The Latest: Catalan parliament speaker slams session block

October 5, 2017
In this photo taken on Oct. 2, 2017, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy begins a meeting with socialist opposition leader Pedro Sanchez at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain. Spain's Prime Minister on Thursday Oct. 5, 2017, has urged the separatist leader of the regional Catalan government to cancel plans for declaring the independence of Catalonia in order to avoid "greater evils." (AP Photo/Paul White)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Spain’s political crisis amid Catalonia’s push for independence (all times local):

7:55 p.m.

Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell says the suspension by Spanish courts of a planned plenary session to consider a declaration of independence for the region is a “violation of freedom of speech.”

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Thursday warned Forcadell and other members of the speakers’ board that they could face prosecution for failing to halt Monday’s controversial parliamentary session.

Forcadell said in response to the court’s move: “I won’t allow censorship to enter Parliament.” She didn’t say whether the speakers’ board would call off the plenary meeting, but vowed to continue “defending the sovereignty” of the legislative body.

Regional leader Carles Puigdemont has vowed to go ahead with secession while calling central authorities to accept a mediation, which Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected.


7:25 p.m.

The mayor of Barcelona is calling for European institutions to consider setting up a task force of experts to mediate in the political deadlock between the Spanish and Catalan governments.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau met Thursday with consular representatives of European countries and shared with them the need for a “multilevel task force under a European umbrella” for both sides to sit for talks with the help of academics, jurists and regional lawmakers of all parties.

Officials in the European Union have called for dialogue, but have supported Spain’s conservative government in blaming the political crisis on Catalonia’s regional government.

The ruling Catalan coalition and other separatist politicians have declared valid the results of a referendum on Oct. 1 that was held amid police violence and against a Constitutional Court suspension.

EU officials have also said that Catalan government’s bid for independence is an internal Spanish affair.


6:50 p.m.

An online Spanish Catholic magazine says Pope Francis has reiterated his opposition to Catalonia’s self-determination moves.

Vida Nueva (New Life) internet publication said the pope told Spain’s new ambassador to the Vatican, Gerardo Bugallo, that the Holy See is against all self-determination moves that are outside decolonization processes.

In the meeting Monday, the pope told Bugallo that the Vatican also rejected attitudes that do not respect the law.

The Spain-Catalonia crisis is coming to a crux as the region prepares to use referendum results to proclaim independence, possibly on Monday.

The Vatican spokesman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the Vida Nueva report, which was written by a Spanish journalist who works in the embassy.

Francis has made clear in the past that he opposes independence for Catalonia, making a distinction between independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland, for example, and the colonial-era movements that gave Latin American countries independence from the Spanish crown. These, he said, were emancipations, whereas secession is a move toward the breakup, or “Balkanization” of a country.


6:20 p.m.

Spanish media reports say executives of Banco Sabadell, one of Catalonia’s largest banks and Spain’s fifth in terms of volume of assets, have agreed to relocate the bank’s base outside of the troubled Catalonia region.

Banco Sabadell’s registration will be moved to the eastern city of Alicante, but the physical headquarters will remain in the Catalan regional capital, Barcelona, according to the Spanish private news agency Europa Press.

Citing Sabadell sources, Europa Press said the reason for the move was to protect the interests of the banks’ customers and ensure legal protection under the umbrella of the European Central Bank as Catalonia’s mull an independence declaration.

Banco Sabadell couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The bank’s shares, which have seen heavy losses in recent days, surged more than 6 percent at the end of trading on Thursday.


6:10 p.m.

Spain’s third largest bank in terms of volume of assets is considering a relocation of its registration outside of Catalonia but says nothing has been decided yet while executives follow developments of the secession bid in the northeastern region.

Barcelona-based Caixabank “reiterates that the necessary decisions will be taken, in due course, always with the objective of protecting the interests of our customers, shareholders and employees at all times.”

A bank spokesman, who couldn’t be named under company policy, said that according to internal rules, the bank’s board would need permission from its shareholders.

—By Aritz Parra.


3:40 p.m.

Spain’s Prime Minister has urged the separatist leader of the regional Catalan government to cancel plans for declaring independence in northeastern region, in order to avoid “greater evils.”

In an interview with Spain’s official EFE news agency, Mariano Rajoy said that the solution in Catalonia “is the prompt return to legality and the affirmation, as early as possible, that there will be no unilateral declaration of independence, because that way greater evils will be avoided.”

Rajoy’s remarks were the first since Sunday evening, after Catalonia held a banned referendum on independence amid police violence, and ahead of a planned regional lawmakers’ meeting on Monday where secession plans are to be discussed, or even passed. Spain’s Constitutional Court has ordered the temporary suspension of that session.

Regional president Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday toned down his defiant stance by calling for mediation in the conflict but without renouncing plans for secession next week.


3:20 p.m.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has ordered the temporary suspension of a special session of Catalonia’s parliament next week where regional officials are expected to possibly vote on breaking away from Spain.

The opposition Socialist bloc in the regional parliament, where separatist parties have a narrow majority of seats, had called for Monday’s session to be blocked.

Lawyers for the regional parliament had also warned that the session would be illegal because it discusses results of a referendum over the weekend that had been previously suspended by the Constitutional Court.

Sunday’s independence referendum has sparked a major political crisis in Spain.


12:30 p.m.

Spanish national police officers have left a hotel in a Catalan town amid two sets of protesters — one side yelling at them to leave and another showing support for them.

The additional deployment of Spanish police forces has enraged many in Catalonia who say that officers used excessive force when cracking down on last weekend’s banned independence referendum. Spain’s government has praised the police response, calling it proportionate.

Spain’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that the departures of officers from the hotel in Pineda de Mar had been previously scheduled, as contracts ended Thursday with some of the hotels hosting the police reinforcements.

Because of difficulties in finding accommodation on land, some of the more than 5,000 extra Spanish officers have been sleeping on three ferries docked in Barcelona and nearby Tarragona.


12:15 p.m.

As the clock ticks toward Catalonia’s promised declaration of independence from Spain, the clamor for dialogue and mediation in the political crisis is gathering momentum in Spain.

But so far the central government is sticking to its stance of not talking to those wanting to break up the country.

Catalonia’s regional parliament meets Monday to evaluate the results of last weekend’s divisive referendum, and pro-independence lawmakers say the declaration will be made.

On Wednesday, Barcelona lawyers set up a commission to promote talks bringing together trade unions, economists and even the city’s famed Barcelona soccer club.

The leader of Spanish opposition party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, called Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday to urge him to seek mediation. But Rajoy insists Puigdemont must first drop the threat of declaring independence.


10:55 a.m.

Spanish media are reporting that executives in one of Catalonia’s largest banks will consider Thursday whether to relocate the company’s registration out of the region as separatist authorities there have pledged to go ahead with an independence declaration as early as next week.

Private news agency Europa Press reports that the Banco Sabadell board meeting Thursday afternoon will discuss the move to ensure that it remains under the legal framework of the European Central Bank, the region’s financial regulator.

Europa Press said that Spanish capital Madrid, Alicante and Oviedo are some of the destinations being considered for the new registration, although the bank’s central services would remain in Barcelona.

Banco Sabadell couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The bank’s shares, which have seen heavy losses in recent days, picked up on Thursday amid the speculation.

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