Row erupts in Spain over Catalan 'sovereignty'
Spain's ruling Popular Party on Friday criticised an agreement by Catalonia's two biggest political parties to pass a "declaration of the sovereignty of the people".
The two Catalan parties are promising a referendum next year on self-determination for Catalonia, convinced that a majority want to split from the rest of Spain.
Catalonia's ruling centre-right nationalist alliance, Convergence and Union, and their allies, the left-wing pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia, plan to put the declaration to a vote in the Catalan parliament on January 23.
Approval of the declaration, which specifies no concrete measures, is virtually guaranteed as the two parties have a majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament following regional elections on November 25.
The declaration is seen as a prelude to a referendum on nationhood, which is fiercely opposed by Spain's central government.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government in Madrid argues that a referendum would flout the constitution and he has vowed to ensure Catalonia abides by the law.
"There is no legitimacy without respect for the law and in the event of actions that do not respect the law, this government, as has been said many times, will enforce the constitution and laws," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said on Friday.
"Catalonia and Spain are going through a very long and very hard economic crisis. And instability harms them because the government of Catalonia is spending time and money on initiatives that, under the constitution, cannot thrive," she added at a news conference following a weekly cabinet meeting.
The leader of Rajoy's centre-right Popular Party in Catalonia, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, on Friday described the declaration as "the biggest provocation in our common history".
The Catalan branch of the mainstream opposition Socialist Party also rejected the declaration, saying it assumed that the result of the consultation would be a vote for an independent state.
A draft of the declaration said the Catalan parliament "agrees to declare the democratic sovereignty of the people of Catalonia as a political and legal entity" and launches a process to give them the right to decide on creating a new nation.
The text could still be amended, said the secretary general of the Republican Left of Catalonia, Marta Rovira.
Catalonia is home to 7.5 million of Spain's total population of 46 million. It now accounts for more than one-fifth of Spain's economic output and a quarter of its exports, and boasts one of the world's finest football teams, Barcelona FC.
Catalans are proud of their distinct language and culture. At a time of recession and spending cuts many resent that a portion of their taxes is redistributed to other regions of Spain.
A survey published in leading daily El Pais in November indicated that Catalans would vote in favour of independence in a referendum by 46 percent against 42 percent.
© 2013 AFP