European Leaders Back Madrid After Catalonia Votes For Independence

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BRUSSELS (Alliance News) - Leaders from Europe and beyond overwhelmingly took the side of Madrid after a vote by the Catalan parliament in favour of independence from the central government on Friday.

"Nobody in the EU will recognize" the Catalan vote, the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said on Twitter.

Governments in Berlin, London, Paris and other major European capital cities also rallied behind Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who plans to dismiss the entire Catalan government, take control of local finances and institutions and hold regional elections.

"I have always said I?have one interlocutor in Spain. It's Prime Minister Rajoy," French President Emmanuel Macron said. "He has my full support."

Spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, Steffen Seibert, took a similar stance.

"Spain's sovereignty and territorial integrity are and remain inviolable. A unilaterally proclaimed independence by Catalonia harms these essential principles," he said.

"The federal government doesn't recognize this sort of independence declaration."

A statement from UK Prime Minister Theresa May's office echoed Berlin's words: "We continue to want to see the rule of law upheld, the Spanish constitution respected, and Spanish unity preserved."

Government officials from the US, Italy and Canada also sided with Madrid.

"Canada recognizes one united Spain," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters during a press conference near Montreal.

Discussions should be held "according to the rule of law, according to the Spanish constitution, according to the principles of international law," Trudeau said, adding that they needed to happen in "a peaceful, non-violent way."

Catalonia is not the only region in the EU demanding greater autonomy or independence from a central state.

Factions within Scotland and Northern Ireland have signalled a will to break away from London while nationalists in Belgium's Flanders are also seeking an independent state, among others.

The Scottish government was one prominent contrasting voice on Friday.

"While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future," Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said.

"The imposition of direct rule cannot be the solution and should be of concern to democrats everywhere," she said, in reference to Madrid's move to take power away from the regional Catalan government.

Just earlier this week, voters in the economically powerful northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto overwhelmingly opted for more autonomy from Rome in a referendum.

"We don't need any more splits," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in reaction to the Catalan vote Friday.

"I wouldn't want the EU be made up of 95 states tomorrow," broadcaster BFMTV quoted Juncker as saying.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called for talks between Madrid and Barcelona to settle the dispute.

"A political crisis can only be solved through dialogue," Michel said on Twitter.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont responded: "Dialogue has been, and will always be, our choice to solve political situations and achieve peaceful solutions."

Copyright dpa