Catalan leader under pressure to drop independence


Catalonia’s secessionist leader faced increased pressure on Monday to abandon plans to declare independence from Spain, with France and Germany expressing support for the country’s unity.

The Madrid government, grappling with Spain’s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, said it would respond immediately to any such unilateral declaration.

A week after a vote on independence which the government did its utmost to thwart, the tension also took its toll on the business climate of Spain’s wealthiest region.

Three more Catalonia-based companies joined a business exodus from the region that has gathered steam since the Oct. 1 referendum.

Property group Inmobiliaria Colonial and infrastructure firm Abertis both decided to relocate their head offices to Madrid and telecoms firm Cellnex said it would do the same for as long as political uncertainty in Catalonia continued.

Publishing house Grupo Planeta said it would move its registered office from Barcelona to Madrid if the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence.

Spain’s finance minister said it was the Catalan government’s fault the companies were leaving.

Regional leader Carles Puigdemont is due to address the regional parliament on Tuesday afternoon and Madrid is worried it will vote for a unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalan officials say people voted overwhelmingly for secession in the Oct. 1 referendum, which had been declared illegal by the government. Some 900 people were injured on polling day when police fired rubber bullets and stormed crowds with truncheons to disrupt the voting.

The issue has deeply divided the northeastern region as well as the Spanish nation. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against breaking away in Barcelona at the weekend. They say the referendum did not show the true will of the region because those who want to stay in Spain mainly boycotted it.

Buoyed by the show of support, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaría said on Monday: “I‘m calling on the sensible people in the Catalan government … don’t jump off the edge because you’ll take the people with you.”