Cata­lan par­lia­ment em­braces Madrid de­fi­ance

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

BARCELONA: Cat­alo­nias par­lia­ment will defy a Span­ish court ban and go ahead on Mon­day with a de­bate that could lead to a dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, a re­gional govern­ment of­fi­cial said as Spain’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in decades looked set to deepen.

“Par­lia­ment will dis­cuss, par­lia­ment will meet. It will be a de­bate, and this is im­por­tant,” the Cata­lan govern­ment’s head of for­eign af­fairs, Raul Romeva, said.

It was the pro- in­de­pen­dence re­gional govern­ment’s first clear re­sponse to a Con- sti­tu­tional Court de­ci­sion on Thurs­day to sus­pend Mon­day’s planned par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, and it raised the prospect of a tough re­sponse from cen­tral govern­ment.

Span­ish Prime Mar­i­ano Ra­joy has of­fered all-party po­lit­i­cal talks to find a so­lu­tion, open­ing the door to a deal giv­ing Cat­alo­nia more au­ton­omy. But he has ruled out in­de­pen­dence and re­jected a Cata­lan pro­posal for in­ter­na­tional me­di­a­tion.

Span­ish rul­ing-party law­mak­ers say Ra­joy is con­sid­er­ing in­vok­ing the con­sti­tu­tion to dis­solve the re­gional par­lia­ment and force fresh Cata­lan elec­tions if the re­gion’s govern­ment goes ahead with an in­de­pen­dence dec­la­ra­tion.

Romeva said that the cri­sis could only be re­solved with pol­i­tics, not via ju­di­cial means.

His re­marks hit Span­ish stocks and bonds, in­clud­ing shares in the re­gion’s two largest banks, Caix­abank and Sabadell.

Sabadell de­cided on Thurs­day to move its le­gal base to Ali­cante. Caix­abank, Spain’s third-largest lender, will con­sider whether to also trans­fer its le­gal base away from Cat­alo­nia, a source said.

The court’s sus­pen­sion or­der fur­ther ag­gra­vated one of the big­gest crises to hit Spain since the es­tab­lish­ment of democ­racy on the 1975 death of Gen­eral Fran­cisco Franco.

Se­ces­sion­ist Cata­lan politi­cians have pledged to uni­lat­er­ally de­clare in­de­pen­dence at Mon­day’s ses­sion af­ter stag­ing an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum on Sun­day. Madrid had banned the vote and sought to thwart it by send­ing in riot po­lice who use ba­tons and rub­ber bul­lets on vot­ers. – Reuters

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