The Catalan premier, Carles Puigdemont, has failed to clear up whether or not he declared independence at a plenary session of the regional parliament last Tuesday.
Following a deliberately ambiguous statement that declared secession, then immediately placed it on hold, the central government had formally asked the Catalan leader to clarify his position within the space of five days, or face a partial suspension of home rule through the use of an obscure constitutional provision known as Article 155.
Puigdemont insists that he is offering Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “a sincere dialogue”
The deadline ended Monday morning. But in a letter to Madrid whose contents have been revealed by the Catalan radio stations Catalunya Ràdio and RAC1, Puigdemont fails to answer the question clearly.
Instead, he attaches several documents such as a copy of the breakaway Referendum Law that his minority government rammed through the regional parliament with help from its far-left ally CUP, bypassing ordinary parliamentary procedure and causing the entire opposition to walk out in protest.
In the text of the letter, Puigdemont reiterates that he has placed the unilateral declaration of independence on hold in order to open up a “two-month process” to try to reach a deal with the central executive.
The leader of the Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) coalition, which has 62 deputies in the 135-seat parliament, wrote that “repression” against Catalan citizens should end – alluding to the riot police’s actions on October 1 – and so should “repression” against the Catalan government over the fact that the central government has already taken control of the region’s public accounts.
The Spanish government says it will not sit down with Puigdemont until he stops acting outside the bounds of the Constitution
Puigdemont insists that he is offering Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “a sincere dialogue” and asks for a meeting to try to hammer out a preliminary deal regarding the region’s secession from Spain.
But the Popular Party (PP) administration’s position throughout the crisis has been to underscore that the Spanish government will not sit down with Puigdemont until he stops acting outside the bounds of the Constitution, which has no provisions for unilateral secession or regional referendums.
Last week, PM Rajoy and the main opposition leader, Pedro Sánchez, agreed that constitutional reform could be addressed to find a better fit for Catalonia within Spain – so long as Puigdemont drops his unilateral secession first.
The situation in which we find ourselves at the moment is of such importance that only answers and political solutions of the highest level will suffice. My letter hopes to reach that level, as it is expected by the majority of our society and expected in Europe, which doesn't contemplate any other way of resolving conflicts other than dialogue, negotiation and accord.
With this in mind, I was surprised by your written text of last October 11 announcing the intention of your government to put into effect Article 155 of the Constitution in order to suspend Catalan self-government.
When, on October 10, attending to the request of numerous international, Spanish and Catalan figures and institutions, I presented to you a sincere offer of dialogue, I did not do so as a demonstration of weakness but rather as an honest proposal in order to find a solution to the relationship between the Spanish State and Catalonia, which has been in a state of deadlock for many years.
On Sunday October 1, in the middle of violent police action denounced by the most prestigious international organisms, more than two million Catalans entrusted to the Parliament the democratic mandate to declare independence. One must also add to the result of this referendum the result of the most recent elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, where a clear majority of 47.7% voted for independence parties, as against the 39.1% who voted for parties explicitly against independence. It is also necessary to remember that 80% of citizens have repeatedly expressed their intention to decide their future by way of an agreed referendum. Accepting reality is the way to resolve problems.
The priority of my government is always to seek solutions by way of dialogue. We want to talk, as well-established democracies do, about a problem placed before us by the majority of the Catalan people, who wish to undertake a journey as an independent country within the framework of Europe.
The suspension of the political mandate resulting from the poll of October 1st demonstrates our firm intention to find the solution rather than generate confrontation. We would like to do this by way of agreement both in the objectives sought and in the way we find them. Our proposal of dialogue is sincere and honest. Because of this, over the coming two months our main objective is to appeal to you to dialogue, and that all of those international, Spanish and Catalan figures and institutions who have expressed their disposition to taking part in negotiation may have the opportunity to explore such an option. This will show the commitment of all sides to finding an agreed solution.
In light of everything I say, I ask of you two things:
The first is to reverse the repression against the people and government of Catalonia. This very Monday, two leaders of Catalan civil society, who have been organising the peaceful demonstrations by millions of demonstrators since the year 2010, are to appear, charged, in court. Also charged is the chief of the Catalan police (Mossos d'Esquadra), one of the most respected police forces in Europe, which faithfully and rigorously fulfills its duty.
In this episode of repression, we have also seen, among of things, the violation of fundamental rights; the intervention with and freezing of bank accounts which prevents us from fulfilling our obligations to people who most need them; internet and media censorship; interference in private post; detention of public servants; brutal police violence against a peaceful population on October 1.
Our proposal of dialogue is sincere, in spite of all that has occurred, but logically it is not compatible with the current climate of threats and rising tension.
The second request is that we organise a meeting, as soon as possible, which will allow us to explore initial agreement. Let's not allow this situation to deteriorate more. In good faith, recognising and facing the problem head on, I am sure we can find a way towards a solution.