New Catalan leader calls for end of direct rule by Madrid

New Catalan leader calls for end of direct rule by Madrid

New Catalan leader Quim Torra on Tuesday called for an end to direct rule over the Catalan regional government by Madrid in a joint news conference held in Berlin with former regional leader Carles Puigdemont.

Newly elected regional leader of Catalonia Quim Torra and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont attend
Newly elected regional leader of Catalonia Quim Torra (back) and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont attend a news conference in Berlin, Germany May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

MADRID: New Catalan leader Quim Torra on Tuesday called for an end to direct rule over the Catalan regional government by Madrid at a joint news conference held in Berlin with former regional leader Carles Puigdemont.

The first aim of the newly formed Catalan government would be to seek dialogue with Madrid, said Torra, who said he had travelled to Berlin to pay homage to former leader Puigdemont whom he called Catalonia's legitimate president.

"I've asked (Spanish Prime Minister) Mr. Rajoy for the date and time to start talks, without conditions," said Torra at the news conference held in a Berlin hotel.

He would attempt to replace the region's previous administration and would seek to put Puigdemont in power again, Torra said, without detailing how he would go about the latter.

"I see myself as a caretaker president," he told journalists.

The Catalan parliament voted in hard-line separatist Torra on Monday, bringing an end to seven months of direct rule from Madrid but heralding more political uncertainty as the new leader continues his fight to split from Spain.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region after the previous administration, led by Puigdemont, declared independence in October. Under the terms of the legislation, Madrid will lift its intervention once the Catalan government is fully formed and members of cabinet named.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rajoy held a meeting with leader of the opposition Socalists, Pedro Sanchez, in Madrid where they discussed the election of Torra and its implications.

Both parties, which together hold a majority of seats in parliament, have expressed determination to unite to reject any attempt by the Catalan administration to go against Spain's constitution, which states the country is indivisible, the government said in a statement following the meeting.

Puigdemont is in Germany awaiting the decision of a German court on an extradition order from Spain on a charge of misuse of public funds for his part in the organisation of an illegal referendum on independence last October.

Pro-independence parties won most seats in regional elections held in December. But five attempts by the parliament to put forward candidates for leader, including Puigdemont, were blocked because the candidates were either living abroad or being held in custody in jail for their role in the referendum.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after being sacked as leader. He faces charges of sedition and misuse of public funds in Spain.

(Reporting by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: Reuters

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