Separatist showdown kicks off

13

Whether or not Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will follow through on his threat to announce a full breakaway — defying the central government and Spanish courts — is still a mystery.

But the Spanish government issued a sharp warning to Mr Puigdemont on Tuesday as it grapples with the nation’s worst political crisis in a generation.

“We call on Puigdemont not to do anything irreversible, not to pursue a path of no return and not to make any unilateral independence declaration, which would lead to illegality,” government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said.

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont (right) and his vice president Oriol Junqueras arrive for a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona. Picture: AFP/Pau Barrena

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont (right) and his vice president Oriol Junqueras arrive for a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona. Picture: AFP/Pau BarrenaSource:AFP

At stake is the future of a region of 7.5 million people deeply divided over independence, one of Spain’s economic powerhouses whose drive to break away has raised concern for stability in the European Union.

Mr Puigdemont, a 54-year-old former journalist and lifelong independence advocate, will address Catalan politicians in an extraordinary parliamentary session from 4pm (GMT).

Political leaders in Catalonia, Spain and Europe have urged Mr Puigdemont to stand down and ease the country’s biggest upheaval since its transition to democracy in the 1970s.

Spanish police forces try to separate right-wing nationalists (left) from protesters calling for Catalan independence during counterdemonstrations in Valencia. Picture: AFP/Jose Jordan JORDAN

Spanish police forces try to separate right-wing nationalists (left) from protesters calling for Catalan independence during counterdemonstrations in Valencia. Picture: AFP/Jose Jordan JORDANSource:AFP

But the Catalan president says an independence referendum that took place on October 1 despite a court ban ruling it unconstitutional justifies splitting from Madrid.

Around 90 per cent of those who cast ballots voted for independence but the poll was poorly monitored and many Catalans opposed to secession simply stayed at home. Turnout was just over 42 per cent.

Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos on Tuesday denounced the independence call as a “rebellion against the rule of law.”

Protesters call for Catalan independence during counterdemonstrations in Valencia. Picture: AFP/Jose Jordan

Protesters call for Catalan independence during counterdemonstrations in Valencia. Picture: AFP/Jose JordanSource:AFP

Catalan police were out in full force around the region’s parliament in Barcelona ahead of the address.

Madrid insists that any independence declaration would not change the legal reality that Catalonia is one of Spain’s semi-autonomous regions with laws governed by the national constitution.

EU nations are watching developments closely amid concern that Catalan independence could put further pressure on the bloc still dealing with the fallout from Britain’s shock decision to leave.

Spanish police officers stand guard at the entrance to the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Spanish police officers stand guard at the entrance to the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio MorenattiSource:AP

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his legal power to prevent Catalan independence and has even refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the region from Madrid — a move many fear could lead to unrest.

Demands for independence in Catalonia, which has its own language and cultural traditions, date back centuries.

But a 2010 move by Spain’s Constitutional Court to water down a statute that gave Catalonia additional powers, combined with an economic crisis in Spain, sparked a surge in support for independence.

Thousands protest against Catalonia secession2:24

Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Barcelona to protest against Catalonia’s plans to secede.

  • October 9th 2017
  • 2 days ago
  • /display/newscorpaustralia.com/Web/NewsNetwork/Network News/World/

SHARE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here