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The Latest: Caixabank to switch HQ out of Catalonia

October 6, 2017
Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — The Latest on Spain's political crisis amid Catalonia's push for independence (all times local):

7 p.m.

Caixabank, Spain's third lender in global assets, says its executive board has agreed to move its base from Barcelona to the eastern city of Valencia, outside the Catalonia region.

In a statement, the bank said the reason for the relocation was to "completely safeguard the legal and regulatory framework substantial for its activity" and to remain in the eurozone and under the supervision for the European Central Bank.

Regional separatist authorities in the northeastern region of Catalonia have pledged to declare independence regardless of Spain's constitution and the opposition of central authorities in Madrid.

Caixabank's move was possible after central authorities approved a decree allowing firms' executives to bypass shareholders' approval for moving its registered address. Half a dozen listed companies, including Banco Sabadell, have already greenlighted a similar move.

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6 p.m.

The speaker of Catalonia's regional parliament has called a Tuesday evening session where the separatist regional leader will answer questions on the turbulent political situation.

Catalonia's separatist authorities have vowed to use a pro-independence victory in a disputed referendum to go ahead with secession while calling for Spain's central government to accept a dialogue.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected any negotiation on secession.

There was no mention of any vote in Friday's call by speaker Carme Forcadell for the new session. Spain's Constitutional Court had suspended a Catalan parliament meeting set for Monday.

Opposition lawmakers called on separatist parties to respect the session's agenda and to refrain from using the meeting for introducing a vote on secession.

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5:45 p.m.

The Catalan government says it has submitted to the regional parliament the final results of a disputed referendum on secession from Spain, a necessary step before declaring independence as separatist politicians have promised.

Spain's central authorities have deemed the referendum illegal and a Constitutional Court suspended it. But a vote went ahead on Oct. 1 anyway, despite a lack of census controls and violence by Spanish police who were trying to halt the vote.

The final numbers confirm earlier results showing 90 percent of votes in favor of independence. The regional government said 2.28 million Catalans voted, 43 percent of eligible voters. The 'No' side received some 8 percent of the ballots.

Separatist Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will address the regional government on Tuesday to "report on the current political situation." It was unclear if he or other separatist lawmakers would use the meeting to introduce a vote on declaring secession.

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4:50 p.m.

The CEO of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance says he is watching Catalonia's political turmoil "very closely" because it could affect operations at its Nissan plant in Barcelona.

Carlos Ghosn told a news conference in Paris on Friday that Nissan is concerned about what the standoff between independence-minded Catalans and Spain's central government "means in the long term in terms of circulation of parts, circulation of cars."

He said in a globalized car sector, "no region of this kind can be economically autonomous. It must continue to deal with its environment."

The Barcelona plant is one of three Nissan sites in Spain. It employs 3,800 people and produces vans, according to its website.

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3:15 p.m.

Spain's government spokesman says that "coexistence is broken" with Catalonia, blaming separatist authorities in the northeastern region for pushing ahead with their independence bid.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, who is also minister of cultural affairs, called on the Catalan regional government Friday to drop its secessionist bid in order to begin a dialogue.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont wants to address the regional parliament next week "to discuss the political situation" in Catalonia despite Spain's Constitutional Court suspending another session during which separatist lawmakers wanted to discuss and possibly vote for independence.

Mendez de Vigo told reporters during a weekly briefing that "in order to have dialogue, you must stay within the legal framework."

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3:00 p.m.

A top Spanish government official in Catalonia has expressed regret about those injured when police cracked down on people taking part in a banned referendum on the region's independence Oct. 1.

Interior Ministry delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo tempered the comments Friday by saying the Catalan government was responsible for the situation by encouraging people to vote despite a Constitutional Court order suspending the referendum.

Millo's remarks on Catalonia's TV3 television station were the first by a Spanish official lamenting the injuries. Millo told reporters that on knowing there were people injured, "I can only say sorry."

Spain defended the police action saying it was firm and proportionate.

Spain's anti-riot squads fired rubber bullets, smashed into polling stations and beat protesters with batons to disperse voters on the day.

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2:45 p.m.

Spain's government has approved a decree that would make it easier for companies in Catalonia to move the location of their official registration out of the region.

The move will allow the relocation of Caixabank, Spain's third largest bank by assets, before next week, when separatist authorities in Catalonia want to declare independence. Caixabank's board is due to meet Friday to discuss the issue.

At least half a dozen companies, including the fifth-largest lender, Banco Sabadell, have already relocated or agreed to do so.

