Catalonia’s leader balked at making a formal declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday, calling for talks with Madrid over the region’s future in a gesture that eased fears of immediate unrest in the heart of the euro zone. In a much-anticipated speech to the Catalan parliament, ringed by thousands of protesters and hundreds of armed police, Carles Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end. His remarks disappointed many of his supporters who had gathered outside, waving Catalan flags in the expectation that he would move a formal independence motion to the assembly. But the speech pleased financial markets, boosting the euro on hopes that his gesture would mark a de-escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.
Tensions have been climbing in Catalonia since it went ahead on Oct. 1 with an independence referendum that Madrid had deemed unconstitutional. Despite a violent police crackdown, Catalan officials say the result was an overwhelming “yes” vote.
But instead of moving a motion in regional parliament on Tuesday, as Spanish unionists had feared, Puigdemont and other regional politicians signed a proclamation of “full sovereignty” for Catalonia. Its legal value was unclear.
… However, the prospects for political talks still appeared remote on Tuesday despite Puigdemont’s gesture, with Madrid insisting on talks to be held “within the law”, a phrase that is widely interpreted as ruling out independence as an option.