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Catalonia crisis could spark ‘civil war’ in Europe, EU commissioner warns

'The situation is very, very disturbing'

Lydia Smith
Friday 06 October 2017 08:52 BST
Feelings are running high on both sides
Feelings are running high on both sides (Reuters)

The escalating crisis in Catalonia runs the risk of causing a “civil war” on European soil, the EU budget commissioner has warned.

“The situation is very, very disturbing,” Gunther Oettinger said. “A civil war in planned in the middle of Europe.

“One can only hope that a conversation will be made between Madrid and Barcelona soon.”

Mr Oettinger added the European Union would only intervene “if asked”, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Violence broke out during a massive police operation to halt an independence referendum on Sunday, which the Spanish government deemed illegal.

More than 800 people are reported to have been injured in the clashes, which saw riot police smashing their way into polling stations and beating voters.

Catalan officials said the preliminary result of the referendum showed 90% of voters backed the formation of an independent republic