Catalonia debates as independence declaration looms

Key figures in the Catalonian push for independence  AFP

Key figures in the Catalonian push for independence AFP

They waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying "Together we are stronger" and "Catalonia is Spain".

Puigdemont said he had not been in contact with the Madrid government for some time because Spain refused to discuss independence. It would therefore " be a candidate to become a member of the Union", then negotiations would be undertaken to integrate with the EU after a fire, green -with the unanimity of the 28 member States. It remains unclear what he plans to say, although some separatist leaders hope he will use the opportunity to declare independence.

The French European Affairs minister says France won't recognize Catalonia if it unilaterally declares independence from Spain.

But there was intense speculation on Monday about whether Puigdemont would go ahead with such a provocative move - particularly in the light of a huge rally against independence in Barcelona at the weekend that exposed deep misgivings about his tactics among some sections of Catalan society.

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.

Turnout was 43 percent as Catalans who reject independence largely boycotted the polls.

The region, home to 7.5 million people with their own language and cultural traditions, accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy.

Barcelona police said 350,000 people gathered, while march organizers claim as many as 930,000 people turned out.

However, due to reforms pushed through the Catalan parliament shortly before the plebiscite, Puigdemont has argued that he is required to make a declaration of independence, regardless of the views of the Spanish Government or constitutional court.

Catalan independence would not enjoy global recognition, France's minister for European affairs said Monday as the Spanish region's leader threatens to announce a split.

The gap between Spain and Germany's 10-year bond yield shrank to around 118 basis points - having stretched out to 136 bps last week at the height of worries about a conflict between Catalonia and the central government in Madrid. He says he could also suspend the region's existing autonomous status.

The vote, which was won by the Yes side, was broken up by police, who beat voters with batons.

Moves by local companies to re-locate their headquarters and expressions of support from euro zone heavyweights France and Germany for Spanish unity were also increased pressure on the region's pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont to back down. "We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want".

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