Spain takes first step towards invoking 'nuclear option' to quell Catalonia independence drive

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seen delivering a statement on a television screen at a bar in Barcelona, Spain on Oct 11, 2017.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seen delivering a statement on a television screen at a bar in Barcelona, Spain on Oct 11, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (Reuters, AFP) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday (Oct 11) took the first step towards activating Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, a so-called nuclear option that would allow him to suspend Catalonia's political autonomy and take over the region.

"The Cabinet has agreed to require formally to the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared or not independence," Mr Rajoy said in a televised address.

"The answer from the Catalan president will determine future events, in the next few days," he also said, adding he would keep acting in a "cautious and responsible" way.

This formal requirement is needed to trigger Article 155, though the Constitution does not establish any specific time frame for the answer.

Mr Rajoy called an emergency meeting after Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont announced on Tuesday that he had accepted the mandate for "Catalonia to become an independent state" following an Oct 1 referendum.

But in a parliamentary speech, Mr Puigdemont immediately called for independence to be suspended to allow for negotiations with the central government.