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Watch Live: Catalan ‘Moment Of Truth’ Arrives – Puigdemont Addresses Parliament

La Vanguardia reports that a last-minute meeting delayed the beginning of the plenary session in which Puidemont could declare independence.

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The moment of truth (perhaps) is here for Catalonia. The region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, faces immediate arrest if he goes too far down the path of independence, is due to address the Catalan parliament at 6 p.m. (12pmET) in Barcelona on the outcome of an Oct. 1 referendum ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court

The stage is set…

European Council president Donald Tusk has urged Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont not to “announce a decision that would make dialogue impossible” in an impassioned speech at the European Committee of the Regions, calling for dialogue with the Spanish government. Tusk said he was speaking “as an ethnic minority” and “as a man who knows what it feels like what it is to be hit by a police baton.

As we noted earlier, the size and reach of the Spanish state's response to any declaration of independence is unknown: the options range from criminal charges of sedition or rebellion, through the suspension of home rule in Catalonia for an unspecified period of time and even to articles of the Spanish Constitution that allow for the declaration of a state of alarm or exception.

Given the policing shortcomings of the past 10 days, any move to arrest Mr. Puigdemont and members of his regional government would be fraught with potential difficulties.

 

The Catalan Police, the Mossos, have closed parliament park, the Parc de la Ciutadella, in central Barcelona, erected metal barriers around the parliament building and parked several dozen police vans outside.

 

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Omnium Cultural and local separatist groups are busy organising untold thousands of supporters to travel to the park and the area outside the High Court, in the adjacent road.

Pro-independence tractors have once again arrived in Barcelona…

As we noted yesterday, Catalonia has declared independence once before. On 6 October 1934, the president of the Generalitat, Lluís Companys, proclaimed a Catalan state, but it did not end well. The move was quickly crushed by the government. Companys was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in prison for rebellion, the autonomous government was suspended and virtually all its members were jailed.

Released after the Popular Front’s victory in Spain’s 1936 elections, he went into exile in France during the Spanish Civil War but was eventually handed over by the Nazis to the Franco regime, tried before a war council and executed in 15 October 1940. A spokesman for Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) this week invoked Companys’ memory Pablo Casada warned ominously (and not very diplomatically):

We hope they don’t declare anything tomorrow, because anyone doing so might end up like him 83 years ago, in prison.

Local risk markets are starting to worry with Spanish stocks slumping (closed now) ahead of tonight's announcement…

 

And, courtesy of Bloomberg, here is a flowchart laying out the various possible events in Spain over the next 24 hours.

As The Guardian's Jon Henly details, one of the options the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, could consider is the so-called “Slovenian option” – essentially, a symbolic declaration of independence with the effect delayed by several months, allowing time for international mediation aimed at convincing Madrid to negotiate a later, legally guaranteed referendum.

The term derives from the Brioni Agreement, signed on 7 July 1991 by the representatives of Slovenia, Croatia and Yugoslavia with the mediation of what was then the European Community. Aimed at creating an environment for further talks on Yugoslavia’s future, it put a stop to hostilities between Yugoslavia and Slovenia and ultimately ended Belgrade’s influence over Ljublana.

 

Under the agreement, Slovenia – which had declared independence two weeks previously – agreed to suspend all practical steps towards self-rule for three months, while Yugoslavia pulled its troops out. The deal also fixed rules for border and customs controls on Slovenia’s borders and resolved air traffic control problems.

 

International lawyers have said a similar approach by Catalonia could have political if not legal advantages, effectively buying the regional government time and allowing it not to disappoint two million voters while recognising that independence is not immediately feasible in the current circumstances.

 

“So you say, ’We’re not giving up, we’re continuing forward, but we’re appealing to the international community to act as a mediator and convince the Spanish state to agree to a referendum with legal guarantees,’” Joan Vintró, lawyer and lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Barcelona, told The Local.

 

“It’s a way of not renouncing your objective while creating waiting time, within the margin of which you can negotiate on different fronts to either make independence effective from a certain time, or to submit to a legally guaranteed referendum,” Vintro said.

“This is going to be a historical day regardless of the consequences,” Alejandro Quiroga, professor of Spanish history at the University of Newcastle, England, said by phone. “The tension has reached such a point that something has to happen and if the Catalan government wants to declare independence, now is the best time, while it’s still got international attention.”