By Alyssa McMurtry
The Spanish government is now on the path to suspending Catalonia’s autonomy through article 155 of Spain’s constitution, as the defiant government in the northeastern region remains committed becoming an independent republic.
“The Catalan government hasn’t given me an alternative to do anything else,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a news conference in Brussels on Friday.
What is article 155?
Article 155 is a part of Spain’s 1978 constitution that has never before been activated.
It is short and vague, essentially saying that if a regional government fails to comply with the Spanish constitution or undermines the national interest, the central government may adopt “necessary methods” to force the regional authority to comply.
It is commonly described as the “nuclear option,” but is now supported by three out of four of Spain’s main political parties after Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum and a subsequent ambiguous independence declaration.
The specific measures of the article will be passed on Saturday at the Council of Ministers, but it will later need to be passed by a majority in the Spanish Senate, which could happen next week.
Its implications could be all-encompassing or specific, but Madrid could take over any Catalan institution including education, policing, finance and governance. It could also be used to trigger regional elections.
How could the Catalan government react?
The Catalan government, which is calling for dialogue and international mediation, says if Madrid enforces article 155 and refuses to talk, it could vote on a formal declaration of independence.
And although within Spain’s legal framework there would be no way for Catalonia to stop article 155 once fully activated, if it considered itself an independent country, it would also consider itself outside Spanish constitutional law.
“Do you really think that the people of this country will stand by with their arms crossed contemplating the spectacle without doing anything?... It’s evident that this will entail a conflict,” said Artur Mas, former Catalan president, on Friday, when asked by Catalan media what could happen if Madrid takes control of the region.
The EU on Friday also said it would not intervene in the issue, despite calls to do so from Catalan nationalists. Rajoy, speaking at Friday’s European Council summit in Brussels, said the issue remained a national matter for Spain.