Barcelona: Embolded by the lack of recognition for the proclaimed Catalan Republic by the EU and the US, the Spanish government on Saturday morning said it has stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and placed its government under Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria. Catalonia’s most senior police officials had earlier been stripped of their powers it said.
On Friday, PM Mariano Rajoy announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of the Catalan leader, and called snap local elections.
On Friday afternoon, the Catalan regional parliament voted to declare independence from Spain and proclaimed an independent Catalan Republic.
Soon after, the Spanish Senate granted Mr Rajoy’s government the power to impose direct rule on Catalonia.
It did so early on Saturday by publishing an official bulletin (in Spanish) that dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, his deputy Oriol Junqueras and all government members.
The announcement came hours after the Madrid government removed Josep Lluís Trapero Álvarez as chief of Catalonia’s autonomous Mossos police force.
“[Mr Puigdemont] had the opportunity to return to legality and to call elections,” Mr Rajoy said.
Regional elections are scheduled for 21 December he said.
Catalonians say they are no longer fall under Spanish jurisdiction. Mr Puigdemont urged supporters to “maintain the momentum” in a peaceful manner. Spanish prosecutors say they will file charges of “rebellion” against him next week.
One of the main problems over the implementation of direct rule will relate to Catalonia’s own police forces, the Mossos d’Esquadra.
Rajoy said the Mossos chief would be fired.
But a group of Mossos favoring independence has already said they would not follow instructions from the central government and would not use force to remove ministers and lawmakers from power.
Several officers told reporters they believed the 17,000-strong force was split between those who want independence and those who oppose it.
The Mossos, whose chief is under investigation on suspicion of sedition, will have to act on direct orders from their new bosses. If deemed necessary, Mossos officers may be replaced by national police.
The EU, the US, the UK, Germany and France have all expressed support for Spanish unity.
Meanwhile, Finland’s MP for Lapland Mikko Karna has said that he intends to submit a motion to the Finnish parliament recognising the new fledgling country, Catalan Republic.
Mr Karna, who is part of the ruling Centre Party, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, also sent his congratulations to Catalonia after the regional parliament voted earlier today on breaking away from the rest of Spain.
The president of the regional assembly of Corsica, a region of France, also hailed the “birth of the Catalonia Republic” in a statement published on his Twitter account late Friday.
Jean-Guy Talamoni, who heads the Corsican independence movement Corsica Libera, called for solidarity with the Catalan people and asked European Union authorities to help prevent clashes between Catalan Republic and Spain.
EARLIER: Catalan Republic Celebrations Erupt While EU, US Back Spain – After Catalonia’s declaration of independence as the Catalan Republic, Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, said that he has dismissed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras, and all ministers of the Catalan cabinet.
In a short statement from Madrid after an emergency cabinet meeting, the Spanish president announced that his government will close the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) and all Catalan delegations abroad, except that of Brussels. He also insisted that the current permanent representative of the Catalan government to the EU, Amadeu Altafaj, and the delegate in Madrid, Ferran Mascarell, are also to be dismissed.
European Council president Donald Tusk said in a statement that for the EU “nothing changes” but called for the use of force to be avoided. “Spain remains our only interlocutor,” he said. “I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force,” Tusk added.
Belgian PM, Charles Michel, also urged a “peaceful solution” and on Twitter said that a political situation “can only be resolved with dialogue.” According to Michel, the solution should respect “national and international order”. Michel had criticized the violence of Spanish police during the independence referendum on October 1, when he tweeted: “We condemn all forms of violence and restate our call for dialogue.”
In an official statement the US State Department said:
“Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” said State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert.
German Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin was concerned about the political situation and sees the unilateral declaration of independence as a violation of Spain’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “The German government does not recognize such a declaration of independence,” said Seibert, adding that Berlin supported the “clear position” of Spanish President Mariano Rajoy.
Later, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The UK does not and will not recognize the Unilateral Declaration of Independence made by the Catalan regional parliament. It is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts.
“Estonia supports the territorial integrity and unity of Spain. Internal affairs must be solved according to their constitution and laws,” tweeted the Estonian Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas.
Meanwhile, Spain remains an important NATO ally and the Catalan situation is a domestic issue, a NATO official said on Friday. Asked about the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence, a NATO official said: “Spain is a committed ally, which makes important contributions to our shared security. The Catalonia issue is a domestic matter which should be resolved within Spain’s constitutional order.”
Yet, not all foreign voices refused to support Catalonia’s bid for independence. Mikko Kärnä, an MP for the Centre Party of Finland, tweeted that next week he would present a motion to the Finnish Parliament recognizing Catalonia’s independence. “I congratulate the independent Republic of Catalonia,” he tweeted on Friday. “Next week I will present a motion in the Finnish Parliament for your recognition,” he said. In Ireland, the Sinn Féin expressed support to Catalonia and also said it would bring a resolution on this issue to the Dáil.
The leader of the Social Democrats in Slovenia, Dejan Levanic, and his deputy, Jan Skoberne, tweeted a video of support to the Catalan Republic. “We congratulate the brave people of Catalonia on the establishment of the new Republic. May solidarity, equality and justice be ever in your favor,” they said.
EARLIER: Catalonia Declares Independence From Spain – In a 70-10 vote, the Catalonia parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, just as the Spanish government appears set to impose direct rule. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy earlier told senators direct rule was needed to return “law, democracy and stability” to Catalonia.
The Catalonia parliament passed a resolution that makes effective the electoral mandate of the October 1 referendum. “We hereby constitute the Catalan Republic as an independent, sovereign, legal, democratic, socially-conscious state”, reads the declaration. Independence has been declared at 3.25pm with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 abstentions.
The text includes not only the declaration, but also some measures for the Catalan government to enforce in order to make the new state effective immediately. For instance, “establishing the regulations that define the procedure to acquire Catalan nationality” and “presenting the necessary decrees for issuing Catalan nationality”.
The motion also asks the government to agree on a dual nationality treaty with Spain and to seek the recognition of the Catalan Republic from “all countries and institutions.”
EARLIER: Independence Declaration Motion In Catalonia Parliament As Spain Direct Rule Looms – Pro-independence lawmakers have brought an independence declaration to Catalonia parliament floor. This was after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Spain upper chamber lawmakers that “There is no alternative” to Article 155 enforcement. The independence motion comes with the declaration of independence which was symbolically signed by MPs two weeks ago.
The Catalonia lawmakers intend to vote on motion with measures to legitimize Catalan state immediately. Everything is set for Catalan lawmakers to vote on independence today in Parliament.
The text also includes a series of measures which would immediately put the new state into effect, including the enforcement and the issuing of official Catalan documents, as well as the ability to request Catalan documentation.
However, the opposition plans to use all parliamentary resources in order to prevent the vote from taking place. The session was due to start at noon but it has already been delayed because opposition parties have asked the parliament bureau to reconsider allowing a vote on independence.
Most of Spain’s lawmakers applauded the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy when he announced that the Article 155 enforcement measures include removing all Catalan government members
Spanish Senate’s plenary session is underway. Senators are expected to ratify measures designated by the Spanish government to take control over Catalonia’s self-rule and Rajoy has already made a speech in order to convince them to do so. His party, the People’s Party, has a majority in the Spanish upper chamber. “There is no alternative” to Article 155 enforcement, Rajoy said to lawmakers.
All eyes are set on two chambers: the Catalan Parliament, where lawmakers will vote on a declaration of independence, and the Spanish Senate, which will authorize president Mariano Rajoy to impose direct rule in the region.
Citizens are already surrounding the Catalan chamber in Barcelona amid fears that Spanish police could break into the Parliament to hamper the independence declaration. Still, it is not clear when the first move from Madrid will come once the Spanish government is authorized to suspend self-rule in Catalonia.
“Today, we the people are defending the Parliament”, said Francesc Cera, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) mobilization coordinator. “Obviously, we will never be able to face a police corps, but it will be a symbol that people are here defending our institutions.”
ANC, along with Òmnium Cultural, are the two main pro-independence civil society organizations in Catalonia.
They have had a crucial role in making sure that independence supporters stay mobilized since the push started nearly seven years ago.
The presidents of ANC and Òmnium, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, have been in prison in Madrid since October 16. They face charges of sedition and are awaiting trial for allegedly playing a key role in demonstrations that took place in the run-up to the October 1 independence referendum.
EARLIER: #Catalonia President Rules Out Snap Elections In Prevision Of Independence – The President of Cataloina, Carles Puigdemont, will not call an early snap election, a move that is seen as a prevision of a possible independence declaration.
In an official statement from the Catalonia government headquarters, President Carles Puigdemont said he has unsuccessfully tried to get “guarantees” from Madrid that a snap election would stop the suspension of Catalonia’s self-government. “There are no guarantees,” he said, accusing the Spanish government of behaving “irresponsibly.” Puigdemont added that it is now up to the Catalan Parliament majority to decide the next steps forward.
Puigdemont said during his short statement that “no one can say” that he or his government “did not try everything or were not willing to make huge sacrifices to reach compromise”. The Catalan president added that he had the “obligation to consider all options” and he was “ready to call elections if conditions were there to justify it”. “Those conditions do not exist,” he added, regretting that the Spanish government insisted on applying article 155 of the Constitution as a “vengeful measure” against Catalonia.
“I am the one who has the power to call snap elections and various people asked me over the past few days whether I planned to use that power or not,” Puigdemont explained. “My duty and my responsibility are to exhaust all paths, absolutely all of them, to find a negotiated solution for a political conflict of democratic nature,” he said, insisting that he was willing to call elections if they could have been held “with a certain normalcy.”
Puigdemont said he tried “honestly and loyally” to call snap elections in order to avoid the suspension of the Catalan self-government. According to him, that application is “outside the law, abusive and unjust and aims to eradicate” the “entire tradition of Catalanism.”
“There is no intention of stopping repression and to provide an environment without violence so that the possible election could have been celebrated”
“There is also no intention of stopping repression and to provide an environment without violence so that the possible election could have been held,” he added. “I think I have acted in accordance with my responsibility and considering the feelings that people from different political options presented me with,” he added. “But that did not provide, once more, a responsible response from the People’s Party, which took advantage of this option to add tension at a moment in which what is necessary is maximum calm and dialogue,” he stated.
“At this point, and naturally without having signed any decree to dissolve the Parliament or call elections, it is the Parliament’s duty to proceed as the majority of the Parliament determines with respect to the consequences of the application against Catalonia of Article 155”, he concluded, opening the door to a potential declaration of independence.
The Catalan Parliament will meet friday to decide next steps as Spain votes to suspend self-rule in the Senate.
If the parliament declares independence, it is likely that the central government in Madrid will act quickly to suspend the regional body and take over authority of the government in Barcelona.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has pressed to take control of the Catalan government, including its police, public media and finances. The Rajoy regime last week promised to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution designed to rein in Catalonia “to restore institutional legality and normality.”
The Spanish parliament is expected to make a decision on the takeover Friday.