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Spanish PM to miss EU summit due to Catalonia crisis

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will not attend an EU leaders summit in Estonia as it is two days ahead of a disputed independence referendum in Catalonia, a government source said Tuesday.

“It was considered that it would be best if he was here (Madrid) for the cabinet meeting on Friday due to the Catalonia question,” the source told AFP speaking on condition of anonymity.

The informal summit in Tallinn, which kicks off with a dinner on Thursday night, is set to discuss digital innovation.

Rajoy has informed his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas by telephone that he will not attend the gathering, Spanish and Estonian government sources said.

Meanwhile, Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro announced that the government will not present its draft budget for 2018 on Friday as had been expected because the government was not sure it had enough support in parliament to pass the spending plan.

“Friday we will not present in the weekly cabinet meeting the draft budget,” he told journalists in parliament.

Rajoy’s minority conservative government relies on the support of centrist party Ciudadanos as well as of the conservative Basque National Party (PNV) — which is sympathetic to Catalonia’s calls for more autonomy — to pass legislation.

But the PNV has warned that it would withdraw its support were Rajoy to show a heavy-handed approach in dealing with Catalonia.

The regional leader of Spain’s Basque Country, Inigo Urkullu, on Sunday urged Madrid to allow independence referendums like those held in Scotland and Quebec.

The Spanish government traditionally tables its draft budget in parliament at the end of September and its is approved by the assembly at the end of December.

Montoro said he still believes these timings could be met.

Rajoy has repeatedly said that the independence referendum slated for October 1 in Catalonia — which his conservative party insists is illegal and unconstitutional — will not take place and the legislation underpinning the vote has already been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Catalonia’s leaders retort they have a right to decide their future.