The Spanish government on Friday swiftly moved to impose direct rule over Catalonia, invoking Art. 155 of the Spanish constitution less than hour after Catalan parliament declared independence to strip the region of its autonomy.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm and said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.
The Catalan region had earlier declared independence after the motion passed in the parliament after a heated debate from advocates and opponents of independence.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont left the chamber to shouts of “President!” and mayors who had come from outlying areas brandished their ceremonial batons and sang the Catalan anthem “Els Segadors” (The Reapers).
“Catalonia is and will be a land of freedom. In times of difficulty and in times of celebration. Now more than ever”, Puigdemont said on Twitter.
But within an hour, the upper house of Spain’s parliament in Madrid authorized Rajoy’s government to rule Catalonia directly.
It is an unprecedented move in Spain since the return of democracy in the late 1970s.
Meanwhile, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the independence vote changed nothing, adding that the EU would only deal with the central government.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany also quickly dismissed the declaration and expressed support for a united Spain.
Rajoy’s cabinet was meeting on Friday evening to adopt the first measures to govern Catalonia. This could include firing the Barcelona government and assuming direct supervision of Catalan police forces.
“Exceptional measures should only be adopted when no other remedy is possible,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in an address to the Senate on Friday morning.