Rajoy demands restoration of democracy
In a televised speech, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament on Wednesday that Catalonia's controversial independence referendum on October 1 was illegal and amounted to an assault on Spanish democracy.
"The rule of law, plurality and democracy need to be restored," said Rajoy. "They [Catalan leaders] have the authority to create a government in Catalonia, but they do not have a mandate to declare independence."
The Spanish leader called for clarification from Catalonia over its decision to suspend a declaration of independence, reiterating a statement he made earlier Wednesday urging Catalan leaders to make their positions clear.
"The cabinet agreed this morning to formally ask the Catalan government to confirm whether it declared independence," Rajoy said.
Read more: Opinion: Put the brakes on Catalonian independence
"The answer from the Catalan president will determine future events, in the next few days," he also said, adding he would keep acting in a "cautious and responsible" way.
Rajoy later said the central government gave Catalonia's president until Monday to clarify whether they declared independence from Spain. In the event the Catalan president declared independence, he would have a couple of days to rescind it, Rajoy added.
What will happen next?
The Spanish government will expect an act or statement of clarification from Catalan leaders on whether they declared independence, given Rajoy's latest statements.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday that although he accepted a "yes" vote on independence during a controversial referendum earlier this month, the independence process will be suspended to allow for talks with Madrid. After a statement of clarification, discussions about the future of the region will continue.
Read more: Who is Catalan President Carles Puigdemont?
The terms under which Catalonia enjoys semi-autonomous status are likely to change. The ruling People's Party and opposition Socialists in Madrid said they agreed to open talks to renegotiate the terms of state autonomy as set out in the Spanish constitution in six months.
Will the EU mediate?
While the European Commission has stopped short of declining to mediate, the EU's executive body said it backs "full respect of the Spanish constitutional order."
Read more: Madrid mulls 'nuclear option' on Catalan autonomy
But David McAllister, foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament, said the EU could and would not mediate unless it "was given a mandate" to do so, which is unlikely due to opposition from Rajoy.
On Wednesday, Rajoy said, "There is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience and unlawfulness."
Is anyone against dialogue?
There are groups that have snubbed talk of dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona. In Catalonia, leftist groups have criticized the Catalan president for failing to outright declare independence. On the other side, rightwing unionists have attacked Rajoy for not triggering Article 155 and directly suspending Catalonia's independence after the referendum.
Can Catalonia gain independence?
This is the million-dollar question. Even if the Catalan government unilaterally declared independence, it is unlikely to gain international recognition, which would be necessary to participate in the global economy and international political order. For example, the German government said Wednesday that a declaration of independence "would be illegal and would not receive any recognition" from Berlin.
Read more: Spain's Article 155: The constitution's 'nuclear option'
In order for Catalonia to gain some form of international recognition, Barcelona would have to win support from the central government to move forward with a public referendum on independence. Without support from Madrid, a declaration of independence means little in terms of fleshing out an independent nation-state.
ls/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)