Europe backs Spain in Catalonia crisis

Europe backs Spain in Catalonia crisis

Europe backs Spain in Catalonia crisis

The European Union closed ranks behind Spain in the Catalan crisis on Oct. 19, saying there was "no space" for outside intervention by the bloc as France and Germany voiced strong support for Madrid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron threw their weight behind Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the dramatically escalating standoff over Catalonia's independence drive at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

As the Spanish government vowed to take back powers from the Catalan regional government and its leader warned he could declare independence, EU President Donald Tusk scotched any notion the bloc could step in or mediate.

"We have all of us our own emotions, opinions and assessments but formally speaking there is no space for EU intervention here," Tusk said.

Brussels has insisted the dispute over Catalonia's independence referendum is an internal matter for key EU member Spain, resisting

Catalan efforts to internationalise the issue and backing Madrid's position that the vote was illegal.

"We back the position of the Spanish government," Merkel said as she arrived for the summit.

"We hope there are solutions found on the basis of the Spanish constitution."

France has been outspoken in its support of the Madrid government during the crisis, Spain's worst in decades, triggered by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont holding a banned referendum on splitting from Spain.

Macron recently charged that the separatists were motivated in part by “economic selfishness.”

The French president told reporters in Brussels he expected the 28 EU leaders to voice solid support for Madrid.

"This European Council will be marked by a message of unity -- unity with our member states facing crises, unity with Spain and very strong unity in discussions about Brexit," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said on Oct. 19 the Catalan crisis was Spain’s internal affair but slammed what he called Western double standards over separatist movements.

“Russia’s position is known here. All that is happening is Spain’s internal business and must be resolved within Spanish law and on the basis of democratic traditions,” Putin said at a meeting in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

However, he said the crisis exposed Western hypocrisy in backing some separatists while opposing others.