Early Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister (PM) Mariano Rajoy demanded that Catalan President Carles Puigdemont clarify whether Catalonia has declared independence or not, following an address by the latter.
Rajoy held an emergency meeting regarding Puigdemont’s suspension of the declaration of independence. The PM then vowed to use everything in his power to block Catalonia’s independence, even imposing an unprecedented direct rule over the semi-autonomous region.
“Neither Mr. Carles Puigdemont, nor anyone else, can draw conclusions on the basis of a law that does not exist,” Spain’s Vice President Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said, before adding that the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s speech is “a speech by a person who does not know where he is, where he goes or who he wants to go with.”
Puigdemont earlier declared independence, but then quickly suspended it in order to open up a dialogue with the Spanish government, which has said it will do what it takes to stop any secessionist moves.
“Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent state … I want to follow the will of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state,” he said to thundering applause, but added that he proposes a delay in the declaration.
“We propose to suspend the effect of the independence declaration … in order to work towards putting into practice the result of the referendum … Today, we are making a gesture of responsibility in favor of dialogue,” the Catalan government leader said.
Giving a history of the Catalan independence campaign, Puigdemont called for an easing of tensions and asked for the EU and other forces to assist in dialogue efforts with Madrid.
“We have been ready to talk and have dialogue … We want to have a better understanding with Spain. The relationship hasn’t been working for many years, and now it’s unsustainable,” he said.
Rajoy previously threatened a so-called “nuclear option” to revoke the autonomous status of the region, dissolve the Catalan government and hold new elections, according to Reuters.
Rajoy and the Constitutional Court ordered 5,000 national police to patrol the region leading up to the Oct. 1 independence referendum, a move that resulted in the use of excessive violent force against voters, injuring more than 900 citizens.
Catalan lawmakers have called on Rajoy to step down since he has proved “incapable of creating dialogue,” and is ultimately “responsible for the police actions on Oct. 1.” That day, 2.3 million citizens, or 43 percent of the Catalan population, cast their ballots. Of them, 90.18 percent favored a breakaway from Spain.
Madrid has responded with sending more troops to the region.
Santamaria said that if Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, “unilaterally declares independence,” as is expected, Madrid “will take actions.”
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who previously reached out to mayors across Europe requesting their support for dialogue between Barcelona and Madrid, continued to ask lawmakers to use “good sense” in managing the next steps regarding Catalan independence.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use dialogue to find a way out of the situation.
French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said France would not recognize Catalonia as a separate state and neither would the European Union.