The Spanish government has vowed not to authorise a referendum to decide if Catalonia will become an independent state.
Spain’s Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, made the declaration just moments after Catalan officials announced a deal to hold a vote on the issue.
The referendum is scheduled for November 9 next year, when voters will be asked two questions: if they want Catalonia to be a state; and if they want the region to be independent.
Catalonia’s President, Artur Mas, has previously declared his intention of turning regional elections – due in 2016 – into a vote on independence, if Madrid blocks the referendum.
The ruling People’s Party and the main opposition Socialists have slammed independence talk.
Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, made a statement, drawing on constitutional laws he says make the current plans for a referendum illegal.
“It is unconstitutional and will not take place,” affirmed Rajoy. “What was decided by parties in Catalonia is totally opposed to the constitution and to the law.”
Under Spanish law, only the national government in Madrid reserves the power to call referendums. As one of Spain’s autonomous communities, Catalonia does not have this right.
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, backed the Prime Minister, saying:
“It takes an effort to stay united but it is worth while. During all my career I was against any separatist movement in my own country and also by extension in other countries.”
According to opinion polls, the Catalan people are evenly split over independence.
Both the EU and Nato have made it clear that if Catalonia separates from Spain, it will be excluded from both organisations.