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February 20, 2018

Separatism has 'come to an end': Madrid envoy to Catalonia

Separatism has 'come to an end': Madrid envoy to Catalonia
'Enric Millo, the Spanish government's representative in Catalonia, says pro-independence leaders "lied for years"' - By: AFP PAU BARRENA

The failure of Catalonia's declaration of independence and Madrid's imposition of direct rule on the region have put a firm "full stop" to separatism, the central government's envoy in Catalonia said.

"This story of the referendum and of the (independence) process has ended, full stop," Enric Millo, a veteran Catalan politician who has been the government's representative in the region since November 2016, told AFP this week.

Millo was speaking just weeks before regional elections on December 21, called by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence at the end of October.

After that declaration, Rajoy's government took direct control of the semi-autonomous region and sacked the Catalan government in a bid to end a crisis that had started when separatist leaders held an independence referendum on October 1 despite a court ban.

But the independent republic proclaimed by separatist lawmakers on October 27 fell apart in a matter of days.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and some of his regional ministers went off to Belgium, while the rest were jailed by a judge investigating them on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

Since then, some separatist leaders have recognised they were not ready to create a new country, or that they didn't have enough support in the deeply divided region.

- 'Could only end in one way' -

"It's not that they weren't prepared, it's that they lied for years," said Millo, who is originally from Girona, a pro-independence stronghold that was led by Puigdemont between 2011 and January 2016, before he became Catalan president.

"This, without a shadow of a doubt, could only end in one way -- great deception and great failure.

"The independence movement hasn't yet assumed this failure and continues to look for formulas and ways to try and hide the fact that this has come to an end."

Millo said the elections would allow "a new stage" to open up for the region, divided over the years by the conflict between separatist authorities and the central government.

Opinion polls suggest separatist and anti-independence parties will be neck-and-neck.

Millo said he hoped "the new government, whatever its political leaning, will commit to fulfilling current law".

He added it was important to "re-establish" dialogue between the Catalan and central governments.

That dialogue, he said, could be bilateral between both executives, and seek to better the region's financing and investment in Catalan infrastructure.

But one issue will remain non-negotiable: holding an independence referendum.

For Millo, re-election of Puigdemont "would be bad news".

"He has already demonstrated that he isn't ready to talk and that the only thing he wants is breaking away and breaking the law."

"It would probably lead us to another blockage which would be very damaging."

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