Cata­lan leader pressed to de­clare full in­de­pen­dence

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD -

Cata­lan leader made sym­bolic in­de­pen­dence dec­la­ra­tion Madrid has told leader to clar­ify po­si­tion by Mon­day Puigde­mont’s team work­ing on re­sponse to Ra­joy

Cata­lan leader Car­les Puigde­mont came un­der pres­sure from one of his key al­lies on Fri­day to de­clare full in­de­pen­dence and ig­nore a threat of di­rect rule from the Span­ish gov­ern­ment.

Puigde­mont made a sym­bolic dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence on Tues­day night, only to sus­pend it sec­onds later and call for ne­go­ti­a­tions with Madrid.

Spain’s Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy has given him un­til Mon­day to clar­ify his po­si­tion — and then un­til Thurs­day to change his mind if he in­sists on a split — threat­en­ing to sus­pend Cat­alo­nia’s au­ton­omy if he chooses in­de­pen­dence.

But far-left Cata­lan po­lit­i­cal group CUP called on Puigde­mont to make an un­equiv­o­cal dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence in de­fi­ance of the dead­lines.

“If [the cen­tral Madrid gov­ern­ment] wants to con­tinue to threaten and gag us, they should do it to the Repub­lic that has al­ready been claimed,” the party said.

The CUP only holds 10 seats in the 135-seat Cata­lan par­lia­ment. But Puigde­mont’s mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment re­lies on its sup­port to push through leg­is­la­tion and can­not win a ma­jor­ity vote in the re­gional par­lia­ment with­out its back­ing.

The wealthy re­gion’s in­ten­tion to break away af­ter a ref­er­en­dum has plunged Spain into its worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis since an at­tempted mil­i­tary coup in 1981 and could hurt eco­nomic growth tar­gets for next year, the deputy prime min­is­ter said.

“If there were no quick so­lu­tion to this is­sue we should be forced to lower ex­pec­ta­tions of eco­nomic growth for the year 2018,” So­raya Sainz de San­ta­maria said on Fri­day.

The gov­ern­ment ex­pects Spain’s econ­omy to grow 2.6 per­cent in 2018.

The deputy prime min­is­ter also said that ho­tel reser­va­tions in Cat­alo­nia were cur­rently falling 20 to 30 per­cent.

Sources close to the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment said Puigde­mont and his team were work­ing on an an­swer to Ra­joy though they de­clined to say what line he would take.

The CUP state­ment echoes the po­si­tion ex­pressed late on Thurs­day by in­flu­en­tial pro-in­de­pen­dence civic group Asam­blea Na­cional Cata­lana which said: “Given the neg­a­tive po­si­tion of Spain to­ward di­a­logue, we ask the re­gional par­lia­ment to raise the sus­pen­sion [on the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence].”

But the leader of Puigde­mont’s party, Ar­tur Mas, who served as the re­gion’s pres­i­dent un­til 2016 and is still be­lieved to in­flu­ence key de­ci­sions, said on Fri­day declar­ing in­de­pen­dence was not the only way for­ward.

“If a state pro­claims it­self in­de­pen­dent and can­not act as such, it’s an in­de­pen­dence that is merely aes­thetic,” he told Cata­lan tele­vi­sion TV3.

“The ex­ter­nal fac­tor must be taken into ac­count in the de­ci­sions that will be made from now on,” he said.

The Euro­pean Union, the United States and most other world pow­ers have made it clear they wanted Cat­alo­nia to re­main within Spain.

“If we al­low Cat­alo­nia — and it is none of our busi­ness — to sep­a­rate, oth­ers will do the same. I do not want that,” Jean Claude Juncker said in a speech at Lux­em­bourg Univer­sity.

He said he was “very wor­ried” about sep­a­ratist ten­den­cies in Europe and had en­cour­aged Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy to en­sure the sit­u­a­tion was brought un­der con­trol.

Re­fer­ring to Cata­lan calls for EU me­di­a­tion, he said the Com­mis­sion could not me­di­ate if only one side asked it to do so. The EU has said it has con­fi­dence in Ra­joy to re­solve what it sees as an in­ter­nal is­sue.

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