Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Monday, 9 november 2015 | THE GUARDIAN


Catalonia MPs vote for secession as Spain looks to block plans in court

Resolution passes calling for legislation to create separate institutions, but Spanish prime minister insists there will be no split

The Catalan parliament has voted to formally begin the process of breaking away from Spain, deepening its standoff with the central government in Madrid as the region begins one of the most decisive weeks to date in its push for independence.

Separatist MPs used their majority to pass legislation pledging a “disconnection from the Spanish state” in favour of the “beginning of the process toward the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic”.

The vote passed by 72 to 63, backed by MPs from the pro-independence Together for Yes coalition and the smaller, far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). It aims to pave the way for the region to declare independence as early as 2017.

The legislation calls for further laws to facilitate the creation of an independent social security system and tax authority within the next 30 days, and specifies that the regional parliament will no longer be bound to decisions made by institutions of the Spanish state, including the constitutional court.

“There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a country, but to be a state with everything that means,” the Together for Yes politician Raül Romeva told parliament on Monday. “Today, we not only open a new parliament, this marks a before and after.”

Reaction from Madrid was swift. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said his government was already working towards appealing the legislation in the constitutional court.

“I’ve said it continuously and I reiterate it today – the government will not allow this to continue,” said Rajoy. “Catalonia will not disconnect itself from anywhere, and there will be no fracture.”

The constitutional court is expected to accept the government’s appeal, meaning the Catalan resolution would be suspended while judges hear arguments and reach a decision.

But it remains to be seen how the suspension would effect the Catalan parliament. Pere Aragonès, another Together for Yes politician, pointed to Monday’s legislation to argue that Spanish courts no longer had jurisdiction over the process of breaking away from Spain.

“The content of the resolution will be applied regardless of what the constitutional court says,” he told Agence France-Presse. “We have strength and legitimacy, even if the Spanish state resists.”

The argument could put Catalan leaders in the crosshairs of the courts. This year the central government passed legislation outlining steep sanctions and suspensions for leaders who fail to comply with the orders of the constitutional court, with the aim of quelling defiance.
Monday’s legislation, which was passed in the Catalan parliament exactly a year after the region’s symbolic referendum on independence, came on the same day the Catalan president, Artur Mas, was scheduled to address the regional parliament and make his case for staying on as leader of the government for a third term.

After Together for Yes fell short of a majority in the September regional elections, the party is now relying on the CUP to form a government capable of advancing the separatist movement.

Negotiations on who will lead this government have been continuing since the elections, but little headway has been made so far. CUP has consistently said it will not support Mas as leader of the new government, pointing to austerity measures implemented by his centre-right government and a string of corruption scandals that have plagued his party, Democratic Convergence, in recent years.

On Monday, Mas sought to push past CUP’s criticisms and emphasise the opportunity that now lies within grasp of Catalan separatists. “This legislature is about transitioning from an autonomous region to a Catalan state,” he said. “Why? To achieve three things: A country that is more just, more stable and more transparent.”

While media focused on the Catalan parliament’s declaration, Lluis Orriols, a political science professor at Madrid’s Carlos III University, said the debate over whether Mas will lead the Catalan government is critical in laying the necessary groundwork to push the secessionist movement forward. “The crucial moment of this week is seeing whether the two separatist parties will be capable of forming a government.”

If no agreement is reached by 9 January, new elections must be called. Until recently, few thought new elections were a possibility, said Orriols, but, while still a slim possibility, the CUP continues to hold firm, despite the fact that Together for Yes has six times the number of seats. “It’s hard to imagine that a party negotiating from such a minority stance would take such a strong position,” he said.

The showdown between Madrid and Barcelona has been complicated by next month’s general elections, said Jordi Matas, a political science professor at the University of Barcelona. With polls suggesting that no party will obtain a majority of seats, the Catalan crisis risks being exploited by politicians to gain votes.

Matas pointed to past occasions when the actions of armed Basque separatist group Eta were a mainstay of Spanish election campaigns. “It was used as an element to gain votes,” he said. “Now we’re talking about a conflict between two legitimate democracies. I think Spanish political parties will use this to obtain more votes.”

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

We aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalan point of view.
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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia