Spain PM Rajoy demands clarity over Catalan plan
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he has asked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to confirm whether or not he has declared independence.
He said this was necessary before the Spanish government could take other measures.
On Tuesday Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence, but halted implementation to allow negotiations.
Mr Rajoy accused Mr Puigdemont of creating “deliberate confusion” and said he wanted to restore “certainty”.
The prime minister said the Spanish government would base its response on the answer it was given, including any measures it might take invoking a constitutional clause allowing for direct rule.
Article 155 of the Spanish constitution would allow Mr Rajoy to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid.
“This call – ahead of any of the measures that the government may adopt under Article 155 of our constitution – seeks to offer citizens the clarity and security that a question of such importance requires,” Mr Rajoy said.
“There is an urgent need to put an end to the situation that Catalonia is going through – to return it to safety, tranquillity and calm and to do that as quickly as possible,” he added.
Mr Rajoy was speaking after holding an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the government’s next steps.
Spain has been in turmoil since a disputed referendum in Catalonia on 1 October which was declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court.
Addressing the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, Mr Puigdemont said the autonomous region had won the right to be independent as a result of the vote.
“We call on international states and organisations to recognise the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state,” he said.
He said the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue.
“I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution,” Mr Puigdemont told MPs.
He and other Catalan leaders then signed the declaration of independence. It is not clear if the declaration has any legal status.
Crowds of independence supporters in Barcelona cheered Mr Puigdemont’s initial remarks, but many expressed disappointment as he clarified his stance.