Late on October 10, leader of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont held a speech at the Spanish parliament; his address drew the line under the independence referendum, which took place in Catalonia on October 1. Until the very last moment, no one could surely tell what kind of decision Puigdemont would make, and even his speech was delayed several times.
Basically, the Catalan leader insisted on the following provisions:
- Millions of residents of Catalonia take independence as the only possible solution to the current situation;
- The people of Catalonia expressed the will for independence; however, the official results of the referendum will be announced only after negotiations with Madrid;
- The Spanish government should accept the idea of mediators between Madrid and Catalonia.
‘We are not criminals, we’re not insane people, and we’re not rebels. We’re common people who voted,’ Puigdemont said.
Leading Catalan officials, including Deputy Premier and Speaker of the Parliament, signed the declaration of independence - rather a symbolic than practical step; the document will not be taking effect until the aforementioned talks with Madrid take place. That, according to Puigdemont, will take ‘weeks’. The declaration states Catalonia ‘remains open to negotiations’ and ‘respects international commitments’, remaining within frameworks of every international agreement where Spain is involved.
Madrid reacted to Puigdemont’s speech in no time. Vice Premier Soraya Saenz de Santamaria claimed that the urgent government session would take place on October 11, where the ministers should analyze and evaluate Catalonia’s decision. The Spanish official said Puigdemont led the autonomy of Catalonia to the greatest uncertainty in the history.
What steps could Madrid take in this situation?
In case Catalonia unilaterally proclaims independence, the Spanish government could enact Article 155 of the state’s constitution. It stipulates ‘forceful measures to make the region abide by its commitments’ – in case any of these regions violate the Constitution. Specifically, Madrid could suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and implement the direct governance regime. This Article has never been enacted since the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978.
As is known, the referendum on Catalonia’s independence took place on October 1. 2.3 of 5.3 million of eligible-to-vote citizens who inhabit the region voted on the referendum – amidst civil unrest, mass protests and fights with police. 900 people suffered in these skirmishes. Over 300,000 protesters hit the streets during mass strikes, which took place in Barcelona after the referendum.
According to the local government, almost 90.2 percent of voters supported the independence of Catalonia, while approximately eight percent opposed it. The voters’ turnout made 43 percent.
Neither Spain nor the EU recognized the results of the referendum. Kyiv also considers the referendum in Catalonia illegitimate.