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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, November 23, 2017

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Catalonia refuses to reveal plans, seeks talks with Madrid

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Share on Facebook October 17, 2017, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 440

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MADRID, Spain - Faced with mounting pressure from all sides ahead of the deadline set by Madrid for clarifying if Catalonia has declared independence, the Catalan leader on Monday tried to dodge the direct question, instead seeking talks with the government over grievances of his region.

On Monday, president of the independence-minded Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, carefully avoided a specific declaration of independence, which could trigger harsh measures by Spain.

Puidgdemont, who was given a deadline to clarify, appeared to be trying to buy more time.

Addressing a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont declined to answer the question, instead called for two months of dialogue and a halt to what he called Spain’s “repression” of Catalan citizens and institutions.

Puigdemont’s response was delivered to the government in Madrid about an hour ahead of the deadline. 

Puigdemont requested “a meeting that allows us to explore preliminary agreements” on the Catalan dispute and he suggested a timeframe of two months for talks to take place.

He said, “My government’s priority is to seek intensively the route of dialogue.”

“The suspension of the political mandate which arose from the polls on October 1 shows our firm will to find a solution and not confrontation. Our proposal of dialogue is sincere and honest. Thus, for the next two months, our main objective is to urge dialogue and that all those international, Spanish and Catalan institutions and personalities who have expressed their will to open a path to negotiations have the chance to explore it.”

The letter concluded, “With good will, recognizing the problem and looking each other in the face, I am sure we can find a path to the solution.”

Soon after, Rajoy replied, “deeply regretting” that the Catalan president had failed to clarify his position on the independence declaration.

The Prime Minister delivered his response in a letter circulated in the local media that said, “Your cries for dialogue in the name of Catalonia are not credible, when you refuse to speak with an important part of that society through its legitimate representatives, who — as you have said — hold fewer seats in parliament, but — as you have hidden — correspond to a larger number of citizens in terms of votes.”

It added, “Prolonging this situation of uncertainty only benefits those who want to destroy civil peace and impose a radical project that impoverishes Catalonia,” confirming that he is following the procedure leading to the implementation of article 155 of the constitution.

So far, the clause has never been used before and is seen as a tool allowing the central government to suspend the powers of rogue regional administrations.

The lack of clarity offered by the region’s president, who has been fighting for independence for years now, also generated a frustrated response from other officials in Spain.

Spain’s justice minister, Rafael Catalá said, “Not valid,” amid warnings from federal authorities that their patience was wearing thin more than two weeks after Catalonia backed secession in a referendum.

Catalá told reporters, “The question was clear, but the answer is not.”

Meanwhile, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Spain’s deputy prime minister, also rejected Puigdemont's letter. 

Santamaría called his appeal for dialogue “not credible,” and added that any further conversation should take place in the Spanish parliament, not between a particular region and the central government.

Further, she gave Catalan authorities a second deadline of Thursday to return to obeying Spanish law.

Addressing Puigdemont directly, the Spanish government said that he must reverse any decision moving towards independence by this Thursday.

Triggering article 155 of the constitution requires the approval of the Senate, where Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) has a majority. 

Rajoy also has the backing of the opposition Socialists and Ciudadanos to use it.

Socialist Party spokesman Óscar Puente described Puigdemont’s failure to clarify the independence declaration issue as “unacceptable.”

He said, “Article 155 is not desirable for anyone, except a few. But we wonder if Puigdemont leaves us any alternative.”

On Monday, the PP’s leader in the region, Xavier García Albiol, said that he would like “to ban electoral manifestoes that are not within the bounds of legality,” suggesting that pro-independence parties could face severe restrictions if there are elections.

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