Madrid says Catalans would 'lose nationality' if they secede
Catalans would lose their Spanish nationality if their region becomes independent, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo warned Wednesday, four days ahead of an election framed as an indirect vote on secession.
Nationalist leaders of the wealthy northeastern region have vowed to declare Catalonia independent as early as within 18 months if they win a majority of seats in the regional assembly in Sunday's polls.
Pro-independence leaders insist that should Catalonia secede, Catalans would be able to hold double Spanish-Catalan nationality as the constitution guarantees that no Spanish natives can have their nationality withdrawn.
"When one leaves a country it is obvious that one abandons all the qualities that belonging to that country gives you," Garcia-Margallo said in Barcelona when asked about the issue.
When Latin American countries declared independence from Spain, he said, "they lost Spanish nationality; when Algeria, which was a French province and was part of the European Economic Community, became independent, Algerians lost French nationality and European citizenship."
"They want an independent republic of 7.5 million citizens, but (they want) all of them to have Spanish nationality? It's a little absurd," he added.
But the reality is more nuanced.
An agreement struck between France and Algeria allowed for Algerians born before 1963, independence year, to keep their French nationality.
For residents of Cuba, a former colony of Spain which gained independence in 1898, there were also special provisions for those born in Spain.
Garcia-Margallo's comments came a day after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned that an independent Catalonia would mean a loss of EU membership, and that any attempt to break away "would have no legal value".
The prime minister also said he "did not know" if Catalans would be able to hold on to their Spanish citizenship if Catalonia became independent.
The vast majority of Catalans would like to keep their Spanish nationality if Catalonia breaks away from Spain, according to a poll published Sunday in daily newspaper El Pais.
Fifty-seven percent would like to have double Spanish and Catalan nationality while 17 percent would want to have just Spanish nationality. Only 23 percent want to have just Catalan citizenship nationality.
Artur Mas, Catalonia's pro-independence regional president, meanwhile told AFP: "If the Spanish state does not change the constitution, we will automatically have Spanish nationality."
"So long as (Catalan) citizens have Spanish nationality, they will be citizens of the European Union," he added.
Mas also raised the pressure on Spain in the tense build-up to Sunday's vote, warning Spain risks plunging into a debt crisis like Greece's if it refuses to negotiate a secession agreement in the event of a nationalist victory.
"Spain is too big within the EU and Europe cannot afford a second situation like that of Greece but four or times bigger," he told a news conference in Barcelona.
"The lack of an accord would be collective suicide" for Spain, he added.
Mas warned in an interview with AFP on Tuesday that Catalonia would not pay its share of Spanish debt if he won the vote and if Spain refused to negotiate a deal over secession
Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output, has its own language which was suppressed during General Francisco Franco's 1939-75 dictatorship.
The region's independence drive has intensified over the recent years of economic crisis. Catalans complain about how much of their tax money is redistributed to the rest of Spain.
The latest opinion polls show separatist parties could win a majority in the 135-seat Catalan regional parliament.
© 2015 AFP