France will not recognise Catalonia if the Spanish region unilaterally declares independence, its European Affairs Minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said on Monday.
“If there were to be a declaration of independence, it would be unilateral, and it would not be recognised,” Loiseau said on CNews television.
Catalonia, which has its own language and culture and is led by a pro-independence regional government, held a referendum on Oct. 1 over secession in defiance of Spain’s constitutional court, which had declared the vote illegal.
“Catalonia cannot be defined by the vote organised by the independence movement just over a week ago,” the French junior minister said.
“This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics.’’
A hasty decision to recognise independence following such a unilateral declaration would amount to fleeing France’s responsibilities, Loiseau added.
“If independence were to be recognised – which is not something that’s being discussed – the most immediate consequence would be that (Catalonia) automatically left the EU.”
Similarly, Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Sunday to express their opposition to declaring independence from Spain, showing how divided the region is on the issue.
A crowd estimated by local police to number 350,000 waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger”.
They poured into the city centre after politicians on both sides hardened their positions in the country’s worst political crisis for decades.
Two more Catalonia-based companies set board meetings for Monday to decide whether to shift their head offices out of the region.
They added to the intense pressure Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is under to back away from declaring independence when he addresses the regional parliament on Tuesday.
Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia’s government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the wealthy region’s existing autonomous status.
Turn-out for the referendum was 43 per cent, with most residents, who wish to remain in Spain staying home.
The anti-independence demonstration, which included Catalans and people from other parts of Spain, underlined how the dispute has riven the region itself.
A month ago, a million people rallied in the city to support independence.
“We feel both Catalan and Spanish,” Araceli Ponze, 72, said during Sunday’s rally. “We are facing a tremendous unknown.
“We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want,” Ponze said.