A spanish government official yesterday offered the first apology to Catalans injured by police during their outlawed independence vote, as the sides showed tentative signs of seeking to defuse the crisis.
Catalan leaders had threatened to declare independence unilaterally and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to stop them, rejecting calls for mediation in a dispute that has drawn cries of concern even from Barcelona and Real Madrid footballers.
Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades has raised fears of further unrest in the northeastern region, a tourist-friendly area of 7.5 million people that accounts for a fifth of the national economy.
Yesterday saw the first signs the sides may be willing to step back from the brink in a political conflict that risks destabilising Europe, though tensions on the streets remained high. After days of ill-tempered rhetoric, the central government said it regretted the injuries and suggested Catalonia should hold a regional election.
Catalan government minister Santi Vila, a close of ally of regional president Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile told broadcaster Rac1 that his side could consider a “ceasefire” in the dispute, to avoid a further crackdown by Madrid.
Businesses and the government kept up economic pressure on Catalonia however, with several big companies announcing moves to shift their legal domiciles to other parts of Spain.
Puigdemont postponed an appearance in the regional parliament at which some leaders were hoping for a declaration of independence, a spokesman said – gaining time and easing tensions. It was unclear what he planned to say at the session.
Spain’s central government meanwhile apologised on behalf of police to people hurt in last Sunday’s referendum disturbances.
“I can do nothing but regret it, apologise on behalf of the officers who intervened,” said the government’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo. “I am very sad, very sorry, we deeply regret that we have arrived at this situation.”
Spain’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of a session scheduled for Monday in the Catalan Parliament at which some leaders have called for an independence declaration.