An hour later than the planned time and under huge media interest, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has appeared in the Catalan Parliament to say that he accepts the mandate of the 1st October referendum that Catalonia becomes an independent state, but immediately, and "with the same solemnity", proposed that the effects of a declaration of independence be suspended to allow for dialogue to take place.
Defending his decision, Puigdemont referred to the different dialogue initiatives that have started, some public, others not. "The calls for dialogue have been heard from all corners of the planet", said the president. He also said that that Europe feels called on by the situation in Catalonia and asked for time to find a negotiated solution, saying that, in the coming days, if everyone should act responsibly and fulfill their obligations, the conflict could see a negotiated solution.
This was the conclusion of his speech, which lasted around half an hour, met by a standing ovation from deputies from Puigdemont's JxSí party (Together for Yes). Pro-independence CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) deputies remained in their seats. In fact, independence movement sources say that it was CUP's reticence with Puigdemont's proposal that caused the speech to be delayed by an hour and the hurried meetings.
"There's a before and an after of the 1st October. As president of the Catalan government, I accept the responsibility of presenting the results of the mandate of the people that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic," said Puigdemont, echoing the wording of the question, before proposing that the declaration of independence should see its effects suspended.
The president went over the events of recent years that have led to the present situation: the "regression" of the Spanish political system, the passing of the new Statute of Autonomy in 2005, the ensuing "'Catalanophobia' campaign", the approval of the text in a referendum and its rewriting by the Constitutional Court. He noted that Catalonia has looked for different paths to achieve a negotiated referendum and the responses have been refusals and police repression.
"Many citizens have come to the conclusion that the only way to guarantee survival is that Catalonia should become a state," he said.
During the speech, he spoke briefly in Spanish to directly address the Spanish public. "We're not holding a coup, we're not abductees, we're normal people that want to vote. We have nothing against Spain nor against the Spanish," he said as someone from the PP (Popular Party) seats shouted "scum".
Earlier, he recalled the "extreme conditions" in which the referendum was held, the closing of citizens in polling stations, the attacks by the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard who "hit defenceless people": "We all saw it and the world was shaken too". The president emphasised that, despite everything, more than two million Catalans "beat the fear" and went to vote because they found ballot boxes and voting slips.
The session, which is still underway, was preceded by enormous tension. At the planned time, when the opposition deputies were already in their seats, the president asked for an hour's delay without specifying a reason. Some sources attribute this to tension with CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) when they learnt of the president's proposal, whilst others talked of international pressure.
When the session finally started, there was another moment of uncertainty when the whole Board stood up and left. This caused the leader of the PP in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, to shout a question to the Board members about what was happening. The tone of this question annoyed the Board's first vicepresident, Lluís Guinó, who asked Albiol if he was talking to him.