The moves have no immediate effect on jobs or company assets, but are seen as a blow to the Catalan government.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said: "This is the result of an irresponsible policy that is causing uneasiness in the business community."

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2:10 p.m.

Spain's main stock index is down slightly, with Catalan banks leading losses amid uncertainty over the region's independence bid.

The Ibex 35 index lost 0.9 percent to 10.126 points in Madrid by midday Friday.

The biggest fallers were Banco Sabadell, the country's fifth-largest bank by assets, and Caixabank, Spain's third-largest. Sabadell said Thursday it would move its base out of Catalonia, and executives at Caixabank are due to discuss Friday a similar move.

Two Catalan companies, textiles maker Dogi and reprographics company Service Point Solutions, saw their shares surge after they said they had plans to relocate. Cava-maker Freixenet, a household name, is also considering a move while telecommunications provider Eurona and biotech firm Oryzon already completed their relocations.

The moves are largely symbolic, with no immediate effect on jobs or company assets in Catalonia, but are seen as a blow to the Catalan government's secession hopes.

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1:45 p.m.

The head of Catalonia's National Assembly has called for dialogue and a political solution to the crisis in Spain over a disputed independence referendum

Jordi Sanchez spoke after appearing at Spain's National Court in Madrid as part of a sedition investigation.

He said that the international community was highlighting the need for dialogue and the Catalan government has shown that it's open to this without renouncing the results of the Oct. 1 referendum in which Catalan officials say voters overwhelmingly chose independence. Spain says the referendum was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional.

Sanchez said that "I ask strongly that the Spanish government, the national parliament and the head of state (the king) understand that time and the hours are very important to find a debated way out and give way to a political solution."

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1:15 p.m.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has requested to address the regional parliament next Tuesday amid growing challenges for his government to deliver on a pledge to declare independence for the northeastern region following a disputed referendum last weekend.

The separatist ruling coalition suffered a setback Thursday when Spain's Constitutional Court suspended a Monday plenary session of lawmakers for assessing the vote's results.

Puigdemont has said the vote is valid despite a Constitutional Court ban to hold it and a turnout of some 40 percent of the region's 5.5 million eligible voters.

Spain's conservative government, which is under political and social pressure after police acted violently in trying to halt the banned vote on Oct. 1, has rejected any dialogue unless Catalans drop plans for secession.

Tuesday's address request was for Puigdemont to "report on the current political situation" according to a brief statement by his office.

The speakers' board of Catalonia's regional parliament has announced an urgent meeting Friday afternoon in which the address is likely to be discussed.

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12:35 p.m.

Two senior Catalan police officers and two leaders of pro-independence civic groups have been unconditionally released after being questioned as part of an investigation for sedition linked to demonstrations in Barcelona in the run-up to last weekend's referendum on independence.

The four will have to reappear in court in Madrid in coming days after a prosecutor presents new evidence.

The four are Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, Catalan police Lt. Teresa Laplana, who was questioned by video link from Barcelona due to health reasons, and Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly that has been the main civic group behind the independence movement, and Jordi Cuixart, president of separatist group Omnium Cultural.

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11:45 a.m.

Catalonia's police chief Josep Lluis Trapero has left Spain's National Court in Madrid after being questioned for about an hour as part of an investigation for sedition linked to Sept. 20-21 demonstrations in Barcelona in the run-up to last weekend's referendum on independence.

Trapero, who is one of four people being questioned in the case, left on foot to some applause by Basque and Catalan party representatives and some insults from bystanders.

The other three under investigation for sedition are Catalan police Lt. Teresa Laplana, who was to testify by video link from Barcelona, Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly that has been the main civic group behind the independence movement, and Jordi Cuixart, president of separatist group Omnium Cultural.

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8:40 a.m.

Spain's National Court will question two senior officers of Catalonia's regional police force and the leaders of two pro-independence civic groups who have been placed under investigation for sedition.

The four will be questioned Friday morning about their roles in demonstrations Sept. 20-21 in Barcelona, when Spanish police arrested several Catalan government officials and raided offices in a crackdown on preparations for an Oct. 1 referendum on independence. Spanish authorities say the demonstrations hindered the police operation.

The four include regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero and Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly that has been the main civic group behind the independence movement.

On Thursday, Spain's Constitutional Court ordered Catalonia's parliament to suspend a planned session next week during which separatist lawmakers plan to declare independence.

 
 
 

 

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