Friday

20th Apr 2018

Spain and Catalonia reach point of no return

  • Independence supporters were asking Catalan leaders and deputies to unilaterally declare the region's independence. (Photo: Paco Freire/SOPA via ZUMA Wire/dpa)

Twenty-six days after a referendum which the Spanish prime minister said "did not happen", Spain has now reached the stage where Catalonia has declared independence and the Spanish state will apply emergency powers to maintain its integrity.

On Friday afternoon (27 October), the Catalan parliament adopted a resolution that declared the creation of an "independent sovereign, democratic and social state".

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  • The parliament took "a step that was widely awaited and fought for," Carles Puigdemont said. (Photo: parlament.cat)

The unilateral declaration of independence was adopted by just over a half of the region's deputies, as three opposition parties - the centre-right Popular Party and Ciudadanos and the Socialist Party - left the house in protest before the vote.

In a tense atmosphere, with thousands of independence supporters outside the parliament, and some remaining deputies displaying Catalan and Spanish flags on the parliament's benches, the vote was called as a secret ballot at the last minute.

The resolution declaring independence was adopted by 70 votes, 10 against and two blank votes - 135 deputies usually sit in the parliament.

"Today, the parliament of our country, legitimate and issued from the elections of the 27 September [2015], has taken a step that was widely awaited and fought for," Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said after the vote.

He insisted that Catalan should maintain "peace, civility and dignity", even if the showdown with the Spanish government is set to escalate on Saturday.

On Friday, minutes after the vote in the Catalan parliament, the Spanish senate approved the measures proposed by the government to "restore legality in Catalonia" under article 155 of the constitution.

The measures, which will enter into force on Saturday, include the dismissal of Puigdemont and other regional officials, the dissolution of the Catalan parliament to call new elections, and control over the region's finances and police forces.

"Exceptional measures should only be adopted when no other remedy is possible," Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told senators on Friday morning.

'No alternative'

He said that there was "no alternative" after Puigdemont refused on Thursday to organise fresh elections as a way to solve the crisis.

"The only thing that can be done and should be done is to accept and comply with the law," Rajoy insisted.

Rajoy called an extraordinary meeting of his cabinet at 6PM, to discuss the next steps.


In a message on Twitter, he called on "all Spaniards" to stay "calm".

In Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk said also on Twitter that the declaration of independence changed "nothing" for the EU and that Spain "remains [its] only interlocutor."

But he warned the Rajoy against the use of force, saying that his government should favour "the force of argument".

"As you know, Catalans always favour the force of arguments," Puigdemont replied on social media.

The European Commission did not react officially but a spokeswoman said that it had "nothing to add" to its usual position saying that the crisis is a Spanish internal issue.

Earlier this week, the EU executive chief Jean-Claude Juncker said however that Catalans were "not being oppressed by Spain" and that "nationalism is a poison that prevents Europe from acting together."

The German government said that it does not recognise Catalonia's independence, which it says "violates" the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. It said that "all existing possibilities for dialogue and de-escalation" should be used.

Rajoy "has my full support," French president Emmanuel Macron said in French Guyana.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel called on the crisis to be "solved through dialogue."

In a statement, the US said that "Catalonia is an integral part of Spain" and that it "supports the Spanish government's constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united."

'A disaster'

In Catalonia, critical voices were raised.

 Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau said that she opposed article 155 but was also against the declaration of independence. "It's a disaster," she said on Twitter.

In a post on Facebook, she said that she wanted to defend "social cohesion and the prosperity" of Barcelona and Catalonia and participate in the creation of a "new, more democratic, stage for autonomy."

In Madrid, the leader of the Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, condemned the "separatist drift" and said that Puigdemont and his deputy Oriol Junqueras were "the main persons responsible for the breakup in the Catalan society."

Pablo Iglesias, from the radical left Podemos party, said that the declaration of independence was "illegitimate" and that it "favours the strategy" of Rajoy's Popular Party, which he does not support.

Madrid and Barcelona on collision course

After last minute talks failed, the Catalan parliament could declare independence on Friday, while the Spanish senate is set to vote in favour of suspending Catalonia's autonomy.

Catalan leader spurns regional elections

Carles Puigdemont has rejected calls for elections in Catalonia, and put the blame for the continuing deadlock on the Spanish government's "irresponsibility".

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.

EU 'embarrassed' by Catalan 'taboo'

Faced with the growing tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments, the member states and EU institutions would prefer not to get involved.

Agenda

Catalonia and Nordic Council on agenda This Week

All eyes will be on Barcelona and Madrid as the Spanish government will try to stop Catalan separatists. Meanwhile Nordic countries will meet to discuss regional issues like the future of the Arctic.

Spain 'takes back control' of Catalan government

Three days after Madrid adopted measures to counter Catalonia's unrecognised declaration of independence, the question is whether the Catalan ministers will show up to work and who the civil servants will take orders from.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

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