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Spanish government opens door to possible suspension of Catalan autonomy

Leader of Spanish opposition announces he has an agreement with Rajoy to launch debate on constitutional reform

Rajoy meeting with his government this morning.
Rajoy meeting with his government this morning. Autor/a: La Moncloa
The Spanish government has agreed to require a clarification from Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on whether he declared independence in yesterday’s plenary session of the Catalan Parliament. Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has said this is a “previous requirement” to any measure his government could adopt in accordance with Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows the Spanish government to directly run Catalonia’s affairs from Madrid, which could amount to a de facto suspension of Catalan autonomy.

This is the first time that Rajoy has officially invoked Article 155. The exact wording of that section reads that the Spanish government may “take all measures necessary to compel the Community”, that is Catalonia, “to meet [...] obligations, or to protect the [...] general interest.” The section goes on by saying that “with a view to implementing the measures [...], the Government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the Self-governing Communities.”

Several Spanish media agree in the interpretation that Rajoy has today set the floor for the implementation of Article 155. This is what can be read in El País, El Mundo, ABC or Eldiario.es, among many others.

Rajoy has named “confusion resulted by yesterday’s events” as the reason for his requirement to Puigdemont. “This seeks to offer clarity and security to [Spanish] citizens,” the Spanish president has went on.

“It is the Catalan president’s response [to our requirement] that will shape the future course of developments,” Rajoy was further said.

Rajoy has had no words to accept any internationally-facilitated dialogue or mediation as required yesterday by Puigdemont. Spanish vicepresident Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría has today explicitly rejected an international mediation.

Debate on constitutional reform

After Rajoy has spoken, opposition and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez has unveiled he has an agreement with the Spanish president to launch a debate on a reform of the Spanish Constitution. This should be starting in six months' time, Sánchez has further said.

Sánchez has said that the reform should revolve on "how Catalonia remains in Spain" and has rejected the possibility of including in the Constitution the right to hold a referendum on independence.