Spain set to impose direct rule on Catalonia

Spain set to impose direct rule on Catalonia

Thus Catalonia finds itself in constitutional limbo, as the Spanish Government announces it has requested clarification on whether or not the Catalan Government has actually declared independence.

And he has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region of 7.5 million people - a move many fear could lead to unrest.

It comes after Regional president Carles Puigdemont vowed to "assume the mandate" for Catalonia to become an independent state after a controversial referendum marred by violence.

Puigdemont issued a symbolic declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday night but then immediately suspended it and called for negotiations with the Madrid government. He did not specify what form the talks would take or who would mediate.

"We call on global states and organisations to recognise the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state", he said.

While separatist leaders say 90 percent of voters opted to split from Spain in the October referendum, less than half of the region's eligible voters actually turned out.

Spain's political establishment rounded on Puigdemont following the declaration, and support among separatists in Catalonia was mixed. "Indecision and uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen to us", she told AFP.

On Tuesday, Catalan leaders signed the region's official declaration of independence. "Dialogue between democrats takes place within the law", Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.

He accused Mr Puigdemont of having created "deliberate confusion" and said he wanted to restore "certainty".

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

In Brussels, there was a sense of relief that the euro zone's fourth-largest economy now had at least bought some time to deal with a crisis that was still far from over.

Spain and Catalonia now enter into the unknown, as Madrid has repeatedly said independence is not up for discussion.

A string of companies have already moved their legal headquarters - but not their employees - from Catalonia to other parts of the country.

The Madrid stock market tumbles as rattled investors dump Spanish shares.

The stakes are high - losing Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, would deprive Spain of a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of exports.