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Catalonia: rescuing autonomy

The application of Article 155 has become essential in the face of blackmail by the Catalan leader

Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont.
Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont.Andreu Dalmau (EFE)

In his reply to the notification from the central government yesterday, Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont placed himself – and his whole government – in flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Statute of Catalonia.

This was done with the clear intention of provoking Madrid into applying Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows for temporary intervention in an autonomous region to oblige its “compliance” with the law. This is the most prudent and appropriate instrument in these circumstances in terms of protecting the autonomy of Catalonia, no matter how much Puigdemont distorts this, describing it is a suspension of autonomy. It is clear that the premier, yet again, simply wants to ramp up his victimhood.

Article 155 involves rescuing Catalan autonomy from those who have hijacked it for the purposes of their by now familiar blackmail

Responding to the notification from Madrid as to whether any Catalan authority had declared independence, Puigdemont replied laterally, saying in a subordinate clause that the Catalan parliament “did not vote” on this on October 10 (he could have admitted it earlier and more clearly.) But the main clause contains a threat: if the Spanish government “persists…in continuing the repression,” the Catalan “parliament may proceed, if it deems it appropriate, to vote on the formal declaration of independence.”

In other words, Puigdemont persists in his ways. This kind of blackmail shows that he considers the referendum law passed in the Catalan parliament on September 6 to be in force, despite that fact that it has been struck down by the Constitutional Court and had been suspended by the same court right after its passage.

This is the only existing document, even though it lacks any validity, that (illegally) awards the regional parliament the ability to “carry out the formal declaration of independence, bring about its effects and initiate the constituent process.” In addition, the entire law is a serious attack on the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute.

Article 155 should serve to restore constitutional order but will not solve the deeper political problem

In effect, this document strips the Spanish people of the condition of “sovereign political subjects” for the benefit of just one part of the same; it makes the Catalan parliament the “representative of sovereignty” when this role falls to the Spanish parliament; and it assumes the condition of supreme rule in Catalonia by decreeing that “it takes hierarchical prevalence over all other regulations:” that is, it casts aside the Catalan Statute and the Constitution.

While acting like he has not declared independence, Puigdemont validates – like a supreme judge – the norm that would make independence possible. And so he is violating “the altered Constitutional order” instead of restoring it, as had been demanded in the second requirement issued by Rajoy.

As a result, the Spanish government had few options save for applying Article 155. Puigdemont must now accept the “necessary measures” for “forced compliance” with his obligation to restore legality. This does not mean suspending or annulling Catalan autonomy, but rather the opposite: it means rescuing it from those who have hijacked it for the purposes of their by now familiar blackmail.

The Catalan premier and his entire government are in flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Statute of Catalonia

If Article 155 had been applied much earlier, when this hijacking began, we would have been spared many of the current problems, and it would definitely have made its application more straightforward.

At the same time, it is important to say that Article 155 should serve – although this is still unclear – to restore constitutional order. But it won’t solve the deeper political problem, which will require, when the timing is right, negotiation.

English version by George Mills.

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