Catalonia prepares for its independence referendum

Tackling one of the biggest political crises to hit Spain since democracy was restored in the 1970s after decades of dictatorship, authorities in Madrid have declared the referendum unconstitutional and told police to ensure no votes are cast.

He said: "For my part, the only thing I can say is that I would like Spain to remain united".

"This has been brought into sharp focus by the austerity imposed in recent years combined with the banning of this vote and the drafting in of several thousand riot police to try and halt the referendum on Sunday".

I am writing to you, as Mayor of Barcelona, to convey my concern at the seriousness of the situation we are facing in Catalonia where fundamental rights and freedoms are now at risk.

"Political challenges call for political dialogue and political grandeur", he said.

Police were ordered on Tuesday to seal off places to be used as polling stations and guard them until Sunday, the referendum day.

Madrid's culture minister Iñigo Mendez de Vigo, acting as spokesman for Spain's cabinet, accuses the secessionist coalition ruling the northeastern region of bending the laws to go ahead with a vote regardless of warnings from courts and a suspension by the country's Constitutional Court earlier this month.

Romeva decried those as "repressive measures", and said the Catalan government just wants to be able to negotiate with Madrid on equal footing.

Authorities in Catalonia said they intend to endure the disputed vote will take place peacefully despite a crackdown on the vote by the national government, who calls it illegal.

A man fixes posters to a wall in Barcelona Spain Thursday Sept. 28 2017 encouraging people to vote 'Yes' at the Oct. 1 referendum on the Catalonia region's independence. Regional leaders have said that if the

He was interrupted by the Scottish unionist and Daily Telegraph contributor Tom Gallagher, who yelled from the back of the room: "You have abused your constitutional rights to deepen the gulf between Catalonia and the rest of Spain".

Among the many uncertainties is what will happen to the region's football clubs, including Barca, if Catalonia becomes a new country.

Europe would also feel the pain, economists warn.

"If the Catalonia referendum goes ahead we expect this to be a disruptive event for the Euro, with the potential for a sharp decline of up to 5% initially in the single currency if the separatists win", says Kathleen Brooks, research director at City Index.

According to Colau, the criminal prosecution by Spain of a Catalan official linked to the referendum "will only help raise social tensions and block any possibility of finding a way out of the conflict". Teneo Intelligence's Antonio Barroso said the regional government could take several next steps.

The mayor of Barcelona says the European Commission should mediate the tense standoff between the Spanish and Catalan governments over Catalonia's future.

It would also massively diminish Spain as a nation state: Catalonia comprises 16 percent of Spain's population and accounts for 20 percent of its GDP.

Setting aside the problem of Madrid's opposition and membership in the EU, Catalans would be forced to make a number of hard decisions in quick succession.

The region could continue using the euro as its currency, but would not have a seat at the European Central Bank.

  • Salvatore Jensen