Rajoy: a leader being “forced to act” to restore the law in Catalonia

Spanish PM gives news conference in Brussels, but fails to confirm talk of snap election in Catalonia

Spaniish PM Mariano Rajoy at the EU Council summit.
Spaniish PM Mariano Rajoy at the EU Council summit.STEPHANIE LECOCQ (EFE)

Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution will be applied in Catalonia “to restore institutional legality and normality,” said Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a Friday news conference at the close of a EU summit in Brussels.

Rajoy portrayed himself as a leader “forced to act” in his role as head of the Spanish government.

Spain is taking this step “as a last-resort measure”

“It simply cannot be, in today’s Europe, that there is a country where the law is not observed,” he said before a throng of journalists asking him about the situation in Catalonia.

The Spanish PM did not reveal the nature of the measures that will be rolled out following their cabinet approval on Saturday and subsequent ratification by the Senate next week. Nor did he say how long they will be in place.

Rajoy would also not confirm whether one of the measures will be a snap election in the region sometime in January, as leading members of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos announced earlier on Friday.

After the digital newspaper eldiario.es ran the story, the PSOE’s fourth highest-ranking official, Carmen Calvo, confirmed on television that her party and the government have agreed to call regional elections in Catalonia for January as one of the ways out of the crisis.

Calvo confirms that Rajoy and Sánchez are negotiating election in Catalonia for January: "If Puigdemont called it the regular way that would be amazing."

But the government does not deem it “prudent” to talk about dates when little is known about the repercussion that the measures will have, or how Catalan authorities will react to them. “All the measures to be adopted will be announced tomorrow,” said Rajoy in reply to a direct question regarding the January election.

The Catalan deputy premier, Oriol Junqueras, has rejected the idea: “My position is crystal clear: calling an election now is not the best way to make headway.”

Agreement on measures

The Popular Party (PP) leader reiterated that the measures, which have been drafted with support from the PSOE and Ciudadanos, seek to return things to normal.

Rajoy underscored that it was no longer tenable for a EU region to have political leaders who do not respect the law, the Constitution, the Statute or even their own parliament – the Catalan assembly has been shut down for over a month, after ramming through its controversial breakaway laws.

The Spanish leader stressed that the use of Article 155 does not mean “the use of force” but the use of “a tool created by the Constitution and similar to those of other European countries.”

Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont has not backed down from his secession plans.
Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont has not backed down from his secession plans.AP

Rajoy indicated that Spain is taking this step “as a last-resort measure” after being “very prudent.” He said that Catalan authorities had been offered every assistance to end the crisis.

Asked whether he would open an investigation into the Civil Guard’s actions, particularly on October 1, when riot officers were sent in to stop a court-banned independence referendum from taking place, Rajoy expressed “pride” in the way law enforcement has been acting to protect the law, and said he hoped that “(Catalan) authorities will act more responsibly than in the past” with regard to any potential street protests after the emergency measures are rolled out in Catalonia.

English version by Susana Urra.

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