Catalan separatists send shudders through Madrid

Otherwise known as a nationalist: Separatist leader Artur Mas. [BTV Barcelona Televisió/Flickr]

After the new Catalan separatist bloc warned it would declare independence if it wins the 27 September regional elections, Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy said he’ll do everything he can to stop it. EURACTIV Spain reports.

A new crisis was opened on Monday (20 July), when Catalan separatists joined forices to form a new colation called “Junts pel Sí” (Together for “Yes”).

The bloc was formed by the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC, the party of regional Prime Minister Artur Mas, Oriol Junqueras, President of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), and several civic associations. Even former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola offered to join the cause. 

Although Mas has spoken of a six to eight month period before declaring independence (if the separatist bloc wins the elections), the members of Junt pel sí agreed to speed-up its drive for independence. 

“We are completely serious about this, and everyone needs to understand that we are going to do it,” said Raül Romeva, a former Iniciativa Catalunya Verds member of the European Parliament.

“In the event that the Spanish state, through political and or legal decisions, should block Catalonia´s self-government, the (Catalan) government and parliament will proceed to proclaim independence and approve the judiciary transitional law,” he told Spanish media. 

In an informal poll on 9 November, a majority of Catalans supported independence. With 7.5 million inhabitants, it is one of the richest regions in Spain.

However, experts questioned the legality of such a vote. A bid to organize a legally binding referendum in the Catalan autonomous region last year was blocked by Madrid, as being unconstitutional.

“We have tried every other way, but they didn’t let us. This is the chance to do what we couldn’t do on 9 November, and obtain a democratic mandate,” Romeva added.

>>Read: Catalonia nationalists plan 2017 secession from Spain

On 27 September, Catalans will vote in parliamentary elections. The separatist bloc is framing the poll as a referendum on independence.

“Nobody will be forced to choose between being Catalan or Spanish,” Rajoy said on Tuesday (20, July) adding, “Everything is possible within the law. Nothing is possible outside the law.”

Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), concurs with Rajoy on Catalonia. Artur Mas, Oriol Junqueras and “Junts pel Sí” will “divide and break” Catalan society, Sánchez said. The PSOE “will never accept any challenge to legality”.                   

Experts on constitutional law warned that, if needed, the central government could temporarily “retake control” of Catalonia, as laid down in article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

The article allows the government to approve “the necessary measures” to force a regional community to comply with its constitutional obligations.

But before taking such an extraordinary measure, the central government must always ask the prime minister of the problematic region to change its attitude. Only in the event of a refusal can this mechanism be activated, according to the constitution.

“This can only happen in exceptional cases, when ordinary judicial remedies may not be effective,” Francesc de Carreras, an expert on constitutional law, told El Pais.

According to journalist Victoria Prego, the separatist bloc is pressing Madrid in order to obtain much more – and extended – competences, most of which are economic.

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