Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Separatist 'win' does not change EU view on Catalonia

  • Catalan protesters in Brussels earlier this month, when tens of thousands made the trip in support of ousted leader Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed 'exile' in Belgium (Photo: EUobserver)

The success of separatist parties at regional elections in Catalonia on Thursday (21 December) does not change the EU's stance on the region's conflict with Spain.

"Our position on the question of Catalonia is well known and has been regularly restated, at all levels. It will not change," EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said, according to news agency AFP.

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  • Ciutudans leader Ines Arrimadas said she will try to form a coalition, but she will need support from pro-independence parties (Photo: Ciudadanos/Flickr)

"In relation to a regional election, we have no comment to make," he added.

Pro-separatist parties gained a majority of seats at Thursday's election, although anti-separatist party Ciutadans (Citizens) actually came out of the vote as the largest party.

With 99.89 percent of the votes counted, the three pro-independence parties Junts per Catalunya list (JxCat, Together for Catalonia), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), acquired a majority of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional chamber.

JxCat of the self-exiled former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont received 34 seats, just ahead of ERC, which won 32 seats.

In the previous elections, JxCat and ERC ran as an alliance, and won 62 seats – four less than they now did separately.

The far-left separatist party CUP shrunk from ten seats to four seats.

Ciutadans, which is the regional branch of the centrist, relatively new, Ciudadanos party, won the most seats: 37, up from 25.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) received a blow, dropping from eleven to just three seats in the regional chamber.

"The Spanish state has been defeated, the independence movement has won. This is a majority that wants a referendum," said Puigdemont on Thursday, at a speech in Brussels.

"The republic of Catalonia has won," he added.

The regional elections had been called by the Spanish central government after Puigdemont and his Catalan government went ahead with an independence referendum that was deemed illegal by Spain's highest court.

The referendum vote was marred with police violence, and because of the chaos it was difficult to know to what extent it reflected the wishes of the 7.5 million citizens of the northeastern semi-autonomous Spanish region.

But the independence movement hailed it as a victory, saying that 90 percent had voted for independence. Turnout was 43 percent in the referendum.

Catalan regional leaders had asked the EU to intervene and mediate the conflict, but the European commission and the 27 other government leaders viewed the issue an internal Spanish matter.

Following continued tensions between Barcelona and Madrid, Rajoy triggered an article from Spain's constitution which sidelined the regional leaders and called for elections.

Thursday's vote saw more Catalans show up than before: turnout was almost 82 percent, up from almost 75 percent in 2015.

Rajoy had wanted the elections to put an end to the political turmoil, but the spat is likely to continue into the new year.

Ciutadans leader Ines Arrimadas said that she will try to form a coalition. That will be difficult, given that the anti-independence party would need the support of pro-independence parties to govern.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Rajoy and Puigdemont in new showdown

The Spanish PM and Catalan separatist leader said they were open to dialogue, but on different grounds, after Thursday's elections in Catalonia gave a majority of seats to the pro-independence parties.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

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