Wednesday

18th Sep 2019

Catalonia votes for 'illegal' independence referendum

Catalonia's regional parliament on Thursday (16 January) voted to ask Madrid permission to hold a referendum on secession from Spain, a move deemed unconstitutional by the national government.

The vote passed with 87 to 43 in favour, with 3 abstentions. The referendum would be held on 9 November.

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A spokeswoman for Prime Minsiter Mariano Rajoy said the central government has not changed its mind on banning such the vote, which it said would be in breach of the country's constitution.

Rajoy has an absolute majority in parliament which means he can easily reject the secession vote. The main opposition party is also against a referendum.

But the Catalan government said it will still go ahead with the plan.

Latest polls put Catalan support for independence at around 50 percent, but some 80 percent want to vote on the matter.

A few dozen protesters outside the Catalan parliament on Thursday waved independence flags, while a smaller group supported their region staying within Spain.

Seen as the economic powerhouse of Spain, Catalonia has a distinct culture, language and already benefits from the most autonomous rights among Spanish regions.

Similar questions are being raised in Scotland, which also plans to hold a referendum on 18 September.

Were these countries to become independent, legal experts say they would need to apply for EU membership, as they would no longer be covered by the membership treaties of the countries they left.

Scottish legal experts admit that a new EU application will have to be put forward, but they argue that if Scotland becomes independent, there would be some "interim arrangements" with the EU to bridge the transition to membership.

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.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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