Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, on the evening of October 10 put his signature to a document that declared the region’s independence from Spain, but then said the move would not be implemented for several weeks.
The text, proclaiming the constitution of a “Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state”, was signed by 72 members of Catalonia’s parliament but appeared to have little legal credibility.
The move, a significant but largely symbolic act to try to pressure the Spanish government to negotiate over Catalan independence, came shortly after a speech by Puigdemont in which he had seemingly stopped short of the unilateral declaration of independence feared by Madrid and the European Union after a referendum vote marred by police violence. This was met with discontent from the pro-nationalist majority in parliament.
“You can’t suspend a declaration of independence you haven’t made,” the Catalan Socialist Party leader, Miquel Iceta, added after Puigdemont had spoken. “It’s an insult to common sense,” tweeted Catalonia’s Partido Popular party.
Puigdemont told the regional parliament that the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue. He said it is worth exploring international mediation between Catalonia and Spain.
This was dismissed by the Spanish central government in Madrid. Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria responded to these developments by saying: “Neither Mr Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim… to impose mediation.”
France and Germany oppose Catalonia’s bid for independence. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the European Union should not mediate in the crisis. Spain’s government is able to handle the situation on its own, Macron said.
The October 1 referendum resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence, Catalan officials say. But anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot – which had a reported turnout of 43% – and there were several reports of police violence, with national police reportedly using rubber bullets against the voters and hiding the ballot boxes.