The Catalan leader came under pressure from his key allies on Friday to make an unequivocal declaration of independence in defiance of the deadlines that the Spanish government has issued for the suspension of Catalonia’s independence bid.
“If (the central Madrid government) wants to continue to threaten and gag us, they should do it to the Republic that has already been claimed,” far-left Catalan CUP Party said.
The CUP only holds 10 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament but Puigdemont’s minority government banks on its support to push through secession legislation and seems unlikely to garner a majority vote in the regional parliament without its backing.
The call was also backed by the Catalan National Assembly, the main pro-independence civil society group in the region.
The Madrid government and the European Union, on the other hand, insisted that the Catalan leader must abandon the secession plans.
Last week, the Catalan leader signed a symbolic declaration of independence following the referendum but held off on officially declaring independence. Puigdemont claimed that 90 percent of the voters in the referendum had backed secession, but the turnout had been put at only 43 percent.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given Puigdemont eight days to dismiss the independence bid or face the suspension of Catalonia’s political autonomy as stated in article 155 of Spain’s Constitution.
‘EU intervention in Catalonia would cause chaos’
Also on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said any EU intervention on the issue of Catalonia’s independence from Spain would only cause “a lot more chaos,” calling on the government in Madrid to bring the situation under control.
“For some time now I asked the Spanish prime minister to take initiatives so that Catalonia wouldn’t run amok,” he said. “A lot of things were not done.”
“People have to undertake their responsibility; I would like to explain why the commission doesn’t get involved in that,” Junker said. “We do not do it because if we do … it will create a lot more chaos in the EU. We cannot do anything. We cannot get involved in that.”
Rajoy has already dismissed calls for mediation, arguing that the recent Catalan independence referendum was held in breach of the Spanish constitution and the country’s constitutional court.
Junker also expressed concerns about the fragmentation of national identities within Europe, saying he feared other regions would follow the same path if Catalonia became independent.
“But if you allow – and it is not up to us of course – but if Catalonia is to become independent, other people will do the same. I don’t like that. I don’t like to have a euro in 15 years that will be 100 different states. It is difficult enough with 17 states. With many more states it will be impossible,” he noted.
Spain has been in turmoil since the separatist government in Catalonia held a disputed referendum on 1 October.
Madrid had banned the referendum and attempted to disrupt the plebiscite by confiscating ballot papers and boxes and deploying police forces to designated polling stations.