Is Spain head­ing for civil war?

Rifkind: Stand-off over Cat­alo­nia’s fu­ture is big­gest cri­sis since WW2

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - Politics - By Kieran An­drews KANDREWS@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Cat­alo­nia is best known for foot­ball, cul­ture and city breaks in its cap­i­tal city of Barcelona.

But the wealthy Span­ish re­gion has now found it­self in a stand-off de­scribed by a for­mer British For­eign Sec­re­tary as West­ern Europe’s worst cri­sis of the post­war era.

The Cata­lan Par­lia­ment for­mally passed a dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence on Fri­day, prompt­ing Spain to im­pose di­rect rule on the re­gion and re­move its lead­ers.

Car­les Puigde­mont, Cat­alo­nia’s sacked Pres­i­dent, yes­ter­day called for peace­ful op­po­si­tion to the Madrid takeover. His staged ap­pear­ance sug­gested he was re­fus­ing to ac­cept his dis­missal.

For­mer UK For­eign Sec­re­tary Sir Mal­com Rifkind warned the sit­u­a­tion in Spain could spi­ral out of con­trol.

The ex-Ed­in­burgh MP said: “We should be un­der no il­lu­sions, this is the worst cri­sis that West­ern Europe has faced since the Sec­ond World War.”

He added: “Over the next month the Span­ish Gov­ern­ment, hav­ing dis­missed the Cata­lan Gov­ern­ment, has to im­pose its au­thor­ity.

“The Cata­lan sep­a­ratists are a mi­nor­ity in Cat­alo­nia but some of them will fight back and the risk is some form of Span­ish civil war.”

The na­tional par­lia­ment in Madrid ap­proved un­prece­dented con­sti­tu­tional mea­sures after the Barcelona par­lia­ment’s uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence.

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy, who now re­places Mr Car­les Puigde­mont as the top de­ci­sion-maker in the north­east­ern re­gion, has also dis­solved the re­gional par­lia­ment and called a new re­gional elec­tion to be held on De­cem­ber 21.

But Mr Puigde­mont said in a brief state­ment that ap­peared to be pre-recorded that “we will con­tinue work­ing to build a free coun­try”.

Spain’s La Sexta TV chan­nel si­mul­ta­ne­ously showed live footage of him eat­ing lunch in a bar in cen­tral Girona, his home town, oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­rupted by res­i­dents who asked him to pose for self­ies. Nei­ther Mr Puigde­mont or his 12-strong Cabi­net will be paid fol­low­ing Madrid’s an­nounce­ment and they could be charged with usurp­ing their re­place­ments’ func­tions.

Some among Cat­alo­nia’s roughly 200,000 civil ser­vants have said they will refuse to com­ply with the Span­ish Gov­ern­ment. Josep Lluís Trap­ero, head of the re­gional po­lice has so far been the only se­nior of­fi­cial to say he will obey Madrid’s or­ders.

Mr Ra­joy has said the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence “not only goes against the law but is a crim­i­nal act”.

It is not clear, how­ever, if his at­tempt to solve the prob­lems with an elec­tion will be suc­cess­ful.

Polls sug­gest pro-in­de­pen­dence par­ties would likely main­tain their slim ad­van­tage in par­lia­men­tary seats but would not get more than 50% of the vote, plac­ing the coun­try back into the same po­lit­i­cal hold­ing pat­tern. An­other po­ten­tial knock-on ef­fect would see FC Barcelona thrown out of the Span­ish league.

Liga de Fút­bol Pro­fe­sional Pres­i­dent Javier Te­bas said: “Barcelona can­not choose where it plays if there is an in­de­pen­dence process in Cat­alo­nia.” The club’s

man­ager, Ernesto Valverde, has re­fused to be drawn into the grow­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

In­ter­na­tional re­ac­tion to the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence has fallen firmly be­hind Madrid, with the UK, Ger­man and US Gov­ern­ments all ral­ly­ing be­hind the Span­ish ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has con­demned Madrid for not agree­ing to a le­gal ref­er­en­dum but SNP MEP Alyn Smith has said the law must be re­spected.

Writ­ing for The Sun­day Post, he said his party was “the Gov­ern­ment of an as­pir­ing state, not a protest move­ment”.

The com­ments will likely an­noy some Na­tion­al­ists who have been vo­cal in their sup­port of Cat­alo­nia’s dec­la­ra­tion.

Mean­while, for­mer First Min­is­ter Alex Sal­mond has said he would have called an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum with­out the UK Gov­ern­ment’s per­mis­sion had talks bro­ken down be­fore the 2014 bal­lot.

Asked about how he would have re­acted in such a sit­u­a­tion, he said: “I al­most cer­tainly would’ve or­gan­ised an un­of­fi­cial ref­er­en­dum. We could’ve done so legally, it wouldn’t have had the force of law but it would have had sub­stan­tial moral force.”

Main,a young pro-indy Cata­lan dis­plays the lone star flag; in­set, pro­test­ers in Madrid oppose the move

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