Catalans drafting declaration of independence
Catalan secessionists are working towards a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain that could be adopted next week in defiance of a court order and increased economic pressure from Madrid.
After Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended a session of the Catalan regional parliament set for Monday, which had been expected to endorse an independence declaration, the parliament said the region’s pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont would address the assembly on Wednesday.
Madrid apologised for the first time yesterday for police use of violence in trying to hinder a referendum it had declared illegal. The crackdown raised the temperature of a confrontation that has grown into the worst political crisis for decades in Spain.
A Catalan legislator was quoted by El Mundo newspaper as saying secessionist parties in the Catalan parliament were discussing an independence declaration to be submitted to the assembly next Wednesday. ‘‘We are in talks about a text, with paper and pencil, on the declaration that we want the regional parliament to accept,’’ said Carles Riera, a lawmaker from the pro-independence CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy).
The Catalan region’s head of foreign affairs, Raul Romeva, told the BBC earlier that the Catalan parliament intended to make a decision on independence, without specifying when.
The Spanish government stepped up the economic pressure on the Catalan government yesterday by passing a law to make it easier for companies to move their operations around the country, potentially dealing a blow to the region’s finances.
Within hours of the government’s move, CaixaBank, Spain’s third-biggest lender and Catalonia’s biggest company, said its board had decided to move its registered office to Valencia ‘‘in light of the current political and social situation in Catalonia’’.
Catalonia-based utility Gas Natural said its board had decided to move its registered office to Madrid for as long as the legal uncertainty continued. They joined other Catalonia-based companies that announced plans this week to move their registered offices elsewhere in Spain.
Spain made a conciliatory gesture in apologising for last Sunday’s referendum violence, where Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to stop people voting. The scenes brought worldwide condemnation and fanned separatist feeling but failed to prevent what the Catalan government described as an overwhelming ‘‘yes’’ vote.
‘‘When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who was hospitalised, I can’t help but regret it and apologise on behalf of the officers that intervened,’’ said Enric Millo, the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia.
The apology came after Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia quoted sources in Puigdemont’s party as saying a unilateral declaration of independence could be delayed if Madrid made a ‘‘gesture’’, such as withdrawing some Spanish police reinforcements from the region.
Artur Mas, a former head of the Catalan government who was barred from public office for two years in March for staging an informal independence referendum in 2014, told the Financial Times that the region had yet to lay the groundwork for ‘‘real independence’’.
He said there was a debate among Catalan leaders about whether now was the right time to unilaterally declare independence.
Amid calls from many groups, including the Barcelona football club, for a mediated solution to the standoff, Swiss state broadcaster RTS said neutral Switzerland was ready to help forge a dialogue between the Spanish government and Catalonia. The foreign ministry said Switzerland was in touch with Spain and Catalonia but conditions for talks were not yet ripe.
Puigdemont has called for international mediation to find a way out of the impasse. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has offered all-party political talks, opening the door to a deal giving Catalonia more autonomy, but only if the Catalan government gives up any independence ambitions.
Spanish ruling-party lawmakers say Rajoy is considering invoking the Spanish constitution to dissolve the Catalan parliament and force fresh elections if the region’s government goes ahead with an independence declaration.
A supporter of Spanish unity walks past graffiti in the Catalan town of Sabadell asking the European Union to help resolve the split between Catalonia and the Spanish government.