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Barcelona - Spain's governing conservative People's Party (PP) pledged on Friday to prevent the north-eastern region of Catalonia from approving a declaration saying it had the right to become an independent state.
Catalonia's governing nationalist party CiU and its more radical separatist ally ERC on Thursday agreed on a declaration which they intend to submit to the regional parliament on January 23.
The declaration says the region of 7.6 million residents is a “sovereign” entity which aims at becoming a “new state within the European framework.”
Separatist parties have a majority in the Catalan parliament, which was expected to approve the declaration as a first step toward staging a referendum on independence by 2014.
Catalonia will discuss its independence process with Spain, European institutions and the international community, according to the declaration.
Catalan Prime Minister Artur Mas reportedly knows in advance that the government in Madrid will reject his referendum plans. In that case, he has pledged to challenge Spain at European courts.
The declaration also said that the Catalan authorities will launch an information campaign to encourage residents to participate in the referendum.
The Catalan branch of the PP was studying “legal and political mechanisms” to prevent parliament from approving the “illegal and anti-democratic” declaration, regional PP leader Alicia Sanchez-Camacho said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government intends to block the planned referendum through the Constitutional Court.
Spain's economic crisis has fanned separatism in Catalonia, which has traditionally been the country's economic powerhouse.
Many Catalans feel the region would have weathered the crisis better if it had not been required to transfer part of its tax revenue to poorer regions. - Sapa-dpa