Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Catalonia urges EU leaders to endorse 'legal' referendum

Catalonia's President, Artur Mas, has written to EU leaders and world powers seeking their support for a vote on independence from Spain.

The appeal comes amid strong resistance to his plan to hold a referendum in November.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Mas faces strong opposition from Spain's leading political parties (Photo: iSabadell)

Spain's governing centre-right Partido Popular and the opposition PSOE have both said it would breach the Spanish constitution.

When Mas told media last month that separatist parties had agreed on the referendum questions and on its "consultative" rather than legally binding nature, the Spanish justice minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, said: "The poll will not be held."

In an interview published on Wednesday (1 January), Spain's economy minister, Luis de Guindos, added: "There is no national investor who considers that there may be a secessionist process in Catalonia at this time."

But for his part, Mas believes he has both the mandate and the legal means to secure a vote.

Separatist parties dominated snap elections in Catalonia in November, with politicians who favour the region's “right to decide” taking some two thirds of the 135 seats in the Catalan parliament.

"Contrary to some reports, there are a number of legal and constitutional options which allow this referendum to take place in Catalonia," Mas said in a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was sent in December, but made public on Thursday.

"I am confident I can rely on you to encourage the peaceful, democratic, transparent, and European process to which I and a vast majority of the Catalan people are fully committed," he added.

He also said that Catalonia - which accounts for more than 20 percent of Spain's GDP - is wealthy enough to be a net contributor to the EU budget.

He sent similar notes to the EU's 26 other capitals and to 45 leaders of non-EU states.

The Catalan referendum, if it happens, is to take place less than two months after Scottish voters say whether they want to leave the UK.

As with Scotland, it is unclear whether an independent Catalonia would be required to re-apply for EU membership.

If it does, it might make Catalans more reluctant to pursue independence.

Currently, opinion polls indicate that around 55 percent of Catalans want to leave Spain.

EU leaders have so far remained silent on whether they would endorse the move.

But Mas did not send letters to the EU institutions, which have already taken sides.

In responses to parliamentary questions by MEPs, the European Commission has said Catalonia would have to leave the EU before trying to get back in.

Madrid vows to block Catalonia referendum

The Spanish government has vowed to block Catalonia from holding an independence referendum, with EU Council chief Van Rompuy renewing the warning that the region would no longer be part of the EU if it split off.

Coronavirus

EU states urged to share sick patients

EU states should take in sick people from Italy and Spain in a show of solidarity amid foreign propaganda attacks, MEPs have said.

Coronavirus

Orban granted indefinite 'authoritarian' power

Ushering in a new era for Hungary - and for the EU - the central European country becomes the first to be ruled by decree, after Orban's party forced virus emergency laws through parliament.

News in Brief

  1. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  2. EU Commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  3. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter
  4. Globally over 780,000 cases of coronavirus, 37,000 deaths
  5. EU states losing 3% of GDP a month, IMF says
  6. Fruit pickers need to cross borders too, EU says
  7. Former Slovak minister to become EU envoy on Kosovo-Serbia
  8. Hungary's Orban wins rule-by-decree vote in parliament

Podcast

Věra Jourová on surveillance and Covid-19

Commissioner for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, says Brussels will vet moves in Hungary to give prime minister Viktor Orbán scope to rule by decree and urges Facebook and Google to push official health advice to WhatsApp and YouTube.

Agenda

EU struggles to remain united This WEEK

EU countries continue to wrestle with economic shock of pandemic and with sharing of medical resources, posing deep questions on solidarity in the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us