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France warns Catalonia against unilateral independence declaration

France says it will not recognize Catalonia if it goes ahead to unilaterally declare independence from mainland Spain, warning that such a move, if recognized, would mean the region’s “automatic” exit from the European Union.

Nathalie Loiseau , France’s European affairs minister, said on Monday, that “Catalonia cannot be defined by the vote organized by the independence movement just over a week ago.”

“This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics.”

She also warned that “if independence were to be recognized – which is not something that’s being discussed – the most immediate consequence would be that (Catalonia) automatically left the European Union.”

The Spanish region, which has its own language and culture, held a referendum on October 1, despite efforts by Spain and the EU to block it.

The regional government said some 90 percent of those who voted backed secession, and that according to the region’s rules, a declaration of independence is the legal next step after the ‘Yes’ victory.

“The declaration of independence, that we don’t call a ‘unilateral’ declaration of independence, is foreseen in the referendum law as an application of the results,” said Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (C) holds a meeting at the Catalan government headquarters in Barcelona on October 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

He could declare independence in a parliament session planned for Tuesday.

Merkel backs Spain’s unity

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also held talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy over the Catalonia crisis, reassuring him of Berlin’s support for Spain’s unity, her spokesman said.

She also called for more dialog among all sides with the framework of the Spanish constitution to help resolve the crisis, the spokesman added.

Additionally, the German leader also discussed the situation in Catalonia with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Saturday.

Rajoy: Spain will remain united

The Spanish premier, meanwhile, assured that his government will do everything in his power to maintain the country’s unity.

In an interview published in the German newspaper Die Welt on Monday, Rajoy said “Spain will not be divided and national unity will be preserved. We’ll do everything that legislation allows to ensure that.”

His government launched a heavy-handed crackdown on Catalans during and ahead of the referendum, by sending thousands of national police to the region to prevent the vote. The crackdown left around 900 people injured.

The government has even threatened to use the military to take direct control of the Catalan region if it declares independence.

Hundreds in Brussels rally for Spain’s unity

In another development, hundreds of people gathered outside the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday to show their opposition to Catalonia’s separation bid.

Protesters, estimated by local police to be 350,000, held Spanish and Catalan flags as well as the European Union’s, chanting slogans like “Viva Spain, Viva Catalonia.”

They were also holding banners that read; “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger.”

Secretary-General of the European People’s Party Antonio Lopez-Isturiz and Member of the European Parliament Eider Gardiazabal were also among the protesters.

Lopez-Isturiz said in the rally that it is the responsibility of Spanish people to maintain the unity of Spain.

“I think the tension need to be eased. Tension always provokes those who go against the law. We should stop any illegal action like this and demand Puigdemont not to declare independence,” he added.

Spain is facing its biggest political challenge since it became a democracy four decades ago.

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