Spain gives Catalan separatists five days

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2017

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took the first step on Wednesday towards suspending Catalonia's political autonomy and ruling the region directly to thwart a push for independence.

He said that result gave the wealthy Spanish region a right to be an independent republic, but then handed responsibility for declaring independence to regional lawmakers and asking them for more time to negotiate a potential secession with the central government in Madrid.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Rajoy said Carles Puigdemont has until Monday at 10 am "to say if he declared independence" before suspending Catalan autonomy.

He did not refer to the violence with which police cracked down on voting day but said "nobody can be proud of the image" Spain projected, adding the only ones to blame were the Catalan leaders.

World leaders are watching closely and uncertainty over the fate of the region of 7.5 million people has damaged business confidence, with several listed firms already moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia. While talks on the matter will not begin for six months - meaning there is still ample scope to apply 155 - the move could go some way to showing that negotiations are possible if Puigdemont backs away from independence.

Both deadlines have been included in a formal demand sent to the Catalan government.

"The Catalan president's answer to this questions will inform what happens over the next few days", he said.

He said his party and the government had agreed to "open the road to constitutional reform" in light of the Catalan crisis.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said any unilateral independence move would be "irresponsible" and France said it would not recognise Catalonia's "illegal" bid for statehood.

The Catalonian separatist drive has raised concern for stability in a European Union still coming to terms with Britain's shock decision to leave the bloc, and Brussels has urged "full respect of the Spanish constitutional order".

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.

Other reports by iNewsToday