Homage to Catalonia

Defiant Catalans to move step closer to independence

NINE months after the Catalan parliament resolved to begin the process of creating an independent state, its government is vowing to do it with or without approval from Spain’s central government in Madrid.Last month’s Spanish election left conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy short of the 176 seats required to form an administration and his talks with the Spanish Socialist Party have so far failed to form a coalition government.

Now, the Catalan government is preparing to defy Spain’s constitutional court by debating the findings of a working group on sovereignty, nine months after the Catalan parliament set out its 18-month roadmap to independence.

Catalan foreign affairs minister Raul Romeva told The National: “Today, the Parliament of Catalonia approved procedures for drawing up a constitution for the Catalan Republic.

“The Parliament, as the symbol of the Catalan people’s sovereignty, has approved the conclusions of the work that has been carried out by a special parliamentary committee over the last six months, in accordance with the democratic mandate given to the pro-independence parties who won a majority in Catalonia’s elections last September. Now it is up to Catalonia’s government to find ways to implement the committee’s recommendations, and advance in the effective exercise of our sovereignty.”

He said this was in response to the “will of the Catalan people expressed peacefully and democratically”, but he was critical of the continuing hostility shown by Madrid.

“Hostility towards Catalan institutions has been clear, as well as contempt for the basic democratic mandate from the Catalan people,” said Romeva. “There have been no political voices in Madrid in favour of finding ways to reach an understanding with Catalonia.

“In fact, there have even been undercover moves by Spanish authorities, like the recent leak of conversations between Spain’s current interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz and the former director of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office Daniel de Alfonso, regarding a smear campaign against Catalonia’s pro-independence political parties at the time of last year’s elections.

“Despite being caught red-handed using the Spanish government for the purposes of his own political party, the minister neither resigned nor was fired, and continues in office to this day while the director of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office was fired by the Catalan Parliament.”

Romeva added that the independence roadmap had a clear timeline that was not movable.

“We said from the start that in 18 months’ time (the time we calculated as needed to have all necessary state structures in place) the Catalan people will be able to vote on whether they want Catalonia to become a new state in Europe or not. That deadline ends in summer 2017.”

He added that Catalonia would – like Scotland – aim to seek its own place within the European Union.

“Everyone understands that this is a civic, democratic and non-violent movement. And this is an irreversible process. It is true that there’s a special interest in our situation in certain countries like Scotland, even if our situations are different, though with similar aims.

“Once the Catalan people have the chance to vote and decide their own political future everyone will agree on Catalonia’s right to take the steps we are taking, and on the need to find Catalonia its rightful place in the EU and as a reliable partner in the international community.”

Spanish government seeks criminal charges against Catalan leader

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s central government is seeing if it can bring criminal charges against the speaker of the Catalonian parliament for letting the assembly vote for independence, it said on Friday.

The Catalan parliament voted on Wednesday to continue with its plan to detach the wealthy north-eastern region from Spain, despite a ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court annulling an earlier resolution to form an independent state.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, deputy prime minister in the caretaker administration in Madrid, said the government had asked the Constitutional Court to annul the latest resolution and see if Catalan assembly speaker Carme Forcadell had broken the law by trying to press ahead with the independence plans.

A poll published last week showed support for Catalan independence growing at a time when political deadlock at the national level after two inconclusive general elections has prevented the formation of a new government in Madrid.

The survey, by the regional government’s official pollster, found 47.7 percent of Catalans supported independence, with 42.4 against.

The separatist movement in Catalonia, a region that accounts for almost a fifth of Spanish economic output and has its own language, surged during Spain’s economic crisis when it drew 1 million people onto the streets of Barcelona.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Julien Toyer and Robin Pomeroy)

 

Spain seeks criminal charges against Catalan leader

Spain’s government is seeing if it can bring criminal charges against the speaker of the Catalan parliament for letting the assembly vote for independence.

Politicians in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, voted on Wednesday to continue with a plan to detach the north-eastern region from Spain.

On Friday, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, deputy prime minister in the caretaker administration in Madrid, said the government had asked the Constitutional Court to annul Wednesday’s resolution and see if Catalan assembly speaker Carme Forcadell had broken the law by trying to press ahead with the independence plans.

The text passed by the Catalan parliament outlines the steps Catalonia – a region of 7.5 million people which represents nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output – needs to take to defend its right to self-determination.

It argues the “only way possible” for Catalans to exercise their right to decide on their future is if the region “disconnects” from the Spanish state and disobeys Spanish institutions.

