Catalonia has officially announced its independence from Spain after its regional parliament voted “yes”. The Spanish parliament has approved direct rule over the region.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had told senators direct rule was needed to return “law, democracy and stability” to Catalonia. The crisis began earlier this month when Catalonia held a controversial referendum on independence.
The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence. But Spain’s Constitutional Court had ruled the vote illegal.
A motion declaring independence was approved on Friday with 70 in favor, 10 against, and two abstentions in the 135-seat chamber. The measure calls for the transfer of legal powers from Spain to an independent Catalonia.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has called for supporters to “maintain the momentum” in a peaceful manner. Crowds have been celebrating the declaration of independence and Spanish flags have been removed from some regional government buildings in Catalonia.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sacked Catalonia’s government including regional president Carles Puigdemont and his deputy Oriol Junqueras and assumed direct control over the region. Central government ministries will assume directly the powers of the Catalan administration until a regional election takes place on 21 December.
The Economy Ministry has already increased its control over regional finances, to block the use of state funds to organi\e the secession bid, and started paying directly for essential services. Under the new proposal, Madrid will take full financial control.
It is also possible that some pro-independence Catalans will stop paying their taxes to the Spanish treasury.
The EU has been somewhat cryptic in its responses to the situation but has consistently said it supports Spain’s constitution – effectively backing the Spanish government but without sounding overly partisan.
The European Commission hasn’t offered to mediate the situation, as has been suggested by some observers. Donald Tusk, the European Council President, said “nothing had changed” in the wake of the declaration of independence.
The head of the European Union’s legislature condemned the Catalan parliament’s vote said it would not be recognized in the EU.
EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said that the Catalonian parliament’s move was “a breach of the rule of law.” He added that “no one in the European Union will recognize this declaration.”