Madrid threat­ens to sus­pend Cat­alo­nia au­ton­omy in cri­sis

Spain vows ‘all op­tions’ open in cri­sis talks

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MADRID: Spain threat­ened yes­ter­day to sus­pend Cat­alo­nia’s au­ton­omy if it fol­lows through on its threat to break away as an in­de­pen­dent coun­try. Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy has vowed to do ev­ery­thing in his power to pre­vent Cata­lan se­ces­sion fol­low­ing a banned ref­er­en­dum in the re­gion, which re­mains deeply di­vided over in­de­pen­dence. He held an emer­gency cab­i­net meet­ing after Cat­alo­nia’s pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont an­nounced on Tues­day that he had ac­cepted the man­date for “Cat­alo­nia to be­come an in­de­pen­dent state.”

Ra­joy asked the Cata­lan leader to clar­ify whether he had ac­tu­ally de­clared in­de­pen­dence, which could trig­ger moves by Madrid to sus­pend the re­gion’s semi­au­tonomous sta­tus. The Cata­lan cri­sis is Spain’s most se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal emer­gency since its re­turn to democ­racy four decades ago. World lead­ers are watch­ing closely and un­cer­tainty over the fate of the re­gion of 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple has dam­aged busi­ness con­fi­dence.

Puigde­mont said the ref­er­en­dum had given him a man­date for in­de­pen­dence but im­me­di­ately asked re­gional law­mak­ers to sus­pend the dec­la­ra­tion to al­low for ne­go­ti­a­tions with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. “The cab­i­net agreed this morn­ing to for­mally ask the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment to con­firm whether it de­clared in­de­pen­dence,” he said in a tele­vised ad­dress after emer­gency cab­i­net talks. “The an­swer from the Cata­lan pres­i­dent will de­ter­mine fu­ture events, in the next few days,” Ra­joy said.

“The gov­ern­ment wants to of­fer cer­tainty to Spa­niards, es­pe­cially Cata­lans. It wants to avoid the con­fu­sion that has been gen­er­ated by Cata­lan au­thor­i­ties.” Ra­joy could choose to trig­ger con­sti­tu­tion ar­ti­cle 155, which al­lows Madrid to im­pose con­trol over its de­volved re­gions-a move many fear could lead to un­rest. The leader of the op­po­si­tion So­cial­ist Party, Pe­dro Sanchez, said mean­while that his side and the gov­ern­ment had agreed to study a pos­si­ble con­sti­tu­tional re­form” to try to end the cri­sis. The de­bate would fo­cus on “how Cat­alo­nia re­mains in Spain, and not how it leaves,” Sanchez told re­porters.

‘De­struc­tive force’

While sep­a­ratist lead­ers say 90 per­cent of vot­ers opted to split from Spain in the Oc­to­ber plebiscite, less than half of the re­gion’s el­i­gi­ble vot­ers ac­tu­ally turned out. The drive to break Cat­alo­nia away from Spain has raised con­cern for sta­bil­ity in a Euro­pean Union still com­ing to terms with Bri­tain’s shock de­ci­sion to leave the bloc. The EU yes­ter­day urged “full re­spect of the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tional or­der,” with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion vice-pres­i­dent Valdis Dom­brovskis say­ing the bloc was fol­low­ing devel­op­ments “closely”.

Crowds of thou­sands gath­ered out­side the par­lia­ment build­ing in Barcelona on Tues­day ahead of Puigde­mont’s speech, wav­ing Cata­lan flags and ban­ners and scream­ing “democ­racy” in the hope of wit­ness­ing his­tory in the mak­ing. But Spain’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment rounded on Puigde­mont fol­low­ing his dec­la­ra­tion, and sup­port among sep­a­ratists in Cat­alo­nia was mixed. Barcelona res­i­dent Maria Rosa Ber­tran said she was against a de­layed se­ces­sion, which meant “suf­fer­ing a longer agony. In­de­ci­sion and un­cer­tainty is the worst thing that can hap­pen to us,” she said. The gov­ern­ment stuck to its stance that it would not ac­cept me­di­a­tion or any talks un­til Cata­lan lead­ers drop their in­de­pen­dence bid. “Nei­ther Mr Puigde­mont, nor any­one, can ex­pect to im­pose me­di­a­tion with­out re­turn­ing to le­gal­ity or democ­racy,” Deputy Prime Min­is­ter So­raya Saenz de San­ta­maria told re­porters on Tues­day. She said Puigde­mont was “a per­son who doesn’t know where he is, where he’s go­ing or with whom he wants to go”. Un­known con­se­quences

Fol­low­ing his dec­la­ra­tion to par­lia­ment, Puigde­mont and his al­lies signed an in­de­pen­dence dec­la­ra­tion out­side the cham­ber, but its le­gal va­lid­ity was un­clear. Re­gional gov­ern­ment spokesman Jordi Tu­rull said the dec­la­ra­tion was “a sym­bolic act”, adding that any of­fi­cial de­ci­sion would need to be de­cided by the Cata­lan par­lia­ment. Madrid has con­sis­tently said in­de­pen­dence is not up for dis­cus­sion. “I did not ex­pect in­de­pen­dence to be de­clared to­day be­cause of all the pro­cesses that the gov­ern­ment of Spain has be­gun, both with po­lice ac­tions and with threats,” Marc Cazes, a stu­dent in Barcelona, said on Tues­day.

Po­lice vi­o­lence against vot­ers dur­ing the ref­er­enudm vote sparked in­ter­na­tional con­cern. The cri­sis has caused deep un­cer­tainty for busi­nesses in one of the wealth­i­est re­gions in the euro-zone’s fourth-largest econ­omy. A string of com­pa­nies have al­ready moved their le­gal head­quar­ters-but not their em­ploy­ees-from Cat­alo­nia to other parts of the coun­try.

The Span­ish stock mar­ket was up 1.4 per­cent by mid­day on hopes for a break­through in the cri­sis. De­mands for in­de­pen­dence in Cat­alo­nia, one of Spain’s 17 semi­au­tonomous re­gions which has its own lan­guage and cul­tural tra­di­tions, date back cen­turies. But a 2010 move by Spain’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court to wa­ter down a statute that gave Cat­alo­nia ad­di­tional pow­ers, com­bined with a deep eco­nomic melt­down in Spain, sparked a surge in sup­port for in­de­pen­dence.

Prime Min­is­ter vows to pre­vent Cata­lan se­ces­sion


MADRID: Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy ar­rives at the par­lia­ment in Madrid yes­ter­day in Madrid. Spain threat­ened to sus­pend Cat­alo­nia’s au­ton­omy if it fol­lows through on its threat to break away as an independent coun­try.

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