Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Catalans protest when Spanish cabinet meets in Barcelona

December 23, 2018

Catalan separatists have blocked roads and clashed with police as Spanish ministers held a cabinet meeting in the regional capital Barcelona.

The decision to move the meeting was aimed at reducing tensions, months after Catalan leaders were jailed for trying to break away from Spain.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan leader Quim Torra agreed on Thursday to an “effective dialogue”.

BBC News
December 21, 2018

People gather during a protest against Spain's cabinet meeting in Barcelona, Spain, December 21, 2018.
Protesters are angered by the decision to hold the cabinet meeting in Catalonia’s regional capital. Reuters photo

But there were violent scenes near the venue where the cabinet assembled.

Friday’s meeting was convened exactly a year after the previous Spanish government held snap elections in Catalonia, a decision seen as provocative by pro-independence groups.

Earlier in the day, more than 20 roads across Catalonia, including the AP7 and A2 motorways, were blocked by protesters as police were deployed in large numbers. The protests were co-ordinated by a radical group, the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs).

On the AP7, which runs along the Mediterranean coast, protesters sat on the road with their hands in the air. Police dragged them from the carriageway.

Pro-independence supporters block a section of the AP7 motorway in Tarragona, north-eastern Spain, 21 December 2018
Pro-independence supporters blocked the AP7 motorway at Tarragona. EPA photo

As the cabinet meeting got under way, there were clashes between police and protesters in the centre of Barcelona.

Riot police were pelted with objects as they dismantled a barricade thrown up across one of the main streets. About 1,000 protesters nearby were held back by a police cordon.

At tensions rose, officers wielding batons charged protesters and at least four people were arrested. The regional police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, said one man was detained for carrying materials that could be used to make an explosive device.

City health officials said 51 people had been treated for injuries, 30 of them police officers.

Catalan pro-independence protesters stand behind crowd control barricades during a demonstration in Barcelona on December 21, 2018
Police penned protesters back behind cordons in central Barcelona. AFP photo

Meanwhile, a crowd of several thousand people protested peacefully near Barcelona’s Franca rail station. Some held banners reading: “Occupying forces, out.”

One of the demonstrators, Carles Serra, 45, said the timing of the cabinet meeting was a provocation by Madrid.

The CDRs had urged supporters to surround the Llotja de Mar complex in Barcelona where the cabinet was meeting, but they were held back by police, Spanish media reported.

A woman gestures opposite members of the Catalan regional police force in Barcelona on December 21, 2018
Catalonia is still bitterly divided by the independence issue. AFP photo
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Why are protesters so angry with the PM?

Analysis by Guy Hedgecoe, BBC News, Barcelona

Pedro Sánchez originally planned this visit as an opportunity to show his commitment to improving the lives of Catalans. It is not the first time he has held a cabinet meeting outside Madrid – in October, he met with his ministers in Seville.

But the timing of the visit has angered many pro-independence Catalans. The previous Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy called an election in the region exactly a year ago after introducing direct rule there, and so the date has become a sensitive one.

Also, although Mr Sánchez has taken a number of initiatives aimed at restoring confidence between Madrid and the region, many Catalans believe he has not done enough and is merely continuing the rigid policies of Mr Rajoy.

They want him to negotiate the staging of a formal independence referendum and to free nine jailed Catalan politicians, but he says the law allows him to do neither.

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A protester throws a smoke bomb towards police during scuffles at a Catalan pro-independence demonstration in Barcelona on December 21, 2018
Some protesters bombarded police with projectiles before being forced back. AFP photo

On Thursday evening, Mr Sánchez and the Catalan leader held a symbolic meeting and issued a declaration, pledging their “commitment to an effective dialogue that conveys a political proposal with broad support in Catalan society”.

A follow-up meeting between Spain’s vice-president and her Catalan opposite number is to take place next month.

Mr Sánchez came to power as the head of a minority Socialist government in June.

During the meeting, he decreed a 22% increase in Spain’s minimum monthly wage from €736 ($835; £665) to €900, effective from January.

