Catalonia is organizing the logistics for a referendum on independence from Spain it plans to hold by the end of September, even if it goes against the wishes of the national government, Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs Raul Romeva said on Thursday.
“We are now preparing the referendum because ... either in an agreed way or not, we need to be ready,” Romeva said at the Catalan regional government’s representative office in London.
The wealthy northeastern region, which has its own language and culture, is home to a strong separatist movement, which has been intensified by high unemployment and austerity cuts in Spain.
However, attempts to hold a Scottish-style referendum on independence have been blocked in the courts by Madrid.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has said that any referendum on secession is illegal and against the constitution, a stance supported by the judiciary.
Catalan pro-independence campaigners held a symbolic vote two years ago in which nearly 2 million people expressed a desire to secede, although turnout was relatively low.
Senior politicians involved in the vote, which was staffed by volunteers, have faced sanctions or trial for pursuing measures deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
The latest opinion poll, carried out by the regional government, showed that 45.3 percent were in favor of secession and 46.8 percent were against.
“If finally this negotiation [with the Spanish government] is getting nothing and there is no agreement, we are committed and we will go ahead with organizing and holding a referendum and this will be before September 2017,” Romeva said. “The offer we have put on the table to the Spanish government is we can agree how and when we can hold the referendum.”
Asked whether the Catalan government had held talks with Rajoy’s government, Romeva said: “We have met, which doesn’t mean that we have talked... There is no negotiation on the substantial issue [of a referendum], because the Spanish government is just denying the fact that this needs to be addressed.”
The Catalan government has not seen any offer from Madrid, despite speculation that the central government has put one on the table, Romeva said, although he would welcome one.
“We are ready and keen to negotiate,” he said.
Romeva, a former member of the European Parliament, said the Catalan government had contacts with EU officials, but did not expect to get a public response to its proposal before the result of a referendum.
“Seven point five million citizens in Catalonia ... will not cease to be citizens of the European Union, regardless of the political decision which the country is taking. The question [for the EU] is: How are you going to manage that?”
The EU is only mandated to deal directly with its member states, which means any discussion of the status of Catalonia can only be with Madrid.
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