Rajoy has also set aside an additional 3 days to “rectify” the standoff between Madrid and the autonomous region. The Spanish government continues to maintain that Catalonia’s steps towards independence are unconstitutional.
In essence, Madrid has given Catalonia eight days to put a stop to their referendum declaring independence from Spain, saying the vote undermines democracy, Spanish unity and the Statute of Catalonia.
Rajoy stated earlier on Wednesday that the cabinet of ministers had asked for clarification on the issue, after triggering Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, during an emergency cabinet meeting. Article 155 would give Madrid previously unused powers to take control of Catalonia’s regional government.
But using Article 155 to suspend Catalan autonomy would deepen the constitutional crisis in Spain since Catalonia held a contested referendum on independence on October 1.
Rajoy’s formal request for clarity was “necessary when activating Article 155” he explained, acting as a roadmap in the current crisis to “offer certainty to the citizens”.
The prime minister called the “illegal referendum” a failed one, adding that Catalan authorities lack the legitimacy to propose a unilateral declaration of independence. He also rejected calls for external mediation between the two governments, insisting the Catalan question remained a domestic matter.
The government has been trying to de-escalate the tense situation. Pedro Sanchez, the head of the opposition socialists, said on Wednesday that his party and the ruling centre-right PP party would hold talks to renegotiate laws governing regional autonomy.
He said constitutional reform would “allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain”.
On Wednesday, Puidgemont backtracked, saying talks with Spain on independence could be held without preconditions. Before, Puigdemont had repeatedly said that the right to self-determination must be on the table, CNN reported.
In shifting his position, Puigdemont stated that Spain and Catalonia should “have no prior conditions to sit down and talk”.
On Tuesday, Catalan leader Puigdemont asked for the mandate to declare independence from Spain, because millions of voters supported the idea he said. However, he said that the independence declaration would be suspended to continue talks with Madrid.
Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s foreign minister, accused Puigdemont of duplicity, saying his speech was a “trick to say one thing and do the opposite”. But Dastis did not offer more details of the government’s plans.