Divendres  13.12.2013  17:55

The Spanish Government “will not allow” and “will not negotiate” on Catalonia’s self-determination vote

Mariano Rajoy reacts to Catalan agreement


“I want to tell you with all clarity that this consultation will not take place”, emphasised the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday evening referring to Catalonia’s self-determination vote. In the early afternoon, a majority of Catalan parties announced an agreement on the specific wording of the question and the exact date to hold the vote. According to the Spanish PM such a vote “radically goes against the Constitution and the law” and “it frontally clashes against the indissoluble unity of Spain”, he said in a press conference alongside the European Council’s President Herman van Rompuy. The “unity of Spain and the sovereignty belonging to the Spanish people as a whole are not debatable and are out of any negotiation”, added Rajoy. Therefore, the Spanish Government, run by the Conservative and Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), completely closes the door on allowing and even negotiating the possibility to organise a self-determination vote in Catalonia. The Catalan parties have decided to hold the vote on November 9, 2014 in order for the Spanish institutions to have time to negotiate the procedures and allow such a democratic claim to take place. “Do you want Catalonia to become a state? If yes, do you want this state to be independent?” This is the “inclusive” and “clear” question that the parties supporting Catalonia’s self-determination vote have agreed on this Thursday.

The majority of Catalans want to vote

According to the last electoral results and opinion polls, around 80% of Catalans would like a self-determination vote to take place. According to the polls,between 50% and 57% would vote ‘yes’ to independence and between 20% and 25% would vote ‘no’. Besides, the civil society grass-root organisations that are behind the two massive independence demonstrations in2012 and 2013 – which gathered around 1.5 million people each – announced this evening they were accepting the question the way it was agreed among the Catalan parties. These organisations (ANC, Òmnium Cultural and AMI) had been pressuring to have a clear question like that of Scotland’s referendum. However, they are satisfied since it allows them to directly vote for independence and they announced they will work for the victory of “the double yes”.

Rajoy closes permanently the door on negotiating holding the vote

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy did not say anything different than what he has been repeating over the past few months: Catalonia’s self-determination is “unconstitutional” since “it goes against the law”. As the Spanish Prime Minister, he has “the duty to follow the law and cannot allow it”. He also added he “does not want to allow it either” because he thinks “it’s nonsense”. Rajoy repeated a part of Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution by stating that Catalonia’s self-determination vote “frontally clashes against the indissoluble unity of Spain”. Furthermore, he insisted that “the unity of Spain and the sovereignty belonging to the Spanish people as a whole are not debatable and are out of any negotiation”.

Rajoy added he “was deeply sorry” about the Catalan proposal. He added that “since Catalonia has always been a fundamental and beloved part of Spain”, he “will devote all of his efforts” to make sure that “Catalans are not harmed by this initiative”. He insisted that “we all have the duty to follow the law” and he was “calling on the President of the Catalan Government to uphold his responsibility of not violating the law”.

Rajoy does not want to speculate on ending Catalonia’s autonomy

When Rajoy was asked whether he would end Catalonia’s autonomy by implementing Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, he said that his job “was not to speculate”. Then he insisted in firmly saying that “this vote will not take place”. Furthermore, he repeated that he “will not neither negotiate on the unity of Spain nor the sovereignty of Spaniards”, because he is “not allowed to do so and he does not want to”.

The Spanish Prime Minister was also asked whether he has talked about Catalonia’s issue with the Opposition Leader and Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Rajoy answered that “on this issue, my agreement with Mr. Rubalcaba is absolute”.

Van Rompuy wishes Spain to remain “united”

Rajoy’s statements were made in a press conference in Madrid, given after a meeting with the European Council President’s Herman van Rompuy to talk about the banking union and common European defence. Both politicians held a joint press conference where all the questions referred to Catalonia and none of them to direct EU affairs, since Rajoy had talked about Catalonia’s situation in his initial intervention.

When van Rompuy was asked about whether an independent Catalonia would be kicked out from the EU, the Belgian Christian-Democrat initially followed the guidelines and gave similar answers to those already given on the subject by other EU officials: it is “not their job to talk about internal matters” but, as a general principle, “EU treaties would not be applicable” to a part of a Member State that has seceded. Indeed, “it would become a third state” and would have to ask for re-admission, conditioned to unanimity.

In fact, the European Commission has repeated it would only talk about the exact consequences on the basis of a precise scenario and at the request of a Member State government, which has not happened so far. This can open the door to temporary transitional agreements, as Scotland’s White Paper is foreseeing in order to remain within the EU in the event of becoming independent. The unexpected part was when van Rompuy added that he “was hoping that Spain will remain as a united and reliable” country, contradicting the first part of his answer about not taking sides in an internal matter.

Other Spanish Government members also reject allowing the vote

Before Rajoy spoke, a few members of the Spanish Executive and leaders of the governing People’s Party (PP) had voiced their opinion on the matter. The first one was the Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, who spoke minutes after the Catalan President had announced the agreement and while the four party leaders were still discussing the agreement’s details. Gallardón “guaranteed” that “the vote will not take place” since “it goes against the Constitution”.  “The Constitution does not authorise any Autonomous Community to call a vote or a referendum on issues affecting the national sovereignty”, he emphasised. Gallardón also added that the Catalan vote “foresees that a section of the Spanish people are not allowed to decide on their own integrity”.

Besides, the Spanish Home Affairs Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz repeated that the vote is “unconstitutional”. However he believed “there is still time to redirect things”, from an approach base on “common sense and responsibility”. The President of the Spanish Parliament, Jesús Posada, stated that Article 1 and 2 of the Spanish Constitution do not allow for such a vote to happen. In addition, the PP politician emphasised that those articles “cannot be modified”.

The Socialists talk about a “dead-end”

The leader of the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) talked minutes after the vote’s question and date were announced. Rubalcaba said that the Catalan President Artur Mas “is taking Catalonia to a dead-end”. Furthermore, he said that he and Rajoy “have already talked about the whole issue” and that they “share the same approach”. In addition, he insisted that they are against holding such a referendum. However, its Catalan branch, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), does support Catalonia’s right to self-determination and the organisation of a legal vote agreed with the Spanish institutions. The pressure from the PSOE made the PSC quit the group of parties negotiating the self-determination vote's question and date.

In the evening, the PSC Secretary General, Pere Navarro, said that the pact on the question and date was “a unilateral action condemned to failure”. Furthermore, he opposed the idea that the question actually includes the federal option, which was supported by the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA). Navarro accused the ICV-EUiA of being “acolytes” of the Catalan Executive, since the vote’s agreement allows the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) and the Left-Wing Independence Party (ERC) to approve “the greatest anti-social budget ever”.

The anti-Catalan nationalist party asks the Spanish democracy for “strength and intelligence”

The anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) asked “the Spanish Democracy” for “strength and intelligence”, answering in “a firm way” the challenge thrown by the Catalan parties. C’s Spokesperson, Jordi Cañas, criticised the agreement since it would mean that “some will be strangers in their own country”, “living in a sort of ‘Matrix’, without taking into account reality”. According to him, the “secret conclave” shaping the pact had “a white fumata” by “burning the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy”.