“It’s a violation of our constitution,” government spokeswoman Santamaria told reporters in Madrid after a cabinet meeting.

She also warned that separatist politicians, and especially Forcadell, the speaker, risked fines of up to 30,000 euros ($33,500), suspension from their posts and even legal action if they continued to disobey Madrid.

Speaking to a Catalan television channel, Forcadell hit back at Madrid’s reaction, accusing the government of using legal tools to try and fix something “they do not know how to resolve politically.

“This does not help resolve the problem, it makes it worse,” she said.

With the backing of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government, Spain’s Constitutional Court has already taken measures against Catalonia’s independence drive.

Secessionist parties hold a majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament, and the text was approved with 72 votes in favour.

A poll published last week showed support for Catalan independence growing at a time when political deadlock at the national level after two inconclusive general elections has prevented the formation of a new government in Madrid.

The survey, by the regional government’s official pollster, found 47.7 percent of Catalans supported independence, with 42.4 against.

Many Catalans who favour breaking away from Spain say their region pays too much in taxes and receives less than its fair share of government investment. Independence also sentiment grew during Spain’s near economic meltdown during the financial crisis.

Spanish government threatens Forcadell, Puigdemont in attempt to thwart independence

FERRAN CASAS Madrid

The Spanish vice president appeals to the Constitutional Court in order to impeach or penalise the Catalan leaders, if they take further action. Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría warns that Speaker Forcadell “may have already committed an offence”. The Court will hold an emergency session on Monday.

Last Friday saw institutional tension between the Catalan parliament and the Spanish government rise another notch. During Friday’s cabinet meeting, Spain’s executive branch decided to file a complaint before the Constitutional Court against the Catalan parliament’s decision to vote and approve the conclusions of the constituent process, which open up a unilateral path towards independence. On Wednesday caretaker president Mariano Rajoy had already instructed the State Counsel to take legal action and he also spoke to the other Spanish political leaders to inform them about the steps that his government would be taking.

Two days later Spanish vice president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría announced that her government had decided to lodge a formal complaint with the Constitutional Court which includes several demands: to declare the Catalan parliament’s motion null, because “it ignores the court’s ruling of December 2015” on the sovereignty declaration of November 9; to suspend the motion immediately; and, lastly, to take the necessary steps to enforce the Court’s ruling by invoking the new powers that it was granted a few months ago.

The Speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, the chamber’s Bureau and Secretary General will be urged to refrain from abiding by the motion and will be expressly forbidden to debate or vote anything that bears any relation.

Likewise, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet ministers will not be allowed to “bring forward any legislation that might abide by the motion and its development” in connection with the “breakaway bills” (1). Sáenz de Santamaría stressed that there are “fines involved, as well as an indefinite suspension”. “We will demand that criminal charges be pressed, should anyone fail to abide by the Court’s ruling”, she warned. Furthermore, Sáenz believes that —regardless of Forcadell’s actions from now on— the Speaker may have already committed an offence. The Constitutional Court (TC) has been asked to inform the Prosecutor that, by allowing a vote on the conclusions of the constituent process, the TC’s ruling on the sovereignty declaration and last week’s writ warning against holding such a parliamentary debate might have been ignored. To justify her government’s request, the Spanish vice president remarked that “Forcadell might have committed an offence and that’s why we ask the TC to shed some light on the matter”.

The Spanish government’s complaint with the TC was filed by the State Counsel at noon on Friday, shortly after the cabinet meeting. The TC will meet on Monday at 12:30 in an extraordinary plenary session to assess the warnings aimed at Forcadell and Puigdemont and, if necessary, to decide on a penalty for the Catalan parliament’s Speaker.

The Spanish vice president characterised her government’s decision as a “restrained” response to Catalonia’s “constitutional defiance” and she added that the TC merely needs to be thorough whenever it exercises its powers. Her government’s watchful stance —the vice president added— will extend to other areas, such as the Treasury “where we have had some favourable rulings already”.

The Spanish executive believes that the Catalan parliament is “in contempt” of the TC’s ruling which declared the 9N breakaway declaration null and void, as well as the Court’s injunction warning the parliament and its Bureau that they were expected “to prevent or halt” any initiative that ignored a court mandate. The conclusions offered by the parliamentary committee that studied a constituent process for Catalonia include “a unilateral mechanism” for democratic exercise.



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(1) N.T. Catalan lawmakers are currently busy drafting and tabling new legislation to build statehood structures and institutions ahead of independence. There are three main bills in this regard, which are known in Catalonia as the “breakaway bills

 

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