Catalonia leader’s says that the region has won the right to be independent, but proposes suspending the secession process in order to have a dialogue with the Spanish government.
“The ballot boxes say ‘yes’ to independence and this is the path I am determined to follow,” Carlos Puigdemont, the Catalonian president, told the regional parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday evening local time (CEST). “I assume the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic.
“We propose to suspend the effect of the independence declaration … in order to work towards putting into practice the result of the referendum,” he then added. “Today, we are making a gesture of responsibility in favour of dialogue.”
A few hours later Puigdemont officially signed the document declaring Catalonia’s independence and its suspension will talks with Madrid take place, according to Sky News.
He also said it’s worth looking into international mediation, according to a translation by The Guardian.
Some were expecting the region to declare independence on Tuesday, while Bloomberg reported last week that Catalan separatists were trying to find a way to put off a definitive declaration of independence in order to open the door for a negotiated settlement with Spain.
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the independence referendum was illegal ahead of the October 1 vote, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy previously vowed to keep his country together regardless of the outcome.
Spain’s King Felipe VI, in a rare televised address to the country two days after the vote, criticised the Catalan government, saying they “have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty.”
A declaration of independence theoretically would not only lead to immediate political uncertainty in the region, but would also increase the risk of economic uncertainty for both Catalonia and Spain.
An independent Catalonia would not not be part of the European Union, the European Commission said last week.
What happened during the referendum vote?
Earlier this month, 2.2 million Catalans, or 43% of the region’s eligible electorate, voted for independence on a day marred with violence as Spanish riot police used batons and fired rubber bullets on protesters. Around 900 people were injured that day. Protests broke out over the crackdown the following Tuesday in Catalonia.
The number of people voting for secession has been “broadly stable” since 2014, and a “clear majority” did not endorse such an action on Sunday, according to The Financial Times.
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled ahead of the vote that the referendum violated the country’s constitution because it “does not recognise the right to self-determination and establishes that sovereignty resides with Spanish citizens collectively,” according to the Washington Post.
According to Bloomberg, the region’s push for autonomy was a factor in the Spanish Civil War. Afterwards, the Franco regime cracked down on the language, on Catalan institutions, and on the people themselves.
Following Franco’s death, the Spanish constitution of 1978, which says the nation is “indivisible,” gave Catalonia language rights and control over its healthcare and education.
Recently, nationalists in Catalonia have pointed to the region’s language and culture, and have argued that the region subsidizes the rest of Spain, according to CNN. Catalonia pays about €10 billion ($US11.8 billion) more in taxes than it gets back, according to data from the Spanish Treasury,as cited by Reuters. By comparison, Andalusia, the poorest region, gets almost €8 billion ($US9.4 billion) more than it pays.
On the economic front
Maurice Obstfeld, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, told reporters that a Catalonian split would cause “a lot of uncertainty for both the Catalan and Spanish economies,” the BBC reported on Tuesday. Several major banks based in the region, including Banco Sabadell and Caixabank, are also reportedly moving, or considering moving, their headquarters out of Catalonia if the region declares independence.
The euro was up by 0.6% at 1.1805 against the US dollar at 2:03 p.m. ET (8:03 p.m. CEST).
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