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Spain PM threatens to suspend Catalonia's autonomy

These protesters brandished a giant Spanish flag with the legend "Catalonia is Spain" during a demonstration called by the Catalan Civil Society
LLUIS GENE (AFP)
Spanish PM Rajoy said he had asked Catalan leaders to confirm if they had declared independence

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday threatened to suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy after its leader said there was a mandate to split from Madrid.

In a televised address Rajoy said he had asked Catalan leaders to confirm if they had declared independence, "which is a requirement for any measure the government can adopt under Article 155 of the constitution".

Under that article, the central government could take control of the governance of a region, a never-before used provision that has been referred to as the "nuclear option".

"The answer from the Catalan president will determine future events, in the next few days," said Rajoy, adding he would act in a "cautious and responsible" way.

"The government wants to offer certainty to Spaniards, especially Catalans, it wants to avoid the confusion that has been generated by Catalan authorities."

If Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont reestablishes "institutional normality" this would "put an end to a period of instability and tension."

The EU, in response, on Wednesday called for "full respect of the Spanish constitutional order." 

"The commission is following closely the situation in Spain and reiterates its earlier call for full respect of the Spanish constitutional order," European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters.

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