Thu, Oct 12, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Spanish PM demands clarity from Catalonia president

AP, MADRID

A Catalan pro-independence leaflet saying “solidarity is the weapon of the people” lays on the ground after being thrown by protesters outside the Spanish embassy in Athens, Greece, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy yesterday demanded that the Catalan leader clarify whether he has declared independence, issuing a veiled threat that the central government could limit or rescind the region’s autonomy if he has.

Rajoy said that the Catalan government’s response would be crucial in deciding “events over the coming days.”

It is the first time that Rajoy has openly said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution would be the next step taken by the government if Catalan authorities do not backtrack.

He said the government “wants to offer certainty to citizens” and that it is “necessary to return tranquility and calm.”

Rajoy issued the demand following a special Cabinet meeting to respond to an announcement from Catalan President Carles Puigdemont that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, but was suspending it for several weeks to facilitate negotiations.

Opposition Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said that Spain’s two main political parties agreed to renegotiate laws governing autonomy.

He said that a deal was reached with Rajoy to open talks in six months on reforming the constitution that would allow changes to the setup governing Spain’s 17 regions, including Catalonia.

Sanchez said that his party wanted the reform to “allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain,” and that the socialists were backing Rajoy’s call for clarification from Puigdemont.

In a highly anticipated speech on Tuesday night, Puigdemont said the landslide victory in a disputed Oct. 1 referendum gave his government in the regional capital, Barcelona, the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.

However, he proposed that the regional parliament suspend the effects of the declaration to commence a dialogue and help reduce tension, in what is Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

The central government in Madrid has given little indication it is willing to talk, saying it did not accept the declaration and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria late on Tuesday said that the Catalan leader “doesn’t know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go.”

Puigdemont had put Catalonia “in the greatest level of uncertainty seen yet,” she added.

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution allows the central government to take some or total control of any of its 17 regions if they do not comply with their legal obligations.

This would begin with a Cabinet meeting and a warning to the regional government to fall into line. Then, the Senate could be called to approve the measure.

Rajoy’s government had repeatedly refused to grant Catalonia permission to hold a referendum on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, since it would only poll a portion of Spain’s 46 million residents.

Catalonia’s separatist camp has grown in recent years, strengthened by Spain’s economic crisis and by Madrid’s rejection of attempts to increase self-rule in the region.

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