MADRID – Spain’s conservative government has given the leaders of Catalonia five days to clarify their declaration of independence that included delaying actual secession to allow time for talks with Madrid, official sources told EFE on Wednesday.
The deadline is part of a formal request for clarification sent by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s administration to Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont.
The message also establishes a deadline of Oct. 19 for Catalonia to rescind the independence declaration or face the possibility that Madrid will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would allow the central government to impose direct rule over the wealthy northeastern region.
In a landmark speech to Catalan lawmakers on Tuesday, Puigdemont insisted that Catalonia had won the right to secede, but called for suspending the effects of the declaration in favor of a dialogue with the central government.
“The Cabinet has agreed this morning to formally require the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared independence after the deliberate confusion created over whether it has come into effect,” Rajoy said Wednesday in a televised address.
If Puigdemont were to ignore the requirement, the central government would adopt the “measures necessary to oblige” Catalonia to comply with the law and constitution, the message said, citing Article 155.
“It is impossible to accept the imposition of a unilateral point of view which we all know is impossible for one of the parties to accept under the guise of dialogue,” Rajoy told Spain’s Parliament in Madrid on Wednesday.
Speaking to CNN hours earlier, Puigdemont called for negotiations without preconditions.
“We are at a point where the most important thing is that there is no previous condition to sit down and talk, to accept that we have to talk, we need to talk in the right conditions,” he said.
But Spain’s government has consistently ruled out negotiations with Catalan separatists on the basis that the Constitutional Court, the most powerful rung of Spanish judiciary, has ruled the referendum, and the locally passed laws underpinning it, illegal.
In Parliament, Rajoy said that the way in which the Catalan government had staged its Oct. 1 referendum would not be taken seriously by any country in the world, adding further scorn when he suggested it would not stand up to the most simple test for transparency or neutrality.