Spanish PM seeks clarity on Catalan independence declaration, threatens to suspend region’s autonomy

“The cabinet has agreed to require formally to the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared or not independence,” Rajoy said in a televised address on Wednesday as cited by Reuters.

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont’s answer “would determine future events in the next few days,” the PM stated.

Formal confirmation from Barcelona is required to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, Rajoy said. The article allows Madrid to strip Catalonia of its broad autonomy and take control of some or all of its powers.

This requirement “comes before any other measure that could be taken under Article 155 of the constitution,” the PM said in his Wednesday address to the Spanish parliament.

Madrid wants “to avoid confusion generated by Generalitat [Catalonian government]” among the nation and Catalans in particular, Rajoy noted.

Rajoy’s speech comes on the heels of Puigdemont’s address to the regional parliament.

On Tuesday, Puigdemont read out ‘Declaration of the representatives of Catalonia’ at a plenary session of Catalan MPs. The document voices the region’s call to the states and international organizations “to recognize the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state.”

It was the leader’s first speech since the controversial October 1 referendum on the region’s secession from Spain, considered illegal by the national government.

Catalonia’s independence bid was outlawed by the Spanish Constitutional court. Madrid deployed hundreds of police to the region in late September to prevent the vote from happening. As the polling stations managed to open on October 1 across Catalonia, there were cases of police and Civil Guards using rubber bullets and batons against voters.

The European Union called on the regional and central authorities to abstain from violence and solve the issue through dialogue. The EU supports the territorial unity of Spain, the European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis stressed on Wednesday, calling for “full respect of the Spanish constitutional order.”

“We are supporting efforts to overcome division and fragmentation, to ensure unity and respect of the Spanish constitution,” Dombrovskis said at a news conference.

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