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Spain’s government says it’s prepared to discipline disobedient Catalans

  • "The Spanish government is going to have the responsibility of taking decisions of a disciplinary nature if there is a rejection, by any functionaries, of any of the orders that they receive," Enric Millo told CNBC on Monday, according to a translation
  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked unprecedented constitutional powers on Saturday, vowing to curtail some of the freedoms of Catalonia's parliament, sack some of its political players and force regional elections within six months
  • Spain was plunged into its worst constitutional crisis in decades after Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1
People react as they watch a sesion of the Catalonian regional parliament on a giant screen at a pro-independence rally in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017.
Susana Vera | Reuters
People react as they watch a sesion of the Catalonian regional parliament on a giant screen at a pro-independence rally in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017.

Spain's central government is prepared to discipline Catalan citizens who chose to disobey direct rule from Madrid, the Spanish government's official representative in Catalonia told CNBC.

"The Spanish government is going to have the responsibility of taking decisions of a disciplinary nature if there is a rejection, by any functionaries, of any of the orders that they receive," Enric Millo told CNBC on Monday, according to a translation.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked unprecedented constitutional powers on Saturday, vowing to curtail some of the freedoms of Catalonia's parliament, sack some of its political players and force regional elections within six months. A vote in the national Senate to implement this direct rule is scheduled for Friday.

Disobedient politicians 'will resign'

In response, the far-left CUP party — a key supporter of Catalonia's pro-independence minority government in the regional parliament — described Madrid's actions as an aggression against all Catalans. The secessionist group also urged Catalan citizens to engage in "massive civil disobedience."

Millo said he was hopeful the "large majority" of public servants based in the northeast of Spain would resist calls from separatist leaders to disobey the constitution.

However, when he was asked what preparations had been made for those who ignored Madrid's direct rule, Millo said that it would be the politicians who had decided to break with "democratic legality" that would be dealt with first.

"These people will resign … And therefore, although they may not agree, they will not have any type of responsibility, validity, nor any type of authorization in any institutional decision. They will be left without any responsibilities," he said.

'Serious failure by Puigdemont' to meet obligations

Spain was plunged into its worst constitutional crisis in decades after Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1. Of the 43 percent of Catalans reported to have taken part, around 90 percent are believed to have voted in favor of independence.

The Catalan government, led by Carles Puigdemont, has consistently argued that the "yes" vote provides the Catalonian region with a mandate to announce a split from Spain. However, Madrid has repeatedly dismissed the legitimacy of the outcome, saying the referendum was illegal.

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.
Pau Barrena | AFP | Getty Images
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.

On Tuesday, Spain's justice minister warned that the country's constitutional crisis could not be solved just by calling regional elections.

"When the government proposes an option so extreme as article 155 (to impose direct rule), it's because we believe that there has been a serious failure by Puigdemont to meet his obligations," Justice Minister Rafael Catala said during a radio interview, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The Catalan parliament are poised to meet to discuss an appropriate response to Madrid on Thursday, just 24 hours before the Senate is due to vote on direct rule. And speculation has intensified as to whether the Catalan leader could push ahead with a formal declaration of independence.

Spain's central government has so far refused to meet with Puigdemont until he drops the call for independence.