Spain’s foreign minister has told Sky News he is confident the Catalan police – the Mossos – will obey instruction from Madrid and there will be no need to send in thousands of national police and the army.
Alfonso Dastis says measures to impose direct control on Catalonia – which lead to the ousting of the region’s government and the sacking of the head of the Mossos – were unavoidable, but he does not imagine removing the former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont by force.
Asked what would happen if Mr Puigdemont and other members of the government returned to their offices, Mr Dastis said: “We will see when that happens, we will see even if that happens.
“If what you are implying is that we are going to prevent them by force to do that, I don’t think we will be doing that.
“Reality is sinking in, as it will continue sinking in. And they will realise that they cannot do something without the authority of law and they will be actually usurping authority, so I don’t think it is in their interests to do something that is ineffective but will also be illegal.”
Asked about fears that some in the Mossos will refuse to obey orders from Spain, Mr Dastis insisted: “We are confident that the Mossos under the new command will behave responsibly.
“Actually and the former mayor (head) of the Mossos has accepted his dismissal and has offered his support to the new commander of the Mossos who is one of the Mossos himself.
“So we are confident that they will do what they are supposed to do which is to ensure peace and law and order in Catalonia.”
Pressed on whether Madrid intends to send in thousands of National Police – who were widely condemned for their aggressive tactics on the day of the independence referendum on 1 October – Mr Dastis said there would be no need.
“No I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We are confident the ensuring of law and order in Catalonia is the role of the Mossos and they will be doing so there will be no need at all to send in the police or other agencies.”
Mr Dastis is also confident civil servants will turn up to their jobs and keep public services running.
Some had told Sky News they would stay away or refuse to carry out functions if Madrid invoked Article 155 of the constitution to take direct control of Catalonia.
That happened on Friday and began to take effect at the weekend.
The Catalan government has been ousted and the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain has assumed the responsibilities of Carles Puigdemont.
But Mr Puigdemont has shown no sign of steeping aside and appeared on television at the weekend calling for the independence fight to continue. Mr Dastis says his post is now irrelevant.
“He has no way to run a parallel government. I don’t think he has the means to run things. He has no means, no functions, no signature. It is hard to see how he is going to go on governing in Catalonia,” said Mr Dastis.
Mr Dastis says direct rule will be imposed for a “limited period” to restore order and legality and then the Catalan people will be able to choose a new government in December elections.
He said Mr Puigdemont would be free to stand in those elections if he hasn’t been arrested.
The public prosecutor’s office is preparing papers to lodge at the Supreme Court in Madrid to possibly charge separatists leaders with rebellion.
Pressed on whether he is worried that Madrid’s actions will galvanise the separatist movement and increase support for the independence movement, Mr Dastis replied: “Every election is a risk.”