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Catalan government seeks to buy time with mediation

The regional executive wants to block attempts to see its powers stripped by Madrid

They key word for the Catalan regional government in the coming weeks will be “mediation.” Regional premier Carles Puigdemont’s strategy will be based in ensuring that the declaration of independence from Tuesday night is on hold until getting some type of international mediation. If Puigdemont convinces the central government to sit at a negotiating table, independence can be postponed for several weeks. If it doesn’t happen, the regional government will feel entitled to activate the declaration of independence.

Carles Puigdemont at the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya this Tuesday.
Carles Puigdemont at the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya this Tuesday. AP

It’s not a comfortable situation. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly stated in recent weeks that the path to a solution to the Catalan crisis is not through mediation, especially not at the international levels, as he maintains the dispute is an internal issue. If the government in Madrid accepted mediation, it would mean legitimizing secessionist claims. Rajoy has always made it clear that he will not negotiate on “national sovereignty.”

The other problem with international mediation is that Puigdemont is lacking a relevant mediator. The European Commission has once again refused to act as such, as did the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Rajoy has always made it clear that he will not negotiate “national sovereignty”

Until now, the only negotiators that have offered assistance are: the president of the Basque Country region Íñigo Urkullu, the mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, and the Barcelona Bar Association. The regional government has also probed the Vatican through the archbishop of Barcelona, Juan José Omella.

New offers

The Catalan premier assured the regional parliament that offers for mediation have come from “every corner of the planet” and it is now time for the central government to answer those calls. “All these voices deserve to be heard and all have asked us to open up dialogue, and out of responsibility and respect, I will,” he said. He also added that in the coming days he will reveal the names of those possible mediators.

The independence declaration signed on Tuesday by pro-independence officials also calls for international mediation.

The Catalan premier assured Parliament that offers for mediation have come from “every corner of the planet”

The document calls for the beginning of the “democratic, citizen-based, transparent, participatory, and binding process” and, at the same time, affirms the willingness of the proactive groups to “open negotiations with the Spanish State, without previous constraints.” The statement also requests the attention of “the international community and the authorities of the European Union” and urges those organizations to “intervene to stop the violation of civil rights and to follow up on the negotiating process with the Spanish State and serve as witnesses.”

A large part of the opposition to Catalan independence considers these calls for mediation an attempt to stop the activation of article 155 of the Constitution by the central government, a provision that would suspend the region’s autonomy. This afternoon, Rajoy made a brief address where he asked Puigdemont to clarify whether he unilaterally declared independence before he implements article 155.

In any case, what is certain is that the regional government’s actions will remain paralyzed. Without financial autonomy and without parliamentary majority, Puigdemont has a very difficult decision to make.

English version by Debora Almeida

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