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Catalonia postpones independence declaration

Reuters

Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont delivers a speech in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Reuters BARCELONA (Reuters) — Catalonia’s leader balked at making a formal declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday, calling for talks with Madrid over the region’s future in a gesture that eased fears of immediate unrest in the heart of the eurozone.

In a much-anticipated speech to the Catalan parliament, ringed by thousands of protesters and hundreds of armed police, Carles Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end.

His remarks disappointed many of his supporters who had gathered outside, waving Catalan flags in the expectation that he would move a formal independence motion to the assembly. But the speech pleased financial markets, boosting the euro on hopes that his gesture would mark a de-escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.

Tensions have been climbing in Catalonia since it went ahead on Oct. 1 with an independence referendum that Madrid had deemed unconstitutional. Despite a violent police crackdown, Catalan officials say the result was an overwhelming “yes” vote.

But instead of moving a motion in regional parliament on Tuesday, as Spanish unionists had feared, Puigdemont and other regional politicians signed a proclamation of “full sovereignty” for Catalonia. Its legal value was unclear.

“I am disappointed. I hoped for a declaration of independence and it didn’t happen,” said 18-year-old student Julia Lluch, among a crowd of independence supporters who were rolling up their flags and drifting away from the assembly.

In Brussels, though, there was a sense of relief that the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy now had at least bought some time to deal with a crisis that was still far from over. One EU official said Puigdemont “seems to have listened to advice not to do something irreversible.”Speech

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