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Spain’s Rajoy promises to end ‘crazy’ Catalan stand-off

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his Cabinet would ..

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his Cabinet would take decisive measures Saturday to return Catalonia to normality after a chaotic stand-off that he blamed squarely on the pro-independence regional government.

“It is a crazy situation so the aim is double: to return to the rule of law and restore institutional normality,” he said Friday at the end of an EU summit in Brussels.

The conservative prime minister has called a meeting of his ministers to decide on the next steps to take in response to Barcelona’s refusal to clarify whether it has unilaterally declared independence from Spain or not, ignoring this week’s deadline set by Madrid.

Rajoy declined to comment on a Socialist politician’s remarks on TV earlier on Friday that the ruling Popular Party and opposition Socialists (PSOE) had agreed to call early elections in the region for January. That would effectively cut short the four-year term of regional President Carles Puigdemont, who took office in January 2016 after elections in 2015 that were won by a pro-independence coalition.

“All measures that we adopt … we will announce tomorrow,” said Rajoy. He added however that the PP was in full agreement with the PSOE and centrist Ciudadanos on the need to invoke, for the first time, article 155 of the Constitution that enables the central government to intervene in a rebellious region.

Asked if invoking article 155 could involve the use of force, and whether he feared an outbreak of violence in the region, the prime minister responded: “I hope the [Catalan] authorities behave in a more responsible way than on previous occasions.”

Rajoy said he was grateful for the expressions of support from fellow leaders at the summit and said the Catalan secessionist push was a bizarre situation “in 21st century Europe” that challenged the bloc’s principles of democracy and the rule of law.

“Imagine if [the German state of] North-Rhine Westphalia decided unilaterally to declare independence, or Alsace, or Lorraine, or any region of Europe: Do you think this would be acceptable?” he asked.

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