Catalan leader pressures Spain to recognize independence | News | DW | 05.09.2018
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Catalan leader pressures Spain to recognize independence

Quim Torra called on citizens to march for the independence cause in the upcoming regional celebrations. He said his government was open to dialogue, but would 'never renounce their right to self-determination.'

Catalan president Quim Torra doubled down in support of continued independence efforts in a speech on Tuesday in Barcelona, on the eve of the region's national day celebrations. The Diada, as the yearly celebration is called, will take place on September 11.

"At the Diada, our success is at stake," Torra said. He called on Catalans to "fill the streets" in support for secession, hoping to inject new popular momentum into the struggle. Torra's new independence push comes five months after he became leader of the autonomous region and nearly a year after the October 1 referendum for independence, which Madrid insisted was not legal under Spanish law.

Catalonia, which accounts for around a fifth of Spain's economy and is home to its second-biggest city, is at a "crossroads," Torra affirmed. He said he supported talks with Madrid and opposed violence, but would only settle for "freedom," in a reference to secession.

Torra said he would push the Spanish state to recognize an independence referendum. "The Oct. 1 mandate is in force and we are working to bring it into effect," he said, but added that "only an agreed, binding and internationally recognized referendum on self-determination can renew that mandate".

"We will always listen to everyone, but we will never renounce our right to self-determination," Torra said. "We have not taken one single step back," he added.

Read more: New Catalan separatist leader sticks steadfastly to independence from Spain

Spain: Torra should talk to all Catalans

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has taken a less confrontational stance on the Catalan issue than his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, from whom he took over the reigns of power in June.

Sanchez met with Torra in Madrid in July and has since offered several olive branches to repair the relationship. He moved Catalan separatist prisoners closer to home, lifted financial controls on the region and offered a new referendum to increase Catalan autonomy.

Read more: Pedro Sanchez seizes historic opportunity to become Spain's prime minister

But secessionists have not backed down from their demand for self-determination on their terms and Torra's speech was a signal to Madrid that their fight is not over.

Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa responded to Torra on Tuesday, saying the government was open to talks, but noted that the regional leader was not speaking to the entire Catalan electorate. 

"Dialogue, yes, and negotiations. But on things that unite all Catalans," she said in a news conference.

Celaa added that Torra's speech was not in step with the 21st century, with its appeal to self-determination and victimization, and was directed exclusively at the pro-independence faction. Nevertheless, Celaa said the Spanish government would not see Torra's press conference as a hindrance to its ongoing dialogue with the region.

A closely watched poll by the Centro d'Estudis d'Opinio in July showed that 46.7 percent of Catalans supported an independent state, slightly ahead of the 44.9 percent who preferred to remain in Spain.

jcg/kl (EFE, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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