Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid

Separatists are disappointed Carles Puigdemont did not declare independence, but Madrid is still not satisfied.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has stepped back from declaring independence, telling lawmakers in Barcelona that although the region has won the right to break away from Spain he is prepared to hold talks:

I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.

The climbdown avoids a worse constitutional crisis but is unlikely to satisfy the central government in Madrid. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has refused to recognize last week’s referendum and conditioned dialogue on Puigdemont renouncing secession altogether.

Hardliners

The Catalan leader also risks alienating separatist hardliners.

Anna Gabriel, a deputy of the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) told him, “The only way to negotiate with the Spanish state is as the Catalan Republic.”

Without the CUP’s support, Puigdemont would not have a majority and could be forced to call snap elections.