MADRID – Leaders from the world have largely rallied behind Spain’s central government after the Catalan parliament voted in favor of splitting from Madrid and establishing an independent republic.
Spanish president Mariano Rajoy on Friday announced the dissolution of the Catalan parliament and called for snap regional elections in a swift response to the Catalan MPs’ declaration for independence.
The events in Barcelona and Madrid have gripped Spain, marking a major development in the country’s worst political crisis in decades. The political uncertainty is also closely watched by the international community, and especially the European Union, as a potential Catalan independence would represent the greatest threat to the bloc’s unity since Britain’s decision to leave in July 2016.
In line with the European Union’s long-held position that the standoff in Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said that the Catalan parliament’s declaration had changed nothing.
For his part, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc does “not need any more splits. “I wouldn’t want the European Union be made up of 95 states tomorrow,” broadcaster BFMTV quoted him as saying.
Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said in a statement posted on Twitter that “nobody in the European Union will recognize” the Catalan vote.
Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, said it backs Spanish unity and does not recognize Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of independence. “The (German) federal government does not recognize such an independence declaration,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Spain are and always will be inviolable,” he added.
Washington also weighed in, saying it backed Madrid’s efforts to keep the country united. “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” Heather Nauert, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Britain “does not and will not” recognize the Catalan regional parliament’s declaration of independence, which “is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts”.
However the Scottish government, led by Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party, criticized Madrid for refusing dialogue and said imposition of direct rule “cannot be the solution”.
“We understand and respect the position of the Catalan Government,” Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s external affairs minister, said in a statement. “While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future. Today’s Declaration of Independence came about only after repeated calls for dialogue were refused,” she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also threw his full support behind Rajoy and the Spanish government. During a visit to French Guiana, Macron told journalists he has always had “one interlocutor in Spain, it is Prime Minister Rajoy”. Macron added: “There is a rule of law in Spain with constitutional rules. Mariano Rajoy wants these rules to be respected and he has my full support.”
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, said his country “recognizes one united Spain”. Speaking to reporters during a press conference near Montreal, he said talks should be held “according to the rule of law, according to the Spanish constitution, according to the principles of international law”.–MercoPress