Catalan leader says will apply referendum law, Spanish PM insists nation will not be divided

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont gives a press conference in Barcelona. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Catalonia will apply a referendum law, which calls for a declaration of independence if a referendum shows a majority in favour, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said in a television interview.

"The declaration of independence, that we don't call a 'unilateral' declaration of independence, is foreseen in the referendum law as an application of the results. We will apply what the law says," Puigdemont said in the programme on Catalonia's TV3, according to excerpts on the broadcaster's website.

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a newspaper interview that Spain would not be divided, a week after Catalonia held a referendum that authorities there say showed voters overwhelmingly support independence.

Asked if there was a risk that Spain would be divided, Rajoy said in an interview published in Die Welt on Monday (Oct 9): "Absolutely not. Spain will not be divided and national unity will be preserved. We'll do everything that legislation allows to ensure that."

Catalonia, which has its own language and culture and is led by a pro-independence regional government, held the Oct 1 referendum over secession in defiance of Spain's constitutional court which had declared the vote illegal.

The Catalan government said more than 90 per cent of voters were in favour of independence from Spain.The turnout was only 43 per cent.

The Catalan law paving the way for the referendum said the parliament of Catalonia would declare the region's independence within 48 hours of a "yes" vote being proclaimed by the Catalan electoral office.

Meanwhile, a senior member of the Catalan administration called for dialogue with Spain, warning that all of Europe faces economic damage unless a resolution is found to his region's standoff with the central government in Madrid.

After a weekend of mass demonstrations in favor of Spanish unity, Raul Romeva, foreign affairs chief for the separatist government in Barcelona, insisted that the door was open for talks if the Spanish prime minister would grasp the chance of dialogue.

"We need two to tango, we need the other side to be at the table," Romeva said in an interview in Barcelona on Sunday. "We're always going to be at the negotiation table, but to start negotiations we need the other party to negotiate with."

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont vowed to press ahead with his independence drive in a declaration due as soon as Tuesday, while Rajoy pledged that "national unity will be maintained" by using all instruments available to him.

"The risk of this getting a lot worse, with correspondingly bad market development for Spanish assets, is still too great for my risk appetite," said Erik Nielsen, chief economist at UniCredit SpA.

He predicted at least another week of pressure on Spanish and Catalan debt and assets before "things will eventually normalise."

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