Catalonia independence declaration would not be recognised, says France

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French European affairs minister urges both sides to negotiate their way out of crisis triggered by last weeks referendum

France has said it will not recognise Catalonia if the regional government presses ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain, and urged both sides to negotiate their way out of the crisis triggered by last weeks referendum.

If there were to be a declaration of independence, it would be unilateral, and it would not be recognised, Frances European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said.

Catalonia cannot be defined by the vote organised by the independence movement just over a week ago, she told CNews television. This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics.

Loiseau also repeated the European commissions warning that an independent Catalonia would find itself outside the European Union and obliged to reapply for membership.

If independence were to be recognised which is not something thats being discussed the most immediate consequence would be that [Catalonia] automatically left the European Union.

The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is due to bring the results of the referendum before the regional parliament on Tuesday.

According to the Catalan government, 90% of participants voted for independence in the referendum on 1 October, with 2.3 million of Catalonias 5.3 million registered voters casting a ballot.

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I am Catalan: Independence is not a final destination – video

It remains unclear whether Puigdemont will opt merely to recognise the referendum result or whether he will push ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence.

Speaking to Catalonias TV3 on Sunday night, he lamented the Spanish governments unwillingness to negotiate over the issue, adding: If the [Spanish] state doesnt respond positively, well do what we came to do.

On Monday morning, Spains deputy prime minister, Soraya Senz de Santamara, said the government would act if Puigdemont declared independence on Tuesday. It wont go unanswered, she said, but did not specify whether the government would move to take control of Catalonia by invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which has never been used.

Applying 155 would involve a lot of things because its not been studied very much, she told Cope radio.


What happens if Catalonia declares independence?


Despite growing pressure from domestic political parties, the Spanish government has made it clear it will not sit down and talk to its Catalan counterpart until the latter drops all talk of independence.

If independence is declared, Madrid could reach for article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the government to take control of an autonomous region that does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain.

Invocation of 155 is seen as a last resort, and would throw Spain and the EU into uncharted territory.

Senior European commission officials have so far ruled out intervening, insisting the crisis is an internal Spanish. The use of the article could change their minds and trigger mediation efforts.

One thing is certain: with tensions high after the polling day violence and thousands of police officers still deployed to the region, any show of force from the Spanish state will trigger massive demonstrations.

Spains prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has said he is prepared to suspend the regions autonomy to stop it splitting from the rest of the country.

In an interview with El Pas on Sunday, Rajoy insisted he would stop the Catalan government declaring independence over the coming days, warning that the Spanish authorities would assume control of the region from Madrid if necessary.

Rajoy also said the thousands of Guardia Civil and national police officers deployed in Catalonia would remain there until things return to normal and repeated calls for the regional government to drop its independence demands.

Were going to stop independence from happening, he told the paper. I can say with absolute frankness that its not going to happen. Depending on how things develop, well obviously take any of the decisions the law permits.

I want to make one thing absolutely clear: as long as the threat of a declaration of independence remains on the political horizon, its going to be very difficult for the government not to take steps.

Rajoy is adamant that Spain will not tolerate Catalonias departure. In an interview with Die Welt on Monday, the prime minister dismissed suggestions that the country could be divided.

Absolutely not, he said. Spain will not be divided and national unity will be preserved. Well do everything that legislation allows to ensure that.

Rajoys warnings were echoed by Enric Millo, the Spanish governments most senior representative in Catalonia.

It would be a very, very grave act of irresponsibility, he told TV3. [The Catalan government] would end up breaking what little they havent already broken. The consequences are very difficult to predict.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to protest against the regional governments independence drive and to show solidarity with the rest of Spain.


Seven key moments in the Catalan independence campaign

Spains constitutional court strikes down parts of a 2006 charter on Catalan autonomy that had originally increased the regions fiscal and judicial powers and described it as a nation. The court rules that using the word nation has no legal value and also rejects the preferential use of Catalan over Spanish in municipal services. Almost two weeks later, hundreds of thousands protest on the streets of Barcelona, chanting We are a nation! We decide!

At the height of Spains economic crisis, more than a million people protest in Barcelona on Catalonias national day, demanding independence in what will become a peaceful, annual show of strength.

The pro-independence government of Artur Mas defies the Madrid government and Spains constitutional court by holding a symbolic vote on independence. Turnout is just 37%, but more than 80% of those who voted – 1.8 million people – vote in favour of Catalan sovereignty.

Carles Puigdemont, who has replaced Mas as regional president, announces an independence referendum will be held on 1 October. Spains central government says it will block the referendum using all the legal and political means at its disposal.

The Catalan parliament approves referendum legislation after a heated, 11-hour session that sees 52 opposition MPs walk out of the chamber in Barcelona in protest at the move. Spains constitutional court suspends the legislation the following day, but the Catalan government vows to press ahead with the vote.

Police arrest 14 Catalan government officials suspected of organising the referendum and announce they have seized nearly 10 million ballots destined for the vote. Some 40,000 people protest against the police crackdown in Barcelona and Puigdemont accuses the Spanish government of effectively suspending regional autonomy and declaring a de facto state of emergency.

Close to 900 people are injured as police attempt to stop the referendum from taking place. The Catalan government says 90% voted for independence on a turnout of 43%.

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