Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Thursday, 29 september 2016 | FINANCIAL TIMES


Catalan leader sees two options: referendum or referendum

Carles Puigdemont insists he is ready to negotiate with Madrid but says matter must be put to a vote

[Foto: Reuters]

The leader of Catalonia has promised to hold an independence referendum in September next year, saying the controversial creation of a breakaway state from Spain was “possible, necessary and irreversible”.
Carles Puigdemont was speaking to the regional parliament on the eve of a confidence vote that he is widely expected to win. He insisted that he was ready to negotiate over the future status of Catalonia with the government of Spain, but made clear that there was — in his view — only one way to end the simmering conflict: “A referendum or a referendum.”

The prosperous region in the North East of Spain has seen a sharp rise in secessionist sentiment in recent years, expressed in annual mass rallies in favour of independence, and a steady increase in support for separatist parties. Mr Puigdemont himself leads the first openly pro-independence government in recent Catalan history, after separatist parties won a majority of seats in the regional parliament in Barcelona.
His government came to office in January this year promising to achieve independence from Spain in 18 months — meaning the deadline has now been pushed back slightly. The broader contours of the independence road map, however, were reiterated by Mr Puigdemont on Wednesday, not least the plan to build up “the structures of the state” between now and the middle of next year. These include the creation of a Catalan tax authority, and a string of laws that would prepare the legal “disconnection” from Spain.

Mr Puigdemont’s promise comes at a critical moment for the Catalan independence movement, which is under pressure to show that it can and will deliver on its promises. This month’s pro-independence rally — which is held every year on September 11, Catalan national day —saw a decline in participants, prompting talk of fatigue inside the secessionist camp.
Despite his defiant tone on Wednesday, the floppy-haired Catalan leader and his government face formidable obstacles. The first lies in Madrid, where the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy — backed by much of the country’s political and legal establishment — is implacably opposed to Catalan independence. Over the past two years, Spain’s constitutional court has struck down several secessionist declarations and measures, and will probably do so again with Mr Puigdemont’s latest referendum plan.

Closer to home, the regional president has to contend with a brittle and disparate majority in parliament. Mr Puigdemont himself belongs to the more mainstream pro-independence Junts pel Si alliance, which controls 62 out of 135 seats in the Catalan parliament. To govern, however, he needs the 10 votes of the Popular Unity Candidacy (Cup), a radical anti-establishment party that shares the objective of independence but little else with Mr Puigdemont.

Thursday’s confidence vote was called after the Cup deputies refused to back a new regional budget for Catalonia. Its leaders have said they will support Mr Puigdemont in the vote — but most analysts expect the tensions between the two allies to remain in the months ahead.


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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.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia