Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis

  • Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont voting in 2015. New regional elections would be considered by the Spanish government as a return to legality. (Photo: president.cat)

Spanish political leaders have called on Catalan separatists to organise regional elections as a way to avoid emergency measures due to be taken on Thursday (19 October).

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy gave Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont until Thursday at 10am to say whether or not he had declared the region's independence last week, when he signed a declaration of independence but said it was suspended.

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If Puigdemont failed to step back from separatist claims, Rajoy warned that he would start applying Article 155 of the Spanish constitution that allows him to "take all measures necessary" to make Catalonia follow Spanish rules.

On Wednesday morning, in the Spanish parliament, Rajoy called on Puigdemont to act with "good judgement" and "balance", otherwise he would be obliged to take measures that "no doubt it would be better not to take."

But later, Rajoy's office told Spanish media that new elections in Catalonia could be considered a return to legality and would suspend any decision on triggering Article 155.

Solution 'in Puigdemont's hands'

The government sources cited by Spanish media explained that there was "a clamour for" Puigdemont to call a regional vote.


They also said that the Spanish government was aware that backing down on the independence declaration would be a humiliation that could not be expected from Puigdemont.

The government's call for elections was seconded by the leader of the opposition, the Socialist Party's Pedro Sanchez.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Sanchez said that he wanted to avoid Article 155 but that the solution was "in Puigdemont's hands", through a new vote.

Also speaking in Brussels, the Catalan minister in charge of foreign affairs Raul Romeva said however that "elections are not on the table."

He said that the region's government has a mandate from the last elections, in 2015, where "1.9 million of Catalans voted for the right to be an independent state."

"Elections from our perspective are not an option," he insisted, while calling for dialogue with the Spanish government.

He pointed out that at the 1 October independence referendum - which Spanish judges aid was illegal - "people voted and the message was very clear: an independent Catalan republic".

"We need to talk about what people want to talk about," he insisted. "There is no other alternative than a negotiated solution."

Waiting for a 'concrete project'

Independence "is our proposal", he said, adding that the Spanish proposal was "repression, and judiciarisation" and that Catalan separatists were waiting for "a concrete project"

"When you go to a negotiation, everybody puts on the table their demands," he said.

"Negotiations start, and something sometimes comes out of a negotiation. The result of the negotiations should come after the negotiations, not before," he added. 



But he declined to say clearly whether his government wanted to negotiate independence or a better status for Catalonia.

Romeva said that the crisis would have "effects" on the EU, and that it was "common sense" to assume that it will be discussed between EU leaders at their summit in Thursday and Friday.

EU sources have said so far that Catalonia will be discussed by the 28 leaders only if Rajoy wishes to do so.

"It's an important issue for the EU, but not one that the EU should address," a diplomat said on Wednesday.

Discussions between Rajoy and EU leaders on the margins of the summit are likely, however.

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.

Catalan leader postpones independence

Carles Puigdemont said that Catalonia "has won the right to be independent" but suspended any unilateral declaration of independence in a plea for dialogue.

Catalan MPs weigh independence declaration

A crucial week is ahead in Catalonia as its leaders decide whether to declare independence - an illegal move according to the Spanish government – or yield to pressure from Madrid.

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