referendum row

Rajoy offers Catalonia option of lobbying for constitutional change

Catalan lawmakers accuse prime minister of “ripping Spain apart” at long-awaited referendum debate

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Congress this afternoon.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Congress this afternoon. J.J. Guillén (EFE)

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Catalan lawmakers on Tuesday that if they want better opportunities for their region they should lobby for constitutional reform, rather than insisting on holding a status referendum.

During a congressional debate over a request by the Catalan parliament asking national lawmakers for a transfer of certain powers, so that the region can organize a vote in November, the prime minister explained that his consistent refusal to allow a referendum doesn’t “close all the doors” for Catalonia.

“Nothing that has been open before is now closed. But what you are demanding – opening doors that never existed – is another thing,” he said in the long-awaited debate.

It isn’t possible for us to agree because the Constitution does not permit it,” said Rajoy

“There is an open door that goes hand-in-hand with those who are not comfortable with the current state of affairs, and that is to start the initiative for constitutional reform,” he said.

But many analysts don’t believe that Rajoy is so easily open to agreeing to change the Constitution: he has consistently rejected the Socialists’ calls to put together a constituent assembly.

Following his remarks, opposition Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said that his party is also against allowing Catalonia to hold its referendum without congressional approval, and joined Rajoy in suggesting that Catalan lawmakers push for constitutional change.

The Catalan parliament’s petition is expected to be defeated in Congress when lawmakers vote later Tuesday.

Marta Rovira of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Jordi Turull of the nationalist CiU bloc, and Joan Herrera of Green Initiative (ICV) all demanded that national lawmakers approve the transfer of powers because that is “the will of the Catalan people.”

“The people of Catalonia have not found themselves on a dead-end road; they are on a road of no return,” said Turull.

Herrera accused the central government of “ripping apart” Spain because it does not “recognize the region’s right to choose.”

“We are defending independence so we can better defend the Catalan people’s rights,” said Rovira.

Earlier, Rajoy warned lawmakers that the petition is part of a larger plan to break away from the rest of Spain.

“They have offered us, they say, an agreement, and that it is for us to say yes to what they are proposing,” Rajoy told deputies. “But it isn’t possible for us to agree to what the Catalan parliament wants because the Constitution does not permit it.”

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