Thousands demand Spanish, Catalan leaders to negotiate

The Spanish government announced a decree on Friday that makes it easier for companies to leave Catalonia and move their headquarters to other places in Spain as the decision would not need to be passed by the shareholder meeting, unless the company's statutes say the opposite.

However, Mr Rajoy ruled out using mediators to resolve the crisis and also said the issue would not force a snap national election.

Tens of thousands of people gathered across Spain yesterday as Catalonia prepared to declare independence from the rest of the country, many dressed in white and calling for talks to defuse Spain's worst political crisis for decades.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais published Sunday, Rajoy said that he will consider employing any measure "allowed by the law" to stop the region's separatists.

The Spanish official added that the Catalan movement aimed at obtaining more autonomy for the region should be peaceful and be conducted "within the framework of treaties".

Some European officials are also anxious that any softening in Spain's stance towards Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings among other groups in Europe such as Belgium's Flemings and Italy's Lombards.

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There are also a number of citizens that are open to negotiations, says Oriol Bartomeu, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Catalonia will apply the law that calls for a declaration of independence following a majority "yes" vote, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says in a television program to be broadcast later on Sunday, local time.

Spain's Minister of Public Works Inigo de la Serna said on Saturday that "the companies will keep leaving and it's exclusively the fault of the members of the regional government".

Even though 2.2 million Catalan voted - with 90 percent backing independence- the referendum polled less than half of the region's electorate.

Madrid's attempts to prevent the vote caused more tension.

There is speculation that the parliament will declare independence unilaterally at its next sitting, based on the referendum.

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"Unity of Spain will never be defeated" was one of the most heard shouts in the march, which was attended by people of all ages.

This led to accusations of hypocrisy voiced against the European Union, with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic saying: "How come that in the case of Catalonia the referendum on independence is not valid, while in the case of Kosovo, secession [from Serbia in 2008] is allowed even without a referendum?" .

"I've come because I feel very Spanish and makes me very sad what's happened", said Rosa Borras, 47, an unemployed secretary who had joined a noisy gathering in central Madrid.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has pledged to push ahead for independence.

"We like how things have been up until now and want to go on like this".

Earlier, thousands of people rallied across the country for Spanish unity.

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He added: "I want to say something with absolute clarity - while the threat of independence is in the political landscape, it will be very hard for the government to not take these decisions".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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