Catalonia ‘independence by Monday’


Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain, a regional government source says, as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy.

Pro-independence parties which control the regional parliament have asked for a debate and vote on Monday on declaring independence, the source said. A declaration should follow this vote, although it is unclear when.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont earlier told the BBC that his government would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence after tallying votes from last weekend’s referendum, which Madrid deems illegal.

His comment appeared after Spain’s King Felipe VI accused secessionist leaders of shattering democratic principles and dividing Catalan society, as tens of thousands protested against a violent police crackdown on Sunday’s vote.

“We are to declare independence 48 hours after all the official results are counted,” Puigdemont said in remarks posted on the BBC’s website.

“This will probably finish once we get all the votes in from abroad at the end of the week and therefore we shall probably act over the weekend or early next week.”

Puigdemont is due to make a statement at 0600 AEDT Thursday.

Spain has been rocked by the Catalan vote and the Spanish police response to it, which saw batons and rubber bullets used to prevent people voting. Hundreds were injured, in scenes that brought international condemnation.

Catalans came out onto the streets on Tuesday to condemn the police action, shutting down road traffic, public transport and businesses, and ratcheting up fears of intensifying unrest in a region that makes up one-fifth of the Spanish economy.

Spain’s worst crisis in decades has shaken the euro and sharply increased Madrid’s borrowing costs, while banks led a fall in Spanish stocks on Wednesday.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos sought to ease the anxieties of investor and customers.

“Catalan banks are Spanish banks and European banks are solid and their clients have nothing to fear,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Madrid.

Caixabank, Catalonia’s largest lender, said in an internal memo to employees late on Tuesday that its only objective was to “protect clients’, shareholders’ and employees’ interests”.

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hardline stance on the issue, faces a huge challenge to see off Catalan independence without further unrest.

European Council President Donald Tusk has backed his constitutional argument but some fellow members of the bloc have criticised his tactics. Tusk has appealed to Rajoy to seek ways to avoid escalation in Catalonia and the use of force.

Participants in Sunday’s ballot – only about 43 per cent of eligible voters – opted overwhelmingly for independence, a result that was expected since residents who favour remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the referendum.

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