events progress."

"We are going to stop independence from taking place. As such, I can say to you with complete candour that it is not going to happen," he said in an interview with El Pais newspaper, published on Sunday.

"I am not ruling out anything that the law says," he said. "The ideal situation would be to not have to take drastic solutions, but for that to happen there would have to be rectifications."

The Spanish PM insisted that what happens next "depends fundamentally" on whether Puigdemont will declare independence.

"What is down to the [Catalan] government is to proceed with its annulment and that it never enter into force," he said.

In a TV interview broadcast on Sunday evening, Puigdemont repeated his calls for dialogue with the Spanish government.

He said that he wants to talk "about Catalonia".

"People didn't move and faced police violence for a reform of [Spain's] system of finances," he said, referring to the tax and revenues system between Spain's central states and regions.

"If the [Spanish] state doesn't answer positively, we will do what we came to do," he told TV3, a Catalan public channel.

According to Spanish media, a sentence where Puigdemont added that "the declaration of independence is planned in the referendum law" and he "will apply what is planned in the law" was cut in the final version of the interview.

Symbolic statement

The cut demonstrates mixed thinking within the pro-independence coalition over the next step to take.

Marta Pascal, a regional MP from Puigdemont's Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), told the BBC that the Catalan leader would make a "symbolic statement" on Tuesday.

Pascal said that Puigdemont would recognise the referendum results and commit to seeking independence.

On Sunday, Josep Borrell, a Catalan former president of the European Parliament, called on Puigdemont not to "push the country towards the cliff".

Meanwhile, Colonial and Abertis, a real estate and an infrastructure company, are two of the latest to say that they will move their headquarters outside Catalonia in order to prevent being out of the eurozone - in case of independence or more unrest.

Last week, Catalonia's two main banks, Caixa and Sabadell, as well as companies such as Gas Natural or cava wine producers, took the same decision, putting the Catalan separatist government under pressure.

Catalan separatists under pressure from business

Catalonia's independence plans have come under more pressure from the financial sector, with banks deciding to move their HQ and ratings agencies downgrading the region's notation.

EU urges Spanish and Catalan leaders to talk

MEPs and the European Commission have called on Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont to "sit together" and find a way out of the crisis over the push for the region's independence, and ruled out any mediation.

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