Spain urges Catalonia to drop separatism and begin dialogue

Carles Puigdemont wants to address the regional parliament. Picture: Getty
Carles Puigdemont wants to address the regional parliament. Picture: Getty
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A Spanish government spokesman said yesterday that “coexistence is broken” in Catalonia, blaming separatist authorities in the wealthy northeastern region for pushing ahead with their independence bid.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, who is also the minister of cultural affairs, called on the Catalan regional government to drop its secessionist bid in order to begin a dialogue.

A disputed independence referendum in Catalonia last Sunday has led to Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades, with the national government in Madrid condemning the vote as illegal, unconstitutional and invalid.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont wants to address the regional parliament next week “to discuss the political situation” in Catalonia. That request comes after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan parliament session on Monday during which separatist politicians wanted to discuss secession.

“In order to dialogue, you must stay within the legal framework,” Mendez de Vigo told reporters.

The minister also warned Catalans that a parliamentary declaration of independence “is not enough” and that the international community needs to recognise independent nations.

No country has openly said it would support an independent Catalonia and the European Union says it would be kicked out of the bloc and forced to stop using the common euro currency. The EU says Catalonia would have to apply to rejoin, a lengthy, uncertain process.

Mr Puigdemont says the referendum is valid despite a Constitutional Court ban on holding it and the fact that only 40 percent of the region’s 5.5 million eligible voters turned out amid strong police pressure to shut down the vote. Catalan officials say 90 percent of those who cast ballots favoured independence.

Mr Puigdemont has asked now to address the regional parliament Tuesday to “report on the current political situation.” Catalan politicians met yesterday afternoon to discuss the request.

The top Spanish official in Catalonia, Enric Millo, who is in charge of security, said he regretted that hundreds of people were injured last Sunday in the police crackdown on the independence vote - the first statement by a Spanish official lamenting the injuries.

“I can only say sorry” for the injuries, Mr Millo told Catalonia’s TV3 television.

He also tempered the apology by saying the Catalan government was responsible for the situation by encouraging people to vote despite the Constitutional Court order suspending the referendum.

Spain has defended police actions, saying there were firm and proportionate. Videos on Sunday saw police yanking voters and others by their hair and kicking and hitting them.

The political turmoil has led to unease in Spain’s business sector. Spain’s main stock index was down slightly yesterday. Spain’s government has approved a decree that would make it easier for Catalan companies to move out of the region.