27, October 2017
Catalonia’s regional parliament has declared independence from Spain, while Madrid immediately imposed direct rule over the region.
The independence motion was approved in the 135-seat chamber on Friday as 70 Catalan lawmakers voted in favor, 10 against. Two ballot papers were blank. The ballot was boycotted by the opposition parties: the Socialist Party, the People’s Party (PP) and Ciudadanos.
Commenting on the news, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm.
“I ask for calm from all Spaniards. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia,” Rajoy said in a tweet minutes after Catalonia’s declaration of independence.
As the independence vote went through, more than 2,000 pro-independence Catalans gathered in the Ciutadella Park outside the regional parliament in Barcelona, chanting “Liberty” in Catalonia and singing traditional songs.
Soon after the vote, the upper house of Spain’s parliament in Madrid made the unprecedented move of authorizing Rajoy’s government to rule Catalonia directly.
In reaction to Madrid’s move, the main secessionist group, the Catalan National Assembly, urged civil servants to respond with “peaceful resistance” and to disobey the Spanish government’s orders.
Rajoy’s cabinet later convened to adopt the first measures to govern Catalonia, which could include dismissing the Barcelona government and assuming direct supervision of Catalan police forces.
“Exceptional measures should only be adopted when no other remedy is possible,” Rajoy said during his speech to the Senate on Friday morning. “In my opinion there is no alternative. The only thing that can be done and should be done is to accept and comply with the law.”
Moreover, Spain’s constitutional court started a review of the vote held in the Catalan parliament. The court said on Friday that the state prosecutor and other parties have three days to make allegations.
Separately, a spokesman for Spain’s public prosecutor’s office said it would file rebellion charges next week against Catalan secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont. A court will then decide whether to accept the charges against the Catalan president.
Catalan drive faces EU opposition
The independence declaration made other countries and institutions to recognize Catalonia. However, the European Union and some countries and institutions have already made it clear they would not do so and would back the position of Madrid.
European Council President Donald Tusk said in a message posted on Twitter on Friday after the vote, “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor.”
He also called on Spain to favor “force of argument, not argument of force.” French President Emmanuel Macron, reacting to the news, said, “There is a rule of law in Spain with constitutional rules. Mariano Rajoy wants these rules to be respected and he has my full support.”
Germany also backed the Spanish premier’s position, saying the unilateral declaration of independence violated the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Spain. Commenting on the latest developments in Spain, the United States supported Madrid’s measures to prevent Catalonia’s secession, saying the region is an integral part of the country.
“Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a NATO official said Spain was an important ally, adding that Catalonia was “a domestic matter which should be resolved within Spain’s constitutional order.”
Spain has been in turmoil since the Catalan independence referendum that took place on October 1 and was considered by Madrid as illegal. Puigdemont claimed that 90 percent of the voters in the referendum had backed secession, but the turnout had been put at only 43 percent.