Catalan leader under pressure to drop independence declaration

CRISIS MOUNTS: Spain Deputy PM says law will be restored if independence declared –

BARCELONA/MADRID: Catalonia’s secessionist leader on Monday faced increased pressure to abandon plans to declare the region independent from Spain, with France and Germany expressing support for the country’s unity.
The Madrid government, grappling with Spain’s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, made it clear on Monday it would respond immediately to any such unilateral declaration.
A week on from a referendum on independence which the government did its utmost to thwart, more signs were emerging that the fraught situation was also taking its toll on the business climate of Spain’s wealthiest region.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is due to address the regional parliament on Tuesday afternoon and the Madrid government is worried it will vote for a unilateral declaration of independence.
Catalan officials say people voted overwhelmingly for secession in the ballot, which was declared illegal by the government and was marked by police violence against independence supporters.
But the issue has deeply divided the northeastern region itself as well the Spanish nation. Hundreds of thousands of unionists took to the streets of Barcelona at the weekend to protest against the region breaking away.
Buoyed by the show of support, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaría said on Monday: “I’m calling on the sensible people in the Catalan government…don’t jump off the edge because you’ll take the people with you.”
“If there is a unilateral declaration of independence there will be decisions made to restore law and democracy,” Saenz de Santamaría told COPE radio station.
Backing also came from European heavyweights Germany and France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday about the crisis, her spokesman said on Monday. She stressed her support for Spain’s unity but also encouraged more dialogue.
France said it would not recognise Catalonia if the region unilaterally declared independence. Doing so would lead to Catalonia’s automatic exit from the European Union, it said. — Reuters