After an unprecedented 2 million Catalans voted for independence during Sunday's referendum, larger than the number who voted for independence during a prior independence referendum in November 2014, the will of Catalan people has been made abundantly clear: The regional government of Carles Puigdemont has an overwhelming popular mandate for independence. And in spite of the Madrid government's brutality, the government in Barcelona hasn't backed down.
After delivering a rousing speech last night where he called on the EU to intercede with the Spanish government to try and stop the violence being committed by the Civil Guard and the National Police, Puigdemont on Monday demanded that the national police withdraw from the region as his government prepares to declare independence. Puigdemont asserted that the result of the vote is legally binding – despite a Madrid court's declaration that the referendum was illegal. The regional government is still verifying the final results of the ballot, but according to a preliminary count released early Monday local time, 89% of the 2.3 million Catalans who voted chose independence.
While the government in Barcelona initially said it would declare independence within 48 hours of the 'yes' vote being certified by the regional Parliament, Bloomberg is reporting that Puigdemont's time frame could see him announce the formation of a Catalan republic on Oct. 6, exactly 83 years since his predecessor as regional president, Lluis Companys, declared independence. Companys was eventually executed by the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Puigdemont has said the vote will be sent to the Parliament for final ratification shortly.
However, in a sign that the international community is backing away from the secessionist region even as a potentially bloody conflict looms, the European Commission officially washed its hands of the constitutional crisis, saying in a statement released Monday that the issue "is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain." In doing so, it ignored the Catalan government's pleas for recognition.
In the latest suggestion that it unequivocally backs Rajoy, the Commission clarified that, should Catalonia leave Spain, it would also "find itself outside of the European Union."
Read the EC's full statement below:
Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday's vote in Catalonia was not legal.
For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.
We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.
Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.