Catalonia: Independence deadline approaches for Puigdemont

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Catalonia: Independence deadline approaches for Puigdemont


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Media captionEurope correspondent Gavin Lee looks to the past for the origins of the Catalan crisis

The leader of the Spanish region of Catalonia is just hours away from a deadline set by the central government to clarify whether or not he has declared independence.

If he confirms that he has, he will have until Thursday to withdraw the declaration or Catalonia, which has substantial autonomy, faces the prospect of direct rule from Madrid.

The deadline given to Carles Puigdemont is 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT).

It is not yet clear what he will say.

After an independence referendum two weeks ago which was declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court, Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence but immediately suspended its implementation.

He said he wanted to negotiate with the government in Madrid but that has not happened.

Mr Puigdemont is under pressure from coalition partners to go ahead with independence, while Spanish and international politicians have tried to dissuade him from it.

The European Union has made clear that should Catalonia split from Spain, the region will cease to be part of the EU.


Yes or no?

Analysis by the BBC’s James Reynolds in Barcelona

The Spanish government has asked Carles Puigdemont what it considers to be an extremely simple question: Has he declared independence or not?

Yes, or no?

If Mr Puigdemont says that he has declared independence, Spain may move towards the dramatic step of dissolving the regional government in Catalonia and calling new local elections.

By contrast, if Mr Puigdemont says that he hasn’t declared independence, the Spanish authorities may decide that he is no longer breaking the law.

But such a step may anger the Catalan leader’s coalition partners who are campaigning for a clear break with Spain.

It may be that Carles Puigdemont tries to find a way round a simple yes/no answer in order to win himself more time.


What is Catalonia?

Catalonia is a region in north-east Spain. It has its own language, parliament, flag and anthem. It even has its own police force and controls some of its own public services, such as schools and healthcare.

It is one of Spain’s wealthiest and most productive regions and has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years.

What happened in the referendum?

The Catalan parliament approved an independence referendum which went ahead on 1 October despite being suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

National police were sent to the region to try and stop voting at polling stations. Hundreds of people were hurt, including some police officers.

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AFP

Image caption

The Catalan authorities said more than 800 people were hurt when police tried to stop the referendum

Turnout in the referendum was less than 50%. Of those who voted, the Catalan authorities said nearly 90% opted for independence.

What happens next?

If Madrid invokes Article 155 of its constitution and imposes direct rule, Catalonia will no longer have the power to make decisions on public services such as healthcare and education.

The central government can also take control of the police and call for a snap election.



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