Catalonian President refuses to clarify whether he declared independence or not. Madrid still threatens Article 155
— The Spain Report (@thespainreport) October 16, 2017
Muddled and unclear. This is perhaps the best description of the situation in Spain with regards to Catalonia right now. Regional President Puigdemont of Catalonia on Tuesday 10 October held a, in the words of UK newspaper The Guardian:
“long-awaited speech in which Catalonia’s president declared independence – only to immediately suspend it – (…) so wrapped in conditionalities and ambiguity that it is likely to be interpreted in a thousand different ways.“
After the speech, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy asked Puigdemont a very simple question: had, or had he not declared independence. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as the case might be, would suffice. The question came with a warning, though. The Spanish Prime Minister’s office, Moncloa, had invoked Article 155, which would allow the Spanish state to seize powers from the Catalonian government, and the question was notification of that. If before Monday 16 October 10:00, Madrid had not received a reply, or that reply was not ‘no’, the rest of the process to suspend home rule in Catalonia would be activated.
Catalonian President refuses to clarify whether he declared independence or not. Madrid, meanwhile, still threatens with Article 155
According to the Spanish English-language news site The Spain Report:
“Mr. Puigdemont has chosen more obfuscation. His four-page reply—two of text and two of links in support of his argument—neither confirmed nor denied he had proclaimed a new Catalan republic last week, but asked for dialogue and set a period of two months for talks.“
It is unclear from the letter, what Puigdemont plans to do if no talks take place. While Puigdemont argues for a solution based on “dialogue, negotiation and agreement” he says he is ‘surprised’ by the central government’s decision to begin the process of suspending home rule. The Central Government, however, condemned the Catalonian decision to unilaterally hold a referendum, even though the case was still pending with the Spanish Constitution Court before it was held. It is hard to see how Puigdemont could have been surprised, especially after the liberal use of police by the Central Government to stop the referendum.
Puigdemont now claims that his “proposal of dialogue was ‘sincere’ and ‘honest’, not ‘a demonstration of weakness’.” At the same time, he argues that the referendum gives him “a democratic mandate to declare independence,” despite “violent police action.” However, even Guy Verhofstadt, who is a known proponent of smaller government units, held together by a European Federation, while also being highly critical of nationalism, was not mild in his judgement on the referendum:
“The point is that this referendum simply lacked basic democratic legitimacy. You knew very well in advance that a majority of Catalans would not participate and would stay at home, as the majority of them are against separation. It is not by accident that you did not even install a minimum threshold. So the result of this referendum was already known before it began. What do you call this? Manipulation?“
It is difficult to see, how holding on to an constitutionally illegal referendum, with an unverifiable outcome, is really in the spirit of ‘sincere and honest negotiations’. Indeed, the repeated mentions of “brutal police violence against a peaceful civilian population” are more indicative of trying to delegitimize his ‘opponents’ for an international audience, than an attempt to establish a cordial relation before negotiations. Not declaring for independence, in this context, ís weakness.
In response to Puigdemont’s letter, PM Rajoy has replied that he “deeply lamented” the lack of clarification on the matter of independence. He insisted that such clarification was
and that the formal notification was the first step of the Article 155 process, but that there was still time for Puigdemont to rectify his position before it was too late.
“The First Minister of the Catalan government cannot treat citizens like this on a matter of such importance. He has a duty to explain to them what has happened and if his will is to comply with current laws or not.“
The PM reminded Puigdemont that the EU has expressed their views not supporting Catalonian independence and that the seperatists’ actions are generating a fractured society in Catalonia.