Catalonia warns of civil disobedience as Madrid readies direct rule

Catalan regional vice president and chief of Economy and Finance Oriol Junqueras and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont attend a demonstration in Barcelona on October 21, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017

Catalonia warns of civil disobedience as Madrid readies direct rule

MADRID: Catalonia said on Monday it was confident all officials including police would defy attempts by Madrid to enforce direct rule on the region, in an escalating dispute that has raised fears of unrest among Spain’s European allies.
The Spanish government has invoked special constitutional powers to fire the regional government and force a new election to counter an independence drive that has rattled the economy. A vote in the Senate to implement direct rule is due on Friday.
But the leaders of the secessionist campaign said a disputed referendum on Oct. 1 gave them the mandate to claim independence from the rest of Spain.
“It’s not that we will refuse (orders). It is not a personal decision. It is a seven million-person decision,” Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva told BBC radio.
Romeva was asked whether he believed all institutions, including the police, would follow orders from Catalan institutions rather than from the Spanish government.
“And from that perspective, I have no doubt that all civil servants in Catalonia will keep following the instructions provided by the elected and legitimate institutions that we have right now in place (in Catalonia),” he said.
Catalan authorities said about 90 percent of those who took part in the referendum on Oct. 1 voted for independence. But only 43 percent of the electorate and 1 in 3 Catalans participated, with most opponents of secession staying at home.
The Catalan crisis has raised fears among European countries that it could spill over to the rest of the continent.
From Scotland to Flanders and Lombardy, the 2007-09 financial crisis, unemployment and migration have allowed anti-EU and populist parties to feed off discontent with political elites and reopen regional divisions.
Two wealthy regions of northern Italy voted overwhelmingly on Sunday for greater autonomy.
At a European summit last week, leaders sought to minimize Spain’s crisis with Catalonia and described the secession bid as a domestic issue.
“NO DIVINE AUTHORITY“
Civil disobedience was also backed by far-left party CUP, a key support for Catalonia’s pro-independence minority government in the regional parliament, which called Madrid’s actions an aggression against all Catalans.
“An aggression which will be met with massive civil disobedience,” the CUP said in a statement.
Several hundred Catalan municipalities said they were against direct rule from Madrid and asked the Catalan parliament to vote on a motion rejecting it.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has called the Catalan parliament to meet this week to agree on a response to Madrid, something many observers said could pave the way for a formal declaration of independence.
The assembly will meet on Thursday to agree a response to direct rule.
Several influential Catalan newspapers called on Puidgemont on Sunday to resolve the crisis by calling a snap election before direct rule becomes effective. However, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said this was not an option.
It is not clear whether a vote in the region would help resolve the crisis.
An opinion poll published by the El Periodico newspaper on Sunday showed a snap election would probably have results similar to the last ballot, in 2015, when a coalition of pro-independence parties formed a minority government.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister said Puigdemont would be out of a job once direct rule was enforced and Madrid would install its own representative. The Spanish government has said it would call a regional election within six months.
“They are president of the regional government and senior figures in that government because of the constitution,” said Soraya Saenz de Santamaria during a radio interview.
“They are not entrusted with that role by any divine authority,” she also said.


Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

Updated 11 December 2019

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

  • Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt
  • During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed criticisms of planned reforms to the euro zone bailout fund on Wednesday, saying the proposals, which have been heavily attacked by right-wing opposition parties, posed no threat to Italy.

Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt, the highest in the euro area as a proportion of national output after Greece’s.

“Italy has nothing to fear ... its debt is fully sustainable, as the main international institutions, including the (EU) Commission have said,” Conte told parliament ahead of a European Council meeting this week to discuss the reform.

He repeated that Rome would not agree to any restrictions on banks holding sovereign debt.

During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties, saying they appeared aimed at undermining Italy’s membership of the single currency.

“Some of the positions that have emerged during the public debate have unveiled the ill-concealed hope of bringing our country out of the euro zone or even from the European Union,” Conte said.

The League and Brothers of Italy have attacked the planned reforms to the ESM, which they say will open the door for a forced restructuring of Italy’s public debt that would hit Italian banks and savers who invest in government bonds.

Some members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement have made similar criticisms, adding to tensions with their partner in the ruling coalition, the center-left Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from 5 Star and the Democratic Party appeared to have smoothed over their differences on Wednesday, however, agreeing to drop demands for a veto on measures that could make it easier to reach a debt restructuring accord.

In a final resolution, they scrapped calls for a veto on so-called single limb collective action clauses (CACS), that limit the ability of individual investors to delay any restructuring agreement by holding out for better terms.

Under the new system, restructuring would go ahead after a single, aggregate vote by bondholders regarding all affected bonds while the clauses currently in place require an aggregate vote as well as an individual bond-by-bond vote.

Italy has asked to clarify that the new clauses will not rule out the so-called sub-aggregation, allowing separate votes for different groups of bond issuances to protect small investors, a government official told Reuters.