TENSION IN CATALONIA

Catalan leader threatens to “internationalize conflict” with EU appeal

Mas accepts that an independent Catalonia would not immediately enter the Union Justice Minister Gallardón reiterates claim that “Spain doesn’t make any sense without Catalonia”

Barcelona / Madrid -

The spiraling furor over Catalonia’s aspirations to greater autonomy continued unabated on Monday as defiant regional premier Artur Mas threatened to take the demand for a referendum on the issue to Europe if Madrid insists in rejecting it.

“If they won’t let us consult the people, what we will have to do is explain this to Brussels; we will have to internationalize the conflict,” Mas said in an interview with the TV-3 television channel.

In comments during a talk show on television channel laSexta, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón reiterated the government’s stance that a referendum would be breach of the Spanish Constitution.

Gallardón rejected the idea of an agreement along the lines of Great Britain where the British parliament is expected to authorize a referendum on independence for Scotland. “Spain doesn’t make sense without Catalonia,” the minister said. “We Spaniards need to get involved in this debate.”

Mas said he wants to see a referendum on independence for Catalonia within the next four years, and would not do so with the idea of “losing” the vote. However, he acknowledged that there are legal obstacles against holding such a vote because of the government’s opposition to it.

Europe has to prepare itself because this could happen in Great Britain and Belgium”

The leader of the ruling center-right CiU nationalist group said Catalonia could develop its own regional laws to legalize consultations of voters that that do not take the form of a referendum using the electoral census.

Mas acknowledged that if Catalonia were to secede from Spain, it would remain “outside of the European Union” but suggested the treaties binding EU countries could be “reinterpreted” to deal with possible cases on independence, not only the case of Spain but also Catalonia, Scotland and Belgium. “If all the steps we are taking provide us with legitimacy as a country, we have the right to seek the protection of the EU. Europe has to prepare itself because this could happen in Great Britain and Belgium,” Mas said.

The Catalan leader had further inflamed the debate on Sunday when he accused the central government of having a Falangist vision of the country. "They think we should explain the history of Spain the way they would like to explain it themselves. Catalan schools teach the history of Spain as a multinational state, not like 'one, great and free'," he said in a reference to Franco’s slogan in support of a centralized and homogeneous state.

Mas was due later Monday to attend a gala in which the winner of the Planeta literary prize is due to be announced. The ceremony will also be attended by Education Minister José Ignacio Wert, who last week angered Catalans by saying the government wants to “Hispanicize Catalan students.”

At a military parade to mark the occasion of Spain’s National Day on October 12, in remarks to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, King Juan Carlos objected to Wert’s comments.

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