“This is the biggest rise in the minimum wage since 1977 and it will benefit more than 2.5 million people, mostly women,” government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told reporters after the meeting.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan Regional President Quim Torra talk after a meeting at Palau Reial de Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain December 20, 2018
PM Pedro Sanchez and Catalan regional president Quim Torra say they will work towards a political solution. Reuters photo
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez holds a weekly cabinet meeting in Barcelona, December 21 2018
Mr Sánchez hoped the cabinet meeting would calm tensions, but the move appeared unsuccessful. Reuters

What is the background?

Catalonia held its disputed vote on 1 October 2017 and its separatist government declared independence on 27 October.

But Spain’s constitutional court deemed the referendum illegal and Madrid imposed direct rule.

Catalonia’s then leader Carles Puigdemont fled into exile in Belgium after the failed independence bid. Other Catalan leaders also fled abroad.

Spain’s Supreme Court has since withdrawn its European Arrest Warrants against Mr Puigdemont and five of his aides who remain in other countries. But the charges against them have not been dropped, meaning they still face arrest if they return to Spain.

Nine former Catalan leaders are in jail awaiting trial for rebellion and other charges linked to the independence referendum. Four of them – Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez and Joaquim Forn – ended a 20-day hunger strike on the eve of the cabinet meeting in Barcelona.

Another of the detained leaders, former parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell, is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to order her release.


Tensions rise on Catalan streets as divisions over secession deepen — “Cultural violence and hate remain and that should be of huge concern.”

May 29, 2018


From pro-independence yellow crosses vying with Spanish flags on beaches to party offices vandalised, Catalonia has seen a rise in tensions as divisions over secession from Spain deepen.

“There is latent violence, violence that can be felt in the air but doesn’t usually materialise into physical violence, and it’s on the rise,” warns Sonia Andolz, a political expert in conflict analysis at the University of Barcelona.

© AFP / by Daniel BOSQUE | A woman sits on the beach among yellow clothes shaped as crosses near Barcelona during a protest in support for Catalonia’s jailed separatist leaders

“There is a rise in tone, confrontation between people who push or insult each other. Hate speech against others is becoming normal.”

Over the past weeks, this region of northeastern Spain with 7.5 million people has been the scene of a war of symbols.

Independence supporters have filled streets, buildings or beaches with yellow crosses or ribbons, the colour used to protest against the jailing of separatist leaders after a failed independence bid last October.

Those who want to remain in Spain then promptly remove these symbols.

Early this month, police had to intervene to prevent two groups from clashing in Barcelona.

Last week in Canet de Mar, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Catalan capital, three independence supporters were injured when a group of hooded people destroyed a “cemetery” of yellow crosses installed on the beach.

On Sunday, anti-independence protesters in Barcelona tried to force a police officer to remove a yellow ribbon hanging on the city hall, and then filled a beach with Spanish flags.

The conflict even reached the regional parliament where a session was interrupted on Friday because Carlos Carrizosa, a lawmaker for the main anti-independence party Ciudadanos, removed a yellow ribbon from a seat.

The political situation in Catalonia remains blocked as Madrid refuses to restore direct rule in the region because its new president Quim Torra has named four jailed and exiled separatist leaders as part of his regional government.

– Attacks on party HQs –

While the independence movement is far from new in Catalonia, tensions erupted in earnest after a banned independence referendum on October 1 which was marred by police violence.

The jailing of separatist leaders and a failed declaration of independence on October 27 — rejected by around half of the population in Catalonia — also provoked tensions.

Protests on both sides of the divide then increased.

While not a major force in Spain, far-right groups waded in, leaving a trail of assaults against independence supporters.

Meanwhile separatist protests that had always been peaceful started getting disruptive with demonstrators clashing with police in March.

Political parties have not been spared either.

They have denounced acts of vandalism against their offices, from graffiti to broken windows.

The office of Ciudadanos in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Catalonia’s second biggest city, has been vandalised 13 times since 2015, says its manager Miguel Garcia.

Some of these acts involved filling the entrance with animal faeces.

“It’s just another sign of the tension that Catalonia is going through, there are people who don’t tolerate our ideas,” says Garcia.

Ciudadanos has counted around 30 acts of vandalism in the northeastern region over the past year, a similar figure to that tallied by the Catalan branch of Spain’s Socialist party, also against independence.

Pro-independence parties have also suffered but according to the ERC separatist party, they don’t count them so as not to convert “one-off events into a category.”

“Some want people to think that Catalan society is becoming radical and uses violence, but that’s not true,” says David Bonvehi from the PDeCAT, the party of deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

The PDeCAT saw one of its office in Barcelona covered in faeces on Monday.

– Boiling frog –

In an article in Catalonia’s La Vanguardia daily, writer Antoni Puigverd compared the situation in the region to the boiling frog syndrome.

That says if a frog is plunged into boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is put into tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will be cooked to death.

“This very low intensity violence, this vandalism, these ritual clashes… are the warm water in which the Catalan frog is bathing as it tries to ignore that the fire is still on, and every day the temperature rises a little,” he wrote.

Andolz, who has experience mediating conflicts in the Balkans and Middle East, doubts that physical violence will become widespread but warns the situation “is more dangerous than it seems.”

“In conflicts, physical violence is the worst but the easiest to stop,” she says.

“Cultural violence and hate remain and that should be of huge concern.”

by Daniel BOSQUE

Threat to fintech industry as young coders shun London over Brexit — “Tech workers don’t actually want to live in the UK any more.”

April 4, 2018

Financial Times (FT)

Traffic passes around the Old Street roundabout, also referred to as ‘Silicon Roundabout,’ in the area known as ‘Tech City’ at dusk in London.  Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor
British financial technology companies are worried that Brexit is causing a shortage of software engineers and pushing up salaries in the sector, prompting some of them to open offices elsewhere in the EU.

Mike Laven, chief executive of Currencycloud, said that the UK-based payments company was planning to open an office in another EU city — probably Amsterdam — because of fears that recruitment problems in London could hamper its growth.

The loss of London’s allure for young European software coders could threaten the government’s ambition to maintain the UK’s position as the continent’s dominant hub for the fast-growing fintech sector after Brexit.

Mr Laven said: “We think the market for engineers has tightened and I think engineering salaries are going up. I think we are seeing not so much people leaving but not the influx that we had before . . . I think that is a threat to the industry.

“We need a massive amount of engineering talent on a global basis,” said the head of Currencycloud, which provides cross-border payments services to other businesses, including many fintechs. “If we can’t have all those jobs based here, then we will actually have to put those jobs someplace else.”

He said the evidence of rising salaries for software engineers was so far “anecdotal and by the time we have the real data it will be too late”, while adding: “I’ve shared that with a couple of other people and they find the same thing.”

While many banks are worried about the regulatory aspect of Brexit, the biggest concern for many fintechs is that their access to skilled workers from Europe will be reduced if immigration is restricted after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

“It is just a people thing. I think on the regulatory side we will figure it out,” said Mr Laven. “We understand passporting, regulation and compliance and it will cost us money, but we will sort that out. To me, the London fintech issue is more around having the right people and having very easy access to that.”

To me, the London fintech issue is more around having the right people and having very easy access to that.

Mike Laven, chief executive of Currencycloud

Michael Kent, founder and chief executive of digital payments provider Azimo, told the FT recently: “My big problem is that a lot of young people who are tech workers don’t actually want to live in the UK any more, so we have got people drifting towards places like Berlin, places like Barcelona, places like Lisbon.

“There are not an awful lot of reasons if you are a young tech millennial to be in London with the exception of it is where the work is, and if the work drifts away you might see quite a big impact,” said Mr Kent, adding that Azimo was assessing various cities to create a new EU hub.

Last year, TheCityUK lobby group called on the government to introduce a new “digital skills visa” to shore up the UK’s position as a fintech hub against a growing threat from rival cities. The government has promised a special post-Brexit travel regime for bankers and other professionals, but details are hazy and it is unclear if it will include fintechs.

There have also been worries that the Brexit vote could hit investor confidence in the UK’s nascent fintech sector and cause funding to dry up for some start-ups. But those fears have so far failed to materialise. British fintechs raised $1.8bn of venture capital investment last year, up more than 150 per cent from 2016, according to Innovate Finance, the UK fintech trade body.

“I do not think it actually takes away from London,” said Anne Boden, founder of digital lender Starling Bank, adding: “It is sad, and I think London will be threatened, but London will survive.” She said that Starling had “already passported into Ireland” and may need to do more of its business from Dublin because of Brexit.

Several of the UK’s other leading fintech companies have also warned they will need to open an alternative EU office because of Brexit, including TransferWise.

Last month, chancellor Philip Hammond announced several measures to ensure the UK remained “the best place in the world” for fintech companies, including appointing fintech envoys for England, Northern Ireland and Wales and boosting funding for the British Business Bank.

Court refuses to free jailed Catalan ex-vice president

January 5, 2018


© AFP/File | Protesters called for the release of jailed former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras in front of the city hall of Sant Vicenc dels Horts, near Barcelona, on Thursday

MADRID (AFP) – Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday decided not to release former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, jailed while he is investigated for rebellion and sedition over the region’s independence drive.Three judges ruled unanimously that “there are signs that Junqueras committed the offences of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds,” a spokesman for the Madrid court said.

They also decided there was a risk he would “re-offend as there is no sign that the defendant has any intention of abandoning the route he has followed until now.”

The court also denied claims that Junqueras, in custody since November 2, was a “political prisoner” as claimed by his supporters and those who want independence for Catalonia.

The judges said that the Constitution allows for the defence of any political position, “but this must be defended without committing any offence.”

Junqueras was instrumental in Catalonia’s attempt to break away from Spain via a referendum that took place on October 1 despite a court ban and a unilateral declaration of independence later that month.

After the declaration, Madrid sacked the regional government including Junqueras, imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region, dissolved its parliament and called snap Catalan elections.

The polls on December 21 saw separatist parties, including a ticket led by Junqueras’s leftist ERC party, retain their parliamentary majority and the former vice president elected as a regional lawmaker despite being in prison.

Junqueras argued before the judges on Thursday that he should be released to be able to take his oath as a lawmaker, his lawyer, Andreu Van den Eyden, told reporters.

Catalonia’s former president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium shortly after the independence declaration, was also re-elected.

It is unclear, however, how they will be sworn in.

Separatist parties won 70 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament, but eight belong to politicians who are either in jail or have fled to Belgium.

Pro-unity march in heart of ‘independent’ Catalonia

October 29, 2017



© AFP / by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid | Bikers joined a pro-unity protest in Barcelona, waving Spanish flags

BARCELONA (AFP) – Pro-unity protesters gathered for a rally in Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Sunday, two days after regional lawmakers voted to break away from Spain, plunging the country into an unprecedented political crisis.

As protesters gathered for the march, the deputy president of the region’s now-deposed government lashed out against Madrid over what he called a “coup d’etat”.

“The president of the country is and will remain Carles Puigdemont,” his deputy Oriol Junqueras wrote in Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui.

Junqueras used the word “country” to refer to Catalonia, whose lawmakers pushed Spain into uncharted waters Friday with a vote to declare the region independent.

“We cannot recognise the coup d’etat against Catalonia, nor any of the anti-democratic decisions that the PP (Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party) is adopting by remote control from Madrid,” Junqueras wrote.

He signed the article as the “vice president of the government of Catalonia”.

– ‘Viva Espana!’ –

The Catalan crisis was triggered by a banned independence referendum on October 1 that was shunned by many, and marred by police violence.

Then on Friday, Catalan lawmakers passed a motion, by 70 votes out of 135 in the secessionist-majority regional parliament, to declare the region of 7.5 million people independent from Spain.

Rajoy responded by deposing the regional government, dissolving its parliament, and calling December 21 elections to replace them.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was temporarily put in charge of administering the rebel region.

As prosecutors prepared to file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont next week, he too was defiant on Saturday, calling for “democratic opposition” to Madrid’s power grab.

Puigdemont accused the central government of trampling on the will of independence-seeking Catalans with the first curtailment of regional autonomy since Francisco Franco’s brutal 1939-75 dictatorship.

Barcelona readied for Sunday’s anti-independence march under the slogan: “Catalonia is all of us!”

Television footage showed people streaming out of a metro station near the march, draped in Spanish flags.

The rally is due to kick off at noon near where tens of thousands of people celebrated the new “republic” with song, wine and fireworks just two days earlier.

“Viva Espana!” cried Sunday’s protesters, whose chant means “long live Spain”.

Participants at the rally will include representatives of three Catalan opposition parties — including Rajoy’s conservative PP, in what may amount to the start of an election campaign.

An opinion poll published in centre-right newspaper El Mundo Sunday said separatist parties would lose their majority in Catalonia’s regional parliament if elections were held today.

– Divided region –

Later on Sunday, Real Madrid football club will face Girona, Puigdemont’s favourite team, in the Catalan side’s home stadium, in a game that may see some of Spain’s divisions reflected in the stands.

It is the first visit by Real Madrid, Rajoy’s favourite team, to Catalonia since the referendum.

Roughly the size of Belgium, Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the country.

It produces about a fifth of Spain’s economic output — equivalent to that of Portugal.

Before the upheaval, Catalonia enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare and policing.

But while fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy, Catalans are divided on independence, according to polls.

Rajoy drew sweeping powers, approved by the senate, under a never-before-used constitutional article designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions.

He used these to axe Puigdemont, his deputy, regional ministers, heads of departments, and the chief of police in a move that angered some Catalans.

Far-left supporters of Puigdemont have threatened “mass civil disobedience” if Rajoy carries out the power grab, but have yet to announce any plans.

In Madrid, several thousand people gathered on the central Plaza Colon Saturday, waving the Spanish flag, and calling for Puigdemont to be jailed.

Spain enjoys the backing of the United States and allies in a secession-wary European Union still reeling from Britain’s decision to leave its fold.

Many fear the economic impact as the standoff drags on, with some 1,700 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia so far.


by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid

Spain sacks Catalan police chief as Madrid takes control

October 28, 2017


© Josep Lago, AFP | Members of the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, secure the area outside the Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) which houses the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10.


Latest update : 2017-10-28

Spain has sacked the chief of Catalonia’s regional police force, Josep Lluis Trapero, as the government in Madrid takes control of the autonomous region to block its push for independence.

Madrid dismissed the Catalan government, took over the administration and called a new election after the region’s parliament declared independence on Friday.

There have been doubts over how the Mossos d’Esquadra, as the Catalan police are called, would respond if ordered to evict sacked leader Carles Puigdemont and his government.

In an effort to defuse tensions, the regional police force urged its members to behave in a neutral manner and not to take sides, an internal note seen on Saturday by Reuters showed.


Trapero became a hero to the secessionists after his force took a much softer stance than national police in enforcing a government ban on an independence referendum on October 1.

The force is riven by distrust between those for and against independence and is estranged from Spain’s national police forces, Mossos and national police officers have told Reuters.

“Given that there is it is likely to be an increase in gatherings and rallies of citizens in all the territory and that there are people of different thoughts, we must remember that it is our responsibility to guarantee the security of all and help these to take place without incident,” the memo said.


Trapero’s dismissal was signed off by Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido.

Spain’s High Court last week banned Trapero from leaving Spain and seized his passport as part of an investigation for alleged sedition, although it did not order his arrest.

Prosecutors say he failed to give orders to rescue national police trapped inside a Barcelona building during pro-independence protests last month.

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Catalonia declares independence as Spain prepares to impose direct rule

October 27, 2017

Spain’s leader Mariano Rajoy immediately tweets to say the rule of law will be restored

By Jon Sharman

The Independent

Catalonia declared independence from Spain less than an hour before a vote in the country’s Senate gave Madrid the power to seize the region’s autonomous powers.

The vote in the regional parliament followed a tense week of last-ditch negotiations between Madrid and Barecelona. Seventy of 135 Catalan deputies voted for independence, with 10 opposed and two blank ballot slips.

Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday’s vote in protest.

Rounds of applause broke out in the chamber as members of the parliament hugged and shook hands.

Thousands of people watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens outside Catalonia’s parliament in Barcelona, and cheered and danced after the motion was passed.

The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.

Pido tranquilidad a todos los españoles. El Estado de Derecho restaurará la legalidad en Cataluña. MR

On Thursday Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had ruled out calling a snap election, thought to have been a potential way of defusing tension with the central government.

Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees that Madrid would hold off on its attempts to take control of the region.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.

Spain’s senate voted on Friday, shortly after the Catalan independence vote, to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and allow the imposition of direct rule.

The vote will give Madrid the authority to govern Catalonia is the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous areas.

Mr Rajoy will have the power to sack Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet among other measures. Mr Rajoy is understood to be planning immediately to enact the Article 155 provisions during an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon.

The crisis stems from an independence referendum, held earlier this month, that Spanish judges had declared unconstitutional.

Before it went ahead Madrid authorities confiscated ballot papers and closed polling stations, with clashes erupting in the streets.

An overwhelming majority of those who did vote favoured secession, but turnout was low and there is a substantial section of the Catalan population that wants to remain a part of Spain.

Following Friday’s independence vote, European Council president Donald Tusk said “nothing changes” for the EU, adding it would continue only to deal with the Madrid government.

Mr Tusk urged Spain to favour “force of argument, not argument of force” in addressing the independence declaration.


Spanish PM Rajoy asks Senate for authority to depose Catalonian leader Puigdemont

October 27, 2017


© AFP file picture | Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (right) asked senators to depose Catalonia’s regional President Carles Puigdemont on October 27.


Latest update : 2017-10-27

Spain’s premier urged senators Friday to adopt radical measures to impose direct rule on rebel Catalonia and depose its president in a bid to halt the region’s independence bid.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked parliament’s upper house, where his party holds a majority, to “proceed to the dismissal of the president of the Catalan government, his vice-president and all regional ministers.”

The senate is scheduled to vote later Friday on measures to depose Catalonia‘s secessionist government before the week is out, after the region held an unlawful independence referendum on October 1.

Senators gave Rajoy a standing ovation.

Many expect the region’s separatist leaders to push back with an independence declaration.

The Catalan parliament, where pro-secession parties hold sway, will meet in Barcelona where a proposal to vote on splitting from Spain could work its way onto the floor.

>>Article 155: Spain’s ‘nuclear option’ to stop Catalan independence

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call elections for a new regional parliament — thought to be the only way to stave off Madrid’s imminent power grab.

Warning that seizure of control by the central government would escalate the crisis, he passed the buck to the regional parliament “to determine the consequences” of the threatened takeover — thus leaving the door open for a possible independence push.


Spain and Catalonia have been locked in a constitutional standoff since a “Yes” vote in the unregulated plebiscite which secessionist leaders hold up as a popular mandate for independence for the region of 7.5 million people.

Only about 43 percent of voters turned out, however, with many anti-secessionists staying away and others prevented from casting their ballot by Spanish police in a crackdown that turned violent.

>>Video: A Tango between Barcelona and Madrid

Based on the vote, Puigdemont threatened a declaration of independence, which Rajoy described Friday as “a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.”

Madrid has turned to Article 155 of the constitution — a never-before-used provision designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, which enjoy varying levels of autonomy.

Measures drawn up under the article are set to enter into force on Saturday, and will see the central government seek to temporarily take over Catalonia’s civil service, police, purse, and public broadcaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria insisted Thursday the government was “fulfilling a legal obligation, a democratic obligation and a political obligation,” by its actions.

But the move is likely to anger Catalans, fiercely protective of their autonomy, even if divided on independence.

Independence supporters are ready to fight back.

Albert Botran, a regional lawmaker for the far-left CUP party that backs Puigdemont and wants to split from Spain, vowed Friday to “make it difficult for the new, illegitimate government to get away with it.”

“The first action will be resistance,” he told Catalonia Radio.

‘Impatient’ to leave

Catalonia’s parliament met to discuss the issue late Thursday, where opposition lawmakers pleaded with Puigdemont to find a solution to the standoff closely watched by a European Union nervous wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain’s dramatic decision to leave the bloc.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” Ines Arrimadas, regional leader of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, appealed.

Catalans are fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy — restored after the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Fears for Catalonia’s economy have increased as uncertainty persists over the independence drive, with some 1,600 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of the region in recent weeks.

Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.


Spain on tenterhooks ahead of Catalan crisis sessions — Regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence

October 27, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two crucial meetings were to take place Friday in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.

Catalonia’s parliament will resume debating its response to the Spanish government’s plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain’s Senate was meeting to approve the government’s plans and set the intervention in motion under constitutional powers.

The government’s proposals include removing the Catalan government’s regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region’s parliament.

The Catalan government  rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont faces what could be his last day in power by joining lawmakers to decide whether to defy Spanish laws with the declaration.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to address the Senate meeting and defend his demand for the extraordinary powers.

It will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the Madrid-based national government would directly run the affairs of one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions, a move that will likely fan the flames of the Catalan revolt.

Rajoy says the measures are aimed at restoring order and has promised to call a new regional election once that is achieved.

Puigdemont scrapped hopes of a possible end to the political deadlock on Thursday when he opted not to call an early election himself and halt the drift toward independence.

The parliamentary sessions in Madrid and Barcelona are likely to last several hours before each votes on their resolutions.

Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, thus guaranteeing the approval of his proposals. It will then be up to government to decide which and when to implement.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product. Polls show its 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence.


BBC News

Catalan crisis: Spain Senate to vote on emergency powers

Students with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

The Spanish Senate is due to discuss a plan by the Madrid government to take over some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers, amid an escalating crisis over the region’s push for independence.

Earlier this month Catalonia held a disputed referendum on the issue.

The Senate is expected to pass the emergency measures, which include sacking the Catalan president.

Meanwhile the regional parliament has been debating a possible declaration of independence.

The debate began on Thursday, after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont failed to reveal a favoured course of action, and called on MPs to decide on a response.

Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence following the 1 October vote, but immediately halted implementation and called for negotiations between Catalonia and the Spanish government.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled it was illegal.

Carles Puigdemont in parliament, 26 October
Carles Puigdemont (right) has been under pressure not to call a snap election. Reuters photo

How did Thursday’s debate unfold?

During Thursday’s Catalan parliamentary session, a government spokesman said a proposal to implement the results of a referendum on independence would be submitted to lawmakers on Friday.

Hard-line separatists continued their calls for an official declaration of independence.

“We will continue on the path to a Catalan republic,” an MP for the far-left CUP, which provides key support for the pro-independence governing coalition, said.

A Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

But Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Citizens’s Party, accused Mr Puigdemont of missing countless opportunities to resolve the crisis through negotiation.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” she said.

What will happen in the Spanish Senate on Friday?

The Senate is due to hold a vote on the government’s plan to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the government to take “all measures necessary to compel” a region in case of a crisis.

The article has never been used before.

Under the proposals announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week, Mr Puigdemont would be removed and new regional elections held. Madrid would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

Mr Rajoy’s centre-right government has a majority in the Senate. The plan has also been approved by opposition parties.

Adding fuel to the fire

By Katya Adler, Europe Editor, BBC News in Barcelona

Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution has never been used before in democratic Spain. And for good reason.

Spaniards call it their government’s “nuclear option”.

But on Friday the Spanish Senate is expected to vote in favour of triggering Article 155 and stripping the region of Catalonia of its autonomous powers.

The move is the only way, the Spanish government insists, to calm the Catalan crisis.

But Catalan leaders say such a move will simply add fuel to the fire – making it more likely that Friday will be the day that they officially declare an independent Catalan republic.

Friday’s front page headline of Spain’s Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico tells the story. It reads: “Unilateral Declaration of Independence and Goodbye.”

More on the Catalan crisis

Catalonia in numbers

  • 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces:
  • 25.6% of Spain’s exports
  • 19% of Spain’s GDP
  • 20.7% of foreign investment
Related image

Thousands protest for independence in Catalonia — Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday

October 21, 2017



© PAU BARRENA / AFP | Catalan regional vice-president and chief of Economy and Finance Oriol Junqueras and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont attend a demonstration on October 21, 2017 in Barcelona.

Video by Sarah MORRIS


Latest update : 2017-10-21

Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, local police said, after Spain moved to dismiss Catalonia’s regional government to thwart its leaders’ independence bid.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was among the huge crowds filling the streets around the Paseo de Gracia boulevard, with many chanting  “independence” and “freedom”.

 People hold candles and a Catalan pro-independence "Estelada" flag during a demonstration in Barcelona against the arrest of two Catalan separatist leaders on October 17, 2017.
Catalonia’s independence referendum has thrown the country into crisis. AFP photo

The demonstration was originally called to protest against the detention of two influential separatist activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who are being held on sedition charges accused of instigating protests in the run-up to Catalonia’s banned independence referendum on October 1.

‘They’ve trampled on our rights’

But Saturday’s move by Madrid to seize powers from the semi-autonomous region — which could include taking control of its police force and replacing its public media chiefs — was on the minds of many in the crowds.

“I feel totally outraged and extremely sad,” said Meritxell Agut, a 22-year-old bank worker.

“They’ve trampled on our rights and our ideas as Catalans,” she told AFP, adding: “They can destroy everything they want but we’ll keep on fighting.”