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Spain considers allowing independence votes, says official

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Spain is considering modifications to its constitution that would allow for its regions to hold independence referendums in the future, according to a top government official. 


Puigdemont surrenders to Belgian authorities

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Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told BBC News agency that a national vote on the issue could be held in the future.

Mr Dastis’ statements come in amid the Catalonia independence crisis, a region whose regional government has been fired by Madrid with leadership in Spanish custody or in Belgium.

Protests have continued over the former cabinet ministers in disputed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s pro-independence ex-government.

On Oct 1, the Catalan regional leadership held an independence referendum Madrid considered illegal.

After a full declaration of independence on Oct 27 that Spain’s constitutional court considered “unconstitutional and void”, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used the powers of Article 155 to render Catalonia’s autonomy virtually nonexistent.

Mr Rajoy had approval from the Senate to wipe the leadership and call new regional elections for December of this year.

Puigdemont’s Catalan European Democratic Party is allowed to participate in the election, Madrid has said. His pro-independence party won a majority in the regional parliament in 2015, and put forward his name as their leader for the upcoming election.

A European Union arrest warrant was issued on Nov 5 for Puigdemont and four other Catalan ministers with charges of rebellion. They were released on condition they stay in Belgium for two weeks to attend court sessions.

Belguim says it will take the decision out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the courts on whether to send the Catalan officials back to Spain.

“The request made this afternoon by the Brussels’ Prosecutor’s Office for the provisional release of all persons sought has been granted by the investigative judge,” a statement from the Belgian prosecutor’s office said.

The office said the entire extradition process could take more than 60 days, well past the Dec 21 date of the Catalonia election.


More details to follow. Image 1 of Alfonso Dastis from Politico Europe.  ■

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Catalonia

Puigdemont released on bail, awaits extradition decision

The German justice system has released embattled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on bail, but has delayed a decision on the extradition request made by Spain, where the independence leader could face up to 25 years of incarceration. 

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Eli Ridder | The Avro Post

The German justice system has released embattled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on bail, but has delayed a decision on the extradition request made by Spain, where the independence leader could face up to 25 years of incarceration. 


Crisis continues: Catalonia in limbo

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Mr. Puigdemont had entered Germany from Denmark after leaving Finland on Friday when it appeared that he would be apprehended by police and begin the extradition process requested by Spain.

Tens of thousands of Catalans, many of them wearing yellow in support of jailed separatist leaders, demonstrated in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon, chanting “Puigdemont, our president” and “freedom for political prisoners,” reported Reuters.

The latest developments are part of the worsening Catalonia independence crisis that saw the elected pro-succession regional government hold a referendum on Oct. 1 that resulted in violence by national police and prompting Madrid to take direct control.

A snap election called by the federal government saw the independence coalition retain control of the Catalan parliament on Dec. 22 of last year, but Puigdemont, and much of his cabinet, were either in exile or in jail.


Police chief charged

Former chief of the Catalan police force, Lluis Trapero, received charges over his actions during the independence referendum in October of last year, it was reported on Thursday.

Madrid has charged the ex-chief with two counts of sedition and one of criminal organization, along with other former regional authorities.

The judge, Carmen Lamela, accuses the officials of working in cooperation with an organized plan to bring about Catalonia’s independence from Spain.

The charges specifically surround events last last September when crowds of people obstructed national police raid on ministry buildings in an attempt to halt the succession ballot and the referendum date.

Catalonia formally declared independence on Oct. 27 after passing a resolution in the regional parliament 70 to 10, a vote that the pro-unity opposition boycotted.

A planned Senate meeting passed Article 155 soon after the Catalan declaration stripping Catalonia of parts of its autonomy and giving Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy the power to oust the current regional government.

Rajoy told the senators that direct rule was essential to “law, democracy and stability.”

Later on Friday, Rajoy called regional elections for Catalonia, dissolving the current parliament and firing Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Days later, Puigdemont fled to Belgium.


More details to follow. Image of Carles Puigdemont from previous files.  ■

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Catalonia

Crisis continues: Catalonia in limbo

Catalonia is in a strange political limbo with its re-elected leader in Belgium.

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It has been over three months since Catalonia declared independence on Oct. 27 following a referendum that solidified the region’s support of its separatist ruling government but the region currently lies in political limbo. 

Spanish Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy cracked down on the regional government the following day, sending then-President Carles Puigdemont and much of his cabinet fleeing the country for Belgium where he remains in exile.

On Dec. 21, Madrid forced an election that resulted in a separatist victory, maintaining nearly the same amount of power that it had before.

Rajoy’s People’s Party was decimated in the election and only held four seats in the end, meaning it was unable to form a parliamentary group of its own in the Catalan parliament for the first time in history

While Mr. Puigdemont can return from self-imposed exile in Brussels at any point to take up his role as elected president of Catalonia, he would risk arrest if he landed in Barcelona.

Four other independence politicians are still detained by Spanish authorities while Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya works to form a needed coalition government with fellow separatists Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, or the Republican Left.

Three parties gained over 30 seats in the Catalan parliament in December. Two of them are pro-independence.

The results in numbers for pro-independence and other parties

  • 37 seats – Ciudadanos 
  • 34 seats – Junts per Catalunya 
  • 32 seats – Republican Left 
  • 17 seats – PSC 
  •   8 seats – CeC
  •   4 seats – CUP 
  •   3 seats People’s Party

While they don’t hold a majority, pro-independence seats number 47.5 per cent, a strong minority, however, just short of the the majority that would boost separatist claims to a democratic mandate in leaving Spain.


Current status

The federal government under Rajoy currently runs the region of Catalonia until its parliament can form a stable political alliance and create a new administration.

Rajoy has shown that he is capable of employing Article 155 of the Constitution to halt any true independence effort by the Catalonia’s government, and he has the support of the European Union and the distant backing of NATO.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Spain, Canada, parts of Europe and the United States are part of, supports territorial sovereignty for its members.


More details to follow. Image of Catalonia’s parliament from  ■

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Catalonia

Catalan separatists maintain majority

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The three main Catalan separatist parties repeated similar results to those that took place two years ago by managing to win a majority of seats in the regional parliament.


Berning Media Network


However, it was the anti-independence party Ciutadans which obtained most support, with 25 per cent of the total votes.

No one party has gathered enough seats to form a government on its own, therefore negotiations will have to take place. Election turnout was more than 80 per cent, a record high for a Catalan regional election.

Junts Per Catalunya (34 seats), ERC (32) and CUP (4) are likely to try to form a similar coalition to that of 2015, which would give the pro-independence movement a two-seat majority, although negotiations will not be simple due to the differences of these parties in other-than-nacionalist aspects. Meanwhile Ciutadans (37), PSC (17) and PP (3) – the main unionist parties – would find themselves 11 seats short of a majority in the 135 seat chamber. Progressive party Catalunya en Comú (8) are the only main party to not have opt for any of the two sides (pro and against independence), and could remain a key party in negotiations to form a government.

A majority for independence parties could mean more headaches for the Spanish government, who stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and called for the elections in a hope to solve the regional crisis. It appears that the election results would not favor Madrid’s interests, as it would mean more confrontation between both governments.

Ciutadan’s leader Inés Arrimadas maintained that her party had been “victorious”, while other party personalities called for her to be named Catalan president. She admited, however, that forming a coalition to put her in government of the region would be “difficults”, but that they would try.

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who finds himself in self-imposed exile in Brussels, declared that the “Catalan Republic” had “defeated the Spanish State”.

No official comment has still been made by ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, who is currently still in prison after being accused of rebellion and sedition.


More details to follow. Syndicated from BMN. Image 1 from BMN.  ■

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