Spain Gives Catalonia A Deadline: Retract Independence Claim Or Else

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Rajoy said Wednesday that Catalonia needed to clarify whether it had declared independence or not, following an ambiguous address by the Catalan leader on Tuesday in which he seemed to declare independence and then suspend it, calling for dialogue with Madrid.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent Catalan secession following a banned referendum in the region, which remains deeply divided over independence.

But the Spanish government, buoyed by yesterday's protests in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, have made it clear it would respond immediately to any such vote.

"A full declaration of independence would have been very problematic, would have led to obvious confrontation with Madrid and he [Catalan President Carles Puigdemont] was under enormous pressure not to declare independence, including I assume from the countries that Catalonia would look to for recognition", he said. Did he declare independence or not?

The conflict over a self-determination vote has been dragging on for six years but Catalan separatists staged an independence referendum on October 1 despite Spain's insistence it was illegal.

He did not refer to the violence with which police cracked down on voting day but said "nobody can be proud of the image" Spain projected, adding the only ones to blame were the Catalan leaders.

Rajoy, who has refused to rule out invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take control of Catalonia, was quick to seize on the ambiguity of Puigdemont's position, accusing him of deliberately sowing confusion.

The Catalan crisis is Spain's most serious political emergency since its return to democracy four decades ago. It's unclear how Catalonia can gain control of its defense and foreign affairs, tax collection and management of airports, ports, rail transport and nuclear stations, most of which are now managed by Spain. "There is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience and unlawfulness", Rajoy said, insisting: "There's no constitution in the world that recognises the right to self-determination".

Spanish borrowing costs fell to a one-week low and the main share index touched a week high.

At European Union headquarters in Brussels, there was relief that Spain, the euro zone's fourth-largest economy, now had at least bought some time to deal with a crisis that was still far from over. The EU has been cool to Puigdemont's calls for European mediation. Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of about 40 percent of residents in Catalonia backed independence. Anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot and there were reports of irregularities.