Berlin (AFP) – Spain’s new prime minister on Tuesday urged Catalan separatist leaders to “turn the page” on a contested independence referendum after regional president Quim Torra said he wanted another vote.
“I think we have to turn the page on what (the referendum of) October 1 represented, including on the part of separatists and by he who is the president of all Catalans,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in Berlin during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“From there we should have a constructive tone,” Sanchez said, adding his Socialist government wants to “normalise institutional ties with the Catalan government”.
Sanchez, who is scheduled to meet Torra in Madrid on July 9, was reacting to comments made by the Catalan president on Monday.
“We should create another October 1… in the sense of achieving the goal which some, and me in particular, wish to achieve, which is the independence of my country and make this republic effective,” Torra said during a book presentation in Barcelona on Monday.
Catalonia’s separatist government pushed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 despite it having been ruled unconstitutional by the court and Spain’s central government. The referendum was followed by a unilateral declaration on independence on October 27.
The conservative Spanish government in power at the time, headed by Mariano Rajoy, responded by sacking the Catalan government, suspending its parliament and imposing direct rule over the wealthy northeastern region.
Madrid ended direct rule over Catalonia earlier this month after Torra’s administration was sworn in.
Meanwhile the Catalan government approved Tuesday reopening six of its international delegations abroad which were shut down by Madrid when it imposed direct rule over the region.
Catalonia’s will reopen its missions in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and the United States and will soon open a new mission in a Scandinavian country, Catalonia’s minister for foreign relations, Ernest Maragall said.
Catalonia will also expand its network of delegations in other European nations as well as the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, he added.
“In six months, they will be much more than existed on October 27” when Catalonia declared independence, Mara gall said.
When Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia, it closed ten of the region’s existing foreign missions. Ony the office in Brussels was allowed to remain open.
Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party fiercely opposed the Catalan foreign missions, accusing them of being used to spread “separatist propaganda”.
Spain’s new Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said recently that “you can’t ban” Catalonia from having foreign missions although you can monitor their activity.