Europe's Leaders Rally Behind Spain Over Catalan Independence

  • French President Macron said PM Rajoy has his ‘full support’
  • ‘Nothing changes for the European Union,’ said Donald Tusk

Rajoy Dissolves Catalan Parliament, Calls for Election

European leaders rallied to support Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy after the northeastern region of Catalonia declared independence on Friday following an illegal referendum at the beginning of the month.

In a dramatic day in Spain, a resolution approved by regional lawmakers in Barcelona asked all nations and institutions to recognize a new Catalan republic. In Madrid, the Spanish Senate approved measures giving Rajoy the power to seize control of the Catalan administration via Article 155 of the 1978 constitution. The separatists’ call was rejected in capital cities of a Europe where the specter of secessionist movements haunts governments from the U.K. to Italy.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged his backing for Rajoy. “There’s the rule of law in Spain, with constitutional norms,” he said, according to the AFP news agency. “Prime Minister Rajoy wants them to be respected and he has my full support.”

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Angela Merkel’s government, told reporters in Berlin that Germany’s view remained that “the constitutional order and unity of Spain must be preserved.”

European Council President Donald Tusk said that “for the European Union nothing changes” after the independence declaration. “Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favors the force of argument, not the argument of force,” he said in a Twitter post.

Scottish Influence

In the U.K., which until now had appeared the most likely European Union nation to break up, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the British government held a “very simple” view of the Catalan region’s efforts to gain independence. “We don’t think the referendum on independence was well founded in law,” he said. “We remain very clear in our view that we should uphold the constitutional integrity of our Spanish friends.”

In 2014, Scotland held a referendum on independence, though unlike in Spain it was sanctioned by the national government. Scots, who make up less than a tenth of the British population, voted 55 percent to 45 percent to remain part of the U.K., but the vote failed to put the issue to rest.

Scottish nationalists helped spur the Catalan drive for a referendum, and on Friday the external affairs secretary of the Scottish government, Fiona Hyslop, said Spain was at a crossroads because “repeated calls for dialogue were refused” by the Madrid government. “While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future,” she said.

— With assistance by Henrique Almeida, and Rodrigo Orihuela

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