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Rajoy asks Catalan government to clarify if it has declared independence or not

Rajoy on Wednesday.
Rajoy on Wednesday. / AFP
  • The move is widely seen as preparation for a possible activation of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which would bring Catalonia under temporary direct control of Madrid

Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, made a brief appearance in Madrid on Wednesday to announce what his government's next move would be after the apparent declaration of independence in the Catalan region on Tuesday evening.

In his statement given to journalists at his official residence, La Moncloa, the PM said that he was formally asking Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, whether he was officially declaring independence or not. “This requirement is needed ahead of whatever measures the national government may adopt under Article 155 of the constitution,” explained Rajoy.

Rajoy added that, in his reply, “Puigdemont has the opportunity to answer so many calls from so many parts to return to a legal position”. “If Puigdemont respects the law, he will finish the period of illegality and uncertainty. This is what everyone hopes for, to put an end to this situation that Catalonia is going through.”

Rajoy brought forward his announcement to midday after finishing a special cabinet meeting at the Moncloa, the official residence of the PM. He was also due to appear later in the day in parliament to speak in more detail on the current political crisis gripping Spain.

Ministers had spent the morning debating possible options available to central government following Tuesday's brief symbolic declaration of independence by Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in the regional parliament in Barcelona, which was followed by the immediate suspension of the independence process in the hope that Madrid would enter into dialogue with the ruling separatist coalition or that a form mediation could be started with a third party.

Central government has continued to maintain its firm position that the Catalan government's actions were non negotiable and ministers had to decide whether to apply Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, allowing Madrid to intervene in the region's affairs in the interest of Spanish security, or to apply alternative measures.

There was no immediate official reply from Puigdemont and Rajoy has not put a deadline on his demand to the Catalan president. The PM's statement is being viewed by commentators as the first step towards applying Article 155.