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Spanish PM offers Catalonia “dialogue” within bounds of law

Source: El Pais - Mon 28th Sep 2015
Spanish PM offers Catalonia “dialogue” within bounds of law

PM Mariano Rajoy today offered the Catalan government "dialogue and institutional loyalty" within the bounds of the law.

The head of the center-right Partido Popular appeared at La Moncloa, the seat of central government, to assess the results of the regional elections held in Catalonia on Sunday.

The election was won by pro-independence forces, which secured a majority of seats although they failed to obtain more than 48% of the popular vote.

Catalan premier Artur Mas had cast these parliamentary elections as a proxy vote on independence, and Sunday's results suggest that secessionists will carry on with their project to break away from Spain – even though Mas's continuation at the helm of the regional government is uncertain.

Rajoy's offer of dialogue on Monday was a gesture of goodwill that had not been on view for many months. Ever since Mas failed in his attempt to secure more financial powers for the region in the summer of 2012, the relationship between both men had broken down almost completely.

The PM has been criticized for his unyielding position even as the Catalan independence drive went into high gear and the more radical secessionists threatened to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

The German government was the first European executive to issue a public statement regarding the Catalan elections. Berlin underscored the same message expressed by Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting with Rajoy earlier this month, when she talked about the importance of respecting European legislation.

"We are convinced that it is important, despite everything that is happening at the moment, to maintain the rule of law with regard to the European Union treaties and to national legislation, that is to say, the Spanish Constitution," said the German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, at a press conference.

Seibert nevertheless stressed that Germany considers the Catalan elections a domestic Spanish issue.

But despite his new willingness to "listen and talk," Rajoy also said he would not accept any "liquidation of the law," nor was he ready to discuss "the unity of Spain or national sovereignty."

Rajoy also highlighted the fact that secessionists had failed to win a majority of the popular vote, despite their victory in terms of parliamentary seats.

"Supporters of breaking away never had the backing of the law, and they do not have the support of a majority of Catalan society," he said.

Rajoy called on the new Catalan executive to emerge from the elections to "govern for all the Catalans" and "to replace the monologues and the unilateral imposition with constructive dialogue, because what emerged yesterday is that Catalonia is a very plural place."

The conservative leader is not expected to make any specific proposal to the Catalan executive, despite calls by Raül Romeva, the top candidate for the winning Junts pel Sí pro-sovereignty bloc, for Madrid to organize a referendum.

"When the SNP won in Scotland, Britain called a referendum. The same thing happened in Quebec. Let's hope there is a clear message in these results," he said.

Recommended Reading :

* Exit poll shows separatists winning majority in Catalan assembly

* Catalonia's secession plan and how Spain would block it