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Madrid announces return of direct rule over Catalonia

The Spanish government has moved to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy in the worst constitutional crisis since 1977.

Published: October 21, 2017, 5:45 pm

    Madrid will return direct rule over the region from next Saturday, pending Senate approval next week, stripping the government of Carles Puigdemont of its powers.

    State functions will be assumed by the relevant ministries from Madrid, and elections will most probably be held in Catalonia within six months, Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy said.

    The central government will be taking charge of Catalonia’s autonomous police force too.

    After an emergency cabinet meeting, and citing the Catalan government’s “conscious and systematic rebellion and disobedience”, Rajoy invoked article 155 of the constitution to “restore the rule of law, coexistence, the economic recovery and so that elections could be held in normal circumstances”.

    Madrid had set a deadline for Puigdemont to clarify whether he had, on 10 October, declared independence, but the Catalan independence leaderlet it pass, refusing to answer yes or no. Instead he has threatened to unilaterally declare independence if the government invoked article 155.

    Rajoy has broad support from Spain’s main political opposition, suggesting that the required approval from the Spanish Senate, where his own conservative party holds a majority, will be a given.

    Catalan leaders have condemned Rajoy. warning that it would escalate rather than resolve the conflict.

    Josep Lluís Cleries, a Catalan senator, said Rajoy was suspending democracy in Catalonia but autonomy. He told reporters on Saturday that the decision showed that “the Spain of today is not democratic because what he has said is a return to the year 1975,” referring to general Franco’s death.

    Oriol Junqueras, the region’s deputy leader, said Catalans were facing “totalitarianism” and called on separatists to join the Barcelona protest on Saturday.

    Puigdemont was expected to lead a mass demonstration in the region’s capital, before giving his official response.

    Basque leader, Iñigo Urkullu, described the measures as “disproportionate and extreme,” tweeting that they would “dynamite the bridges”.

    Those inciting rebellion could be facing a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. Earlier this week, a national judge ordered prison without bail for two separatist leaders, pending a sedition trial.

    Rajoy said on Saturday, that Spain’s economic recovery “was now under clear danger because of the capricious and unilateral decisions” of the Catalan separatist government.

    The chances of constructive dialogue between the separatists and Madrid remain slim. One government spokesman told The Guardian: “We’re not prepared to discuss the dismemberment of Spain and they don’t want to talk about anything else.”

    Joseph Weiler, an Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law, believes the Catalan independence movement is not protected by international law.

    “The Canadian Supreme Court, in its careful and meticulous decision on Quebec, the reasoning of which remains valid today, clearly showed that none of these cases [Catalonia, The Basque country, Scotland] enjoy a right of secession under public international law, since all of them enjoy extensive individual and collective liberties enabling the full vindication of their national and/or cultural identity within their respective states.”

    Weiler is President of the European University Institute in Florence. He is also Director of the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice, and Co-Director of the Tikvah Center for Law & Jewish Civilization. He is also Editor in Chief of ICON – the International Journal of Constitutional Law.

    It emerged this month that the region’s Parliament passed a law that said a newly independent Catalonia’s economic and financial obligations will be set by “the terms that are agreed” with the nation it’s leaving, rather than “offering a guarantee of full payment”.

    Catalonia’s independence could set off Spain’s debt time-bomb.

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