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Q&A: To what extent is Catalonia’s self-rule suspended?

The dramatic measures affect the Catalan government, parliament, public media and other public companies, all staff of the administration, police and finances 


21 October 2017 07:37 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

Rumors about what the extent of Catalonia’s self-rule suspension would be have been diverse. However, the real scope of triggering Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution is among the harshest versions of media speculation. On Saturday morning, the Spanish government cabinet passed a 19-page document with all the measures explained in-depth.

Who will be dismissed?

At least, the Catalan president, vice president and all the Catalan ministers. However, the measures stipulate that any “administration official or public servant of the Catalan administration” and its public enterprises can also be dismissed or temporarily replaced.

Who will rule in Catalonia instead?

“Authorities and bodies created by the Spanish government in order to do so,” reads the 19-page document. The Catalan administration, including its institutions and enterprises, will not disappear, but will instead be ruled by Madrid officials. It is not likely that a new president will be appointed. Indeed, the authority to call a Catalan snap election, currently belonging solely to Carles Puigdemont, will also be seized. Consequently, Mariano Rajoy will be the only person who can call citizens to polling stations.

Will the Catalan parliament be able to appoint a new president as usual?

No. The Catalan parliament president will no longer be able to propose a new president when the current president steps down, as stipulated. The chamber cannot hold an investiture debate to appoint a new president, either.

Will Catalan lawmakers be able to pass parliamentary initiatives?

Yes, but Spain will have the powers to veto any of them before they are passed. The measures provide that any resolution which lawmakers want to vote on will have to be approved by an authority “designated by the Spanish government.” That is, Madrid will have veto power for any initiative coming from the Catalan chamber. What's more, the motions to be passed will not be able to impulse any action from the “authorities” replacing the Catalan executive.

When will the direct rule of Catalonia finish?

When a new Catalan president is elected after snap elections, which have to be called “within a maximum time period of six months.” This means that direct rule could last until next spring. However, the Spanish government can ask the Senate to make “modifications or updates” in the future to any of the plans approved today. Mariano Rajoy said he aims to call the elections “as soon as possible.”

Will the Catalan public media also be taken over?

Yes. The Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, said that the Catalan media will be managed by the appointed authorities replacing the Catalan government. The document stipulating the measures says that the new authorities will “guarantee accurate, objective and balanced information”. Spain will also take control of Catalan telecommunications and digital services, as well as all the Catalan government’s information technology services.

What about Catalan police?

The Catalan police will also be affected, although in a different way than the government. The police forces will be directly controlled by “an authority created or designated” by the Spanish executive. It will give “direct instructions to the members of the Catalan police which will be compulsory.” What’s more, officers might be “replaced” by Spanish police officers “if necessary.”

Will the Catalan administration continue collecting taxes?

Yes, but the Spanish government will strengthen its measures to control how the money is spent, as it has already been doing, since the run-up of the October 1 referendum. What is clear is that they will intend to avoid any money spent on “activities linked to the secessionist roadmap.”

When will the measures be enforced? 

As soon as the Spanish Senate ratifies them in its plenary session, which is set for October 27. Spain's ruling party, the People's Party, has majority in the Senate, so there are no doubts that these series of measures will be approved. In fact, Mariano Rajoy said that at this stage, the Senate is the only one which can stop Article 155 from being triggered. That was his response, when asked whether a call for an election by Puigdemont would change Madrid's plans.