Following an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers that agreed to lodge an appeal against the illegal referendum on self-determination in Catalonia, the President of the Government of Spain stated that he will do “everything necessary” to defend the rule of law, national sovereignty and the peaceful coexistence of all Spaniards.
The Prime Minister of Spain spoke at Moncloa Palace to report on the agreements reached at the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers. After receiving a ruling from the Council of State and hearing from the members of the Council of Ministers, the President of the Government instructed the State Attorney’s Office to “immediately” lodge an appeal against the unconstitutional nature of the Referendum Law voted on by the Regional Parliament of Catalonia on Wednesday.
The Council of Ministers also agreed to lodge an appeal before the Constitutional Court against the decree on calling a referendum signed on Wednesday night by the President of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, as well as against the decree approving the complementary regulations for holding that referendum. Finally, an appeal is being lodged against the ruling by the Regional Parliament of Catalonia that appoints five members of the Sindicatura Electoral or Election Syndicate.
The Prime Minister of Spain explained that, in these appeals, the Government of Spain asks for “the annulment of all these processes and an order for them to be suspended until the corresponding ruling is handed down”. A request is also made for this suspension to be notified in person to the President of the Regional Government of Catalonia, his entire government, the leading senior members of the Regional Government of Catalonia involved in organising the consultation and the 947 mayors of Catalonia. The request asks for those notifications to expressly state the duty of these individuals to impede or paralyse any initiative supporting the organisation of this referendum.
The Prime Minister of Spain listed the reasons supporting the decision taken by the Council of Ministers, which together “represent a major blow to the increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic conduct” of those leading the institutions in Catalonia.
Firstly, Mariano Rajoy said that the Government of Spain must “honour” its mandate to “follow and enforce the law”. He argued that Spain is a country that “coexists in peace and according to a series of rules that were agreed upon by everyone” and “there is no power capable of lessening” the democratic will of the Spanish people “or indeed any kind of alternative legitimacy”.
The defence of national sovereignty is the second reason. “We all decide about things that belong to us all; our country in this case”, said Mariano Rajoy. He went on to add that the Spanish nation “stems from the will and the feelings of generations and generations of men and women who have wanted to live together in their undeniable and enriching plurality”. Neither the President of the Government nor Parliament nor any other power “can unilaterally undo” that decision, which falls on “each and every member of the Spanish nation”.
“As a result, this consultation will not take place, regardless of the intentions to impose one in a rushed, sloppy and illegal manner”, he said.
Self-government in Catalonia
Thirdly, The Prime Minister of Spain said that calling a referendum on self-determination is a “clear and intolerable act of disobedience against our democratic institutions”. He explained that the public authorities have a “duty of loyalty” to the Spanish Constitution and the rulings handed down by the Constitutional Court, which is “the fundamental basis of our rule of law and the cornerstone of the pact for coexistence made by the people of Spain forty years ago”.
Mariano Rajoy , Prime Minister of Spainstressed that compliance with the Spanish Constitution does not mean that this text is a “perpetual law” because even its most fundamental aspects can be amended through the appropriate channels and via the corresponding procedures, “but never through disobedience or anti-democratic and illegal imposition”. Furthermore, he recalled that he invited the President of the Regional Government of Catalonia to present his demands in the Lower House of Parliament “in order to open a dialogue” on them, and that Carles Puigdemont “never wanted to do so” or negotiate “any other possible common ground that did not involve imposing a referendum”.
The fourth reason supporting the appeals lodged with the Constitutional Court listed by the President of the Government is the defence of self-governance in Catalonia, the dignity of its institutions and the rights of its citizens. He said it is an affront against that self-governance when the Spanish Constitution on which it is based is ignored, when an attempt is made to repeal the Statute of Autonomy “with the stroke of a pen” and when the rulings and warnings from the Catalan institutions themselves are disregarded, such as was the case with the Consell de Garantias Estatutarias or Council for Statutory Guarantees.
Finally, Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain stressed that the regulations governing the decree on organising the referendum “break each and every one of the international criteria on popular consultations”.
Mariano Rajoy described the session held by the Regional Parliament of Catalonia on Wednesday as a “democratically deplorable spectacle”. “The whole series of illegal and arbitrary acts that took place there is the product of one single thing: the obstinacy of a few politicians to forcibly impose their breakaway plan on society”.
The Prime Minister of Spain went on to say that those responsible for this process “have had no qualms whatsoever about enforcing the ground rules, approving phantom laws, stripping the opposition of their rights and ignoring the warnings given by their own legal professionals”.
Mariano Rajoy stressed that one can indeed be pro-independence in Spain and advocate the fracture of national sovereignty via the legal channels, but one cannot ignore “our democratic rules to achieve this”.
Gratitude to the civil servants and the opposition
The Prime Minister of Spainsent a message of calm to the people of Catalonia and its civil servants. “Nobody can force you to do something illegal. You must follow the law but the law also protects and defends you against impulsiveness”, he said.
Furthermore, he recognised the political groups that comprise the opposition in the Regional Parliament of Catalonia and the leaders of the legal services of the regional parliament for “the courage they showed on Wednesday in defending the law and the dignity of the Catalan institutions themselves”.
“They lost a vote but they won a great political victory and did a great service to their society. They stripped bare and exposed the anti-democratic perversion of this process to Catalonia and the whole world”, added the President of the Government.
Mariano Rajoy added that, thanks to the parliamentary lawyers and the leaders of the Council of Statutory Guarantees, the Regional Parliament of Catalonia “remains a respectable institution”.
Loyalty from the constitutionalist parties
The Prime Minister of Spain also expressed gratitude for the willingness and loyalty shown by the parties that defend constitutional order and the support they are lending to the Government of Spain. In his opinion, “that attitude gives us all peace of mind” and that unity “vividly contrasts with the fracture we saw reflected in Catalonia yesterday”.
In this regard, Mariano Rajoy stressed that he will continue working “to maintain that unity and that mutual loyalty when dealing with this situation” and that he has no doubt that “the other leaders will adopt the same position”. “I firmly believe that we are all providing the calm but firm and effective response needed”, he said.
Responsibility of the Regional Government of Catalonia
The Prime Minister of Spain called on the leaders of the Regional Government of Catalonia to refrain from continuing their path towards institutional demise, to not disregard the strength of Spanish democracy, to once and for all accept the failure of their political project and to abandon this increasingly exclusive process.
“That referendum will not be held; so stop trying to force the will of the people. You have failed to impose your project on the Catalan people as a whole and it goes without saying that you will not impose it on the rest of Spain”, he said.
Furthermore, the President of the Government urged them to stop dividing Catalan society, to cease attacking those who disagree and to make the institutions work for them. “I urge you to abandon this escalation of illegality, tension and authoritarianism right now, because the rule of law will not shrink back against your threats or your illegal actions”, he said.
Democracy will respond with determination and composure
The Prime Minister of Spain said that he is perfectly aware of the anxiety that many Catalans may be feeling in light of the “institutional collapse” they witnessed yesterday and asked them to remain confident in their institutions and their democracy. “No-one will hesitate when required to fulfil their duty. Democracy will respond. Have no doubt about that. It will respond with determination, composure, serenity and dignity”, he said.
Mariano Rajoy acknowledged that the rule of law “may seem slow at times, timid in the face of the audacity of those who would defy it, sometimes taken aback by its own plurality when compared with the monolithic nature imposed by others”, but it has ensured it possesses “vast inner strength from which to draw in times of need”. It is the strength of understanding and democratic unity, he explained.
The Prime Minister of Spain concluded by saying that he is aware of his obligations and of what is at stake. “I know what is expected of me. And I can guarantee that I have not dedicated so many years to my country and public interest to now allow our model of coexistence to be undone at the stroke of a pen”, he said.