Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Catalonia crisis: Spain pushes for unity on national holiday

Catalonia crisis: Spain pushes for unity on national holiday

The country is in the midst of its worst political crisis in a generation after separatists in the wealthy northeastern region voted in a banned referendum on October 1 to split from Spain. Rajoy gave no indication that Madrid was prepared to negotiate anything with the secessionists in the Catalan capital.

Puigdemont said the referendum had given him a mandate for independence but immediately asked regional lawmakers to suspend the declaration to allow for negotiations with the central government.

"Given that Rajoy can not accept a bilateral discussion without Puigdemont backtracking first on independence, the most likely scenario is that the prime minister activates the next steps of Article 155 (the so-called "nuclear option"), which will probably happen within the next 48 hours".

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that a unilateral independence declaration would be "irresponsible", while France said it would not recognize Catalonia's bid for statehood.

The Catalan crisis is Spain's most serious political emergency since its return to democracy four decades ago. Opponents of independence have largely boycotted referendum. Rajoy pointed out that this was needed as the first step towards invoking of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, El Pais is reporting.

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The Catalan crisis has deeply divided the region itself as well as the Spanish nation. On Tuesday night, many among the pro-independence crowd waiting outside the Catalan parliament also expressed dismay that Puigdemont had not declared immediate self-rule, and some booed the 54-year-old former journalist when he left the building.

Catalan officials say nearly 90% of voters backed independence with a turnout of 43%. "Because the force of arguments is always better than the argument of force".

The influential business community has indicated its unhappiness with the prospect of independence under current circumstances, Catalonia's two major banks, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, energy giant Gas Natural and the company that provides Barcelona's water have all decided in recent days to move their headquarters to other parts of Spain because of a desire to stay within the EU.

But he offered a possible exit from further confrontation between Madrid and Barcelona, saying Rajoy had agreed that there should be a six-month commission to examine the possibility of reforming the country's constitution, changing the way the country's autonomous regions are governed.

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