Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Catalan leader postpones independence

  • Carles Puigdemont arriving at the Catalan Parliament. He said there was now "a mandate from the people to make Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic." (Photo: parlament.cat)

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said that the region "has won the right to be independent", but stopped short of unilaterally declaring secession from Spain in a plea for dialogue.

"The ballot boxes, the only language we understand, say yes to independence. And this is the route I am committed to traveling," he told the Catalan parliament on Tuesday (10 October), in a much awaited speech nine days after the 1 October independence referendum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Arriving at this historic moment," he said, "I take it upon myself to say ... that the people have determined that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic."

He added, however, that he would ask the Catalan parliament to "suspend" the declaration of independence "so that in the coming weeks we may begin a dialogue without which it is impossible to arrive at an agreed solution."

"We must keep [the referendum's] results in mind during the period of dialogue which we are willing to open," he said, adding that this was "a gesture of responsibility" from his government "to de-escalate tension".

The Catalan leader, together with 61 deputies from his Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) coalition and 10 deputies from the far-left CUP party, later signed a declaration of independence. But no deadline was set for the implementation of the text.

Puigdemont was under pressure from Catalan, Spanish, and European politicians not to unilaterally declare Catalonia's independence on the basis of a referendum that was considered as illegal by Spain and the EU.

"I ask you to respect - in your intentions - the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make … dialogue impossible," European Council president Donald Tusk has said in a speech in Brussels moments before Puigdemont's address.

Earlier in the day, the Green leader in the European Parliament, Ska Keller, had called on the Catalan leader to "reconsider" his intention to declare independence.


She said that despite being "a strong supporters of the right to decide for Catalans", she thought it would be a "huge mistake."

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who had been an ally of Puigdemont over the referendum, had also said on Monday that the vote could not be considered as "an endorsement to proclaim independence".

Since the 1 October referendum, the EU has made clear that an independent Catalonia would not be part of the EU, several companies decided to or were considering moving their headquarters out of Catalonia, and fewer tourists were coming to the region.

'A European affair'

While suspending any declaration of independence, Puigdemont batted the ball into the court of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, as well as of the EU.

"Far from being an internal and domestic affair, Catalonia is a European issue," he said.

He pointed out that eight Nobel prize winners and many other personalities have called for dialogue.

 He added that there was "a prayer for dialogue which runs through Europe."

He called on the Spanish government to "renounce repression" and to "listen, not to us if they don't want to, but to those who advocate for mediation."

He also called on the EU "to get deeply involved" and "hold up the fundamental values of the Union."

Puigdemont's speech, which was due at 6PM, started an hour later because of last-minute talks. The CUP, a far left independist party that supports the ruling coalition, was said to be unhappy about some parts of the speech.

A rumour was that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was on the phone with the Catalan leader, but the Commission quickly denied that, saying it was "fake news".

In his speech in Brussels, Tusk said that he has asked Rajoy to look for dialogue, "because the force of arguments is always better than the argument of force."

'Implicit' declaration

Puigdemont's failure to explictely declare independence triggered some criticism fro his CUP ally, which asked for a deadline of "more or less a month" before implementing independence.

On Tuesday evening, the Spanish government rejected what it said was an "implicit declaration of independence".



"Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim to impose mediation," deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in the evening. "Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law,"

Rajoy met the leader of the opposition, Pedro Sanchez from the Socialist Party, to discuss the next steps.

A ministers' meeting was called at 9AM on Wednesday, where Rajoy will decide whether to trigger Article 155 of the constitution, the clause that allows him to suspend Catalonia's autonomy.

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.

Spanish PM opens small window for talks

Rajoy opened up to a possible reform of Spain's regional system, while threatening to suspend Catalonia's autonomy if the region's leaders confirm Wednesday's declaration of independence.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No further Brexit talks planned, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us