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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Catalan government remains defiant in face of Madrid threats to self-government

The Spanish senate is set to rubber stamp the move to impose direct rule on Barcelona

Catalonia's regional parliament will hold a debate this week on Spain's plan to take direct control of the northeastern region. AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Catalonia's regional parliament will hold a debate this week on Spain's plan to take direct control of the northeastern region. AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Catalonia’s foreign affairs spokesman has said that his government will not accede to any orders made to it by the Spanish national government, claiming that Madrid was acting against the wishes of the people of the region.

“How can the European Union live with that situation [if this happens]? How can the EU democracy survive and how can they be credible if they allow this to happen?” Raul Romeva told the BBC.

“Because what I can tell you is that the people and the institutions in Catalonia will not let this happen.”

Raul Romeva was reacting to the announcement on Saturday by prime minister Mariano Rajoy that he was planning to sack the breakaway province’s government and remove its powers, citing Article 155 of the constitution which allows Madrid to intervene in running its provinces.

A commission composed of 27 members of Spain’s upper house of parliament, the senado or senate, will debate the move this week and are expected to rubber-stamp Mr Rajoy’s proposal as well as calling for fresh elections in Catalonia, leading to a significant heightening of tensions in the crisis, which is now entering its second month.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has been invited to address the commission, but with there being a majority of supporters of Mr Rajoy on the panel, no one is expecting it to come to any decision other than to ratify the prime minister’s decision.

Meanwhile, the Catalan parliament is set to hold a debate this week on the Spanish government’s plans — many expect the body to make a formal declaration of independence. There have also been demands for civil disobedience from members of the parliament, as well as calls for Mr Puigdemont to call elections before Madrid imposes direct rule.

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Read more:

PM pledges to sack Catalonia's leaders in fight for the future of Spain

Spain: Threat of violence as Madrid denies 'coup' and Catalan leader declares 'worst attack since Franco'

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In other developments, a pro-independence group based across the Spanish border in France has been offering shelter to Mr Puigdemont and any other members of his administration should the national government attempt to arrest them. Robert Casanovas, the president of the Committee for the Self-Determination of North Catalonia, told The Associated Press he has a villa ready for Puigdemont in the village of Theza, as well as “20 to 30” apartments available for other members of his cabinet if they are forced to leave Spain and want to set up a Catalan exile government.

Catalan separatists are also planning to use ‘human shields’ to block efforts by the Spanish authorities to take control of the breakaway region as both sides prepare to escalate the political conflict, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Groups will concentrate their activists around the regional government’s headquarters in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter and the nearby parliament building, the people said, asking not to be identified by name. They expect Spanish police to use force to try to shut down the administration and will put their bodies on the line, said one person.

“We are calling for a peaceful and democratic defence of the institutions,” Lluis Corominas, the leader of the main separatist group in the Catalan Parliament, said at a press conference in Barcelona.