Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday described 2017 as “very difficult” during an appearance in which he gave an overview of the last 12 months.
While Rajoy focused on economic data by speaking of “economy, social and institutional” victories, he included plenty of references to the political crisis in Catalonia, which he described as “the greatest attack on our Constitution” and the “only shadow generating instability for our economy.”
The Spanish leader also called a constituent session for the regional parliament of Catalonia for January 17, a little shy of a month since a snap regional election called by Rajoy using emergency constitutional powers.
Pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in the vote but it remains to be seen whether they can forge a deal that will allow them to govern.
The prime minister said the incoming government would have to “signal its political priorities within the law” and highlighted the actions of the Spanish executive in terms of defending “the law, coexistence, and the welfare of all Spaniards and Catalans.”
“The quality of [Spain’s] democracy, the separation of powers, the rule of law and the calmness of society as a whole have all been demonstrated,” said Rajoy of the application of emergency powers in Catalonia under article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in response to the independence push in the region.
The Spanish leader also referred to the intention of independence parties in Catalonia to change the rules so that ousted premier Carles Puigdemont – who has been in Belgium since late October and faces arrest on possible rebellion charges if he returns to Spain – can participate in the regional parliament remotely.
“It is absurd to attempt to be premier of a region while living overseas,” he said.
Rajoy also highlighted that unemployment had fallen below four million for the first time since 2008 but stressed the need to keep working so that the figure of 20 million people in work could be reached by 2019. “Investment, consumption, exports and construction are allowing us to grow sufficiently,” he said.
English version by George Mills.