Catalonia’s parliament will meet next week to “think deeply” about its next fateful step.“Catalonia will follow its path. We have no enemies but we will build our own project asa country,” said Mr Mas.The newspaper
reported that his Convergència i Unió (CiU) party andcoalition partners have asked the European Commission whether Spain can preventCatalans exercising democratic self-determination, and whether a sovereign Cataloniacould remain part of the EU’s single market and the euro.The speed of events has caught almost everybody by surprise, including Mr Mashimself. His CiU has, until now, pursued a policy of calculated ambiguity over secession. Mr Mas has pivoted quickly, embracing what he calls the “popular outcry” ashis own.The antagonisms date back to the Franco era and, above all, to 1714 when Philip Vabolished all Catalan institutions, and imposed Castilian laws and absolutism by right of conquest.Diplomats say Mr Rajoy’s Partido Popular has provoked the latest eruption of fury byexploiting the economic crisis to break the power of the regions. This came to a headover the summer when Catalonia was forced to request a €5bn rescue from Madrid,though it is a net contributor to the Spanish state.Spain’s economic slump has frayed nerves across the country, much as it did beforethe Civil War in the 1930s. Unemployment has risen to 25.1pc and may go higher asthe delayed effects of austerity bite deeper.Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 3.2pc next year and 0.8pc in 2014,pushing public debt to 100pc of GDP.Chief economist Willem Buiter said the mix of austerity and reform will not restoreSpain to “fiscal sustainability”, even if EU loans keep Spain going for another couple of years. He expects “debt restructuring” in the end. The warm glow of the EuropeanCentral Bank’s bond plan helped Spain sell 10-year debt at 5.66pc on Thursday, thelowest since February.Mr Rajoy appears to determined to play for time, hoping that he can muddle throughwithout a rescue.Traders say such gamesmanship is unlikely to succeed for long. Mr Rajoy also hopesto siphon off part of the €100bn in EU rescue package for Spanish banks, but this iscertain to infuriate Germany’s Bundestag.Spanish politics are now intruding, in any case. An EU bail-out memorandum wouldhave to include fiscal restraint for the regions, further inflaming Catalonia.The risks of a misjudgement are growing. The king caused irritation in Catalonia thisweek by warning against the seduction of “chimeras” – his first such crisis interventionsince 1981.