President suspends independence declaration to give time for talks
CATALAN NEWS AGENCY – Carles Puigdemont addresses Catalan Parliament but proposes putting off declaring secession to find negotiated solution
President Carles Puigdemont drew short of formally declaring the independence of Catalonia on Tuesday in the Catalan Parliament. Despite great expectation in the media that Puigdemont could declare independence on the back of the October 1 referendum results, he instead proposed putting the effects of independence on hold for a few weeks in order to allow time for dialogue.
Puidgemont began his address saying “I am aware that today I appear before the people of Catalonia.” In fact, some thousands of people had gathered near the Catalan Parliament building to follow Puigdemont’s appearance on large screens. “Do not expect threats or blackmail or insults from my appearance,” said Puigdemont, in a speech designed to dampen tensions. “We will never agree on everything but we do understand that the way forward can be no other than that of democracy and peace,” he added.
Yet, Puigdemont’s appearance in the Catalan Parliament was to officially present the results of the referendum, and he said that with the vote on October 1, “Catalonia has earned the respect owing to an independent state.” However, he also pointed out that “there is democracy beyond the Constitution,” and hoped there was still time for a negotiated solution. In fact, Puigdemont said that the temporary suspension of the declaration was a “gesture of generosity” from the Catalan people.
“We are normal people who want to vote”
Changing to Spanish, Puigdemont said, “we are not criminals, nor crazy, nor rebels, nor misled. We are normal people who just ask to vote.” With some 90% of the 2.2 million voters who cast their ballot on October 1 in favor of independence, Puigdemont said the ballot boxes had endorsed the independence of Catalonia. However, he added that he had decided to “suspend” the effects of independence until a later plenary session unless a mediated solution could be found in the meantime.
Whether Puigdemont’s call for talks will come to fruition waits to be seen. As he himself pointed out in his speech, previous appeals for talks with the state authorities have gone nowhere: “The answer was radically and absolutely negative combined with a the persecution of Catalan institutions,” he said. Yet, he insisted that one way or another, the right to self-determination cannot be denied. “A broad consensus has been forged in which the future, whatever it might be, has to be decided by the Catalans in a referendum,” he said.
Yet, the Catalan president knows that the best way that this can happen is through talks, his central message. Puigdemont ended his address by calling on all sectors of society to contribute to dialogue and to prevent an escalation in the tense political situation. The president appealed to the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy to listen to the offers of mediation so that “the conflict can be resolved in a calm and agreed manner, and respecting the desires of the Catalans.”