Catalonia won the right to be an independent state during its recent referendum on the issue, as there was a clear “yes” vote, the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont announced.
“It’s not a personal decision,” but the result of the vote on “self-determination,” to which the people of the region have said “yes,” Puigdemont added.
The leader of Catalonia was making a much-anticipated address to his parliament. It is his first speech since the controversial October 1 referendum on the region’s independence from Spain.
“This is a special and historic moment having a long outreach,” the Catalan leader said, arguing that the current situation in the EU state is “not only a domestic affair.”
During his speech, Puigdemont also referred to the Brexit referendum on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. “If that is possible in Europe, why can’t the same standards be applied in regard to Catalonia and Spain?” he said.
Spanish authorities attempted to disrupt the process, with the police taking away voting documents and hindering many people’s chance to vote in the referendum.
The Catalan officials “want to de-escalate the tensions” with Madrid and the Spanish people, Puigdemont said, adding that his parliament “will apply the forces of dialogue and empathy.”
Catalonia has always strived for “transition and development,” having for many years asked for separation from the central government. Instead, it has received “political humiliation” from Madrid, the Catalan leader said.
Hours before Puigdemont’s address, the Spanish ruling party made threatening allusions to a previous independence bid.
“Perhaps the one who declares it [independence] will end up like the one who declared it 83 years ago,” a spokesman for the People’s Party (PP), Pablo Casado, said on Monday.
The politician was apparently referring to Lluis Companys, the president of Catalonia who proclaimed a ‘Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic’ in 1934. He then had to flee the country, and was tried for military rebellion and executed in 1940.
After the referendum, Puigdemont called for mediated negotiations with Madrid.
However, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has ruled out all talks with Catalan officials and said Madrid would use all legal means necessary to stop Catalonia’s secession.
“We are going to prevent independence from occurring. That is why I can tell you with absolute frankness that it will not happen,” he said last week.
The PM has also vowed to keep federal police in the region.
During the referendum on October 1, Spanish law enforcement violently clashed with those who came to cast their votes, physically removing people from polling stations and confiscating ballot boxes. Nearly 900 people were injured in the police crackdown, according to the Catalonian government.
The Catalan leader, alongside other regional and some European officials, condemned the actions of the Spanish authorities, calling them “unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible violence.”
The European Union has said it would not recognize an independent Catalonia. The Catalan issue is considered an internal matter for Spain, with the bloc calling for dialogue between the central and regional governments, and for no repeat of the recent violence.
“We called on all those concerned to get out of this confrontation as quickly as possible and to start dialogue,” a spokesman for the European Commission said on Tuesday, as cited by Reuters.
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“How come that in the case of Catalonia the referendum on independence is not valid, while in the case of Kosovo secession is allowed even without a referendum,” Vucic said.