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Catalonia to immediately declare independence if no referendum held

Spanish attorney general to study legality of regional government’s plan to break away from Spain

Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont (center).
Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont (center).

Spain’s Attorney General José Manuel Maza is set to examine the legality of a plan outlined by the regional government of Catalonia to activate immediate secession from Spain if the central government in Madrid stops it from holding a vote on independence – something it is planning on doing in September or October of this year.

The independence mechanism is detailed in a secret draft version of legislation being prepared by the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government, and to which EL PAÍS has had access.

The text ignore issues of enormous importance including if Catalonia would be an EU member

Speaking about the document on Spanish national broadcaster TVE, Maza described the text as “surprising” and “strange” in a country governed by “the rule of law,” but refused be drawn on legal issues related to the document, saying he had not yet had time to study the draft. He said however, that he would meet with fellow prosecutors on Monday to examine its legal status.

The document aims to work as a provisional Catalan Constitution that, according to the text, would be in place during the two-month period that the parliament would have to begin a process that would culminate in the “parliamentary republic” of Catalonia.

“If the Spanish state effectively impedes the holding of a referendum, this law will enter into effect in a complete and immediate manner when the [regional] parliament has verified such an impediment,” the draft legislation reads.

Catalonia has been on a collision course with the Popular Party (PP) government in Madrid for months now, due to its insistence on holding an official vote on its future. The central government is fiercely opposed to any such referendum, or indeed independence for the northeastern region, and already maneuvered to prevent such a plebiscite from taking place in November 2014. However, officials in the regional government still organized a vote – albeit an unofficial one the result of which was not recognized by international observers – which saw citizens vote in favor of a breakaway from the rest of Spain.

Barely a dozen people have been managing this instruction manual for putting into effect the independence of Catalonia

Tensions within the pro-sovereignty bloc in Catalonia have led to competition between key figures to see who can go furthest in their plans for the process, and this has accelerated a journey that would have no point of return. Barely a dozen people – under the coordination of the former vice-president of the Constitutional Court, Carles Viver Pi Sunyer – have been managing this instruction manual for putting into effect the independence of Catalonia.

The text reveals that the latest moves by the politicians involved – regional premier Carles Puigdemont is in Madrid today to offer the central government the chance to let the vote go ahead, while Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has invited the Catalan leader to debate the question before Congress – are merely gestures in the face of the very serious institutional challenge that is on its way.

The document has a section that covers the referendum itself and features the question that would be asked of voters: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state that is independent from Spain?” The intention in the text is that this part of the legislation would come into effect first in order to be able to hold the referendum, and indicates that a majority of votes in favor, no matter how slim, and with no minimum participation level, would ratify the decision and mean that it was binding.

Tensions in  Catalonia’s pro-sovereignty bloc have accelerated a journey with no point of return

The text makes a number of references to itself as being a “founding law,” and goes into exhaustive details – albeit with many legal loopholes and unknowns – about the breakaway: i.e. who would be a Catalan citizen, how it would be possible to obtain nationality, which Spanish laws would remain in force and which would not, what would happen to government workers currently employed by the state, among other details.

The pro-independence majority in the regional government has already passed a reform that would allow for the express approval of the text. In just 48 hours, and without a chance for the opposition to respond, independence would be put into motion.

The authors of the text ignore legal and material elements that have enormous importance and complexity, such as the whether this new republic would continue to form part of Europe, or whether social benefits or pensions would be guaranteed, or whether all taxation – and fines for non-payment – would be the responsibility of the regional government.

Under the reasoning of the authors of the text, none of these issues would infringe the law because, as the second article reads, “national sovereignty resides with the people of Catalonia, from whom all powers of the State emanate.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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