Catalonia crisis: Spain moves to suspend autonomy

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There are fears that the latest moves could lead to unrest in Catalonia

Spain is to start suspending Catalonian autonomy on Saturday, as its leader threatened to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia’s leader said earlier the region’s parliament would vote on independence, backed in a disputed referendum on 1 October, if Spain “continues repression”.

Some fear the moves could spark unrest.

“The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia’s self-government,” the government statement said.

“It denounces the attitude maintained by those in charge of the Generalitat [Catalan government] to seek, deliberately and systematically, institutional confrontation despite the serious damage that is being caused to the coexistence and the economic structure of Catalonia.

“No-one doubts that the Spanish government will do all it can to restore the constitutional order.”

Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, which cemented democratic rule after the death of dictator General Franco three years earlier, allows Madrid to introduce measures leading to direct rule in a crisis but it has never been invoked.

Political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona have been engaged in a tense stand-off since the disputed referendum, which Catalan leaders say resulted in a “Yes” vote for independence but which Spain’s supreme court regards as illegal.

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Media captionWhy is there a Catalan crisis? The answer is in its past, as Europe correspondent Gavin Lee explains

A slow game

By Katya Adler, BBC Europe editor

The Catalan crisis is reaching breaking point but we have to be careful here. Nothing will happen from one day to the next.

Political rhetoric aside, both the Spanish government and Catalan regional leaders know sentiments are running so high across Spain at the moment, that millions are poised to take to the streets.

Once the shopping list of measures has been decided, the Catalan leader has the right of reply and we’re told there is no legal window of opportunity for him to do so, meaning this could take days or weeks.

Finally, the Spanish Senate needs to approve the measures.


What is Madrid’s position?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy set the deadline of 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT) for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to offer a definitive answer on the independence question, and called on him to “act sensibly”.

“It’s not that difficult to reply to the question: has Catalonia declared independence? Because if it has, the government is obliged to act in one way, and if it has not, we can talk here,” he said in parliament on Wednesday.

  • The man who wants to break up Spain

This was the second and final deadline, as Madrid says Mr Puigdemont on Monday failed to clarify whether he had declared independence.

What happens now?

Mr Rajoy is due to attend an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday afternoon.

On Saturday the government will be expected to draw up a list of specific measures under Article 155 of the constitution, launching the transfer of powers from Catalonia to Madrid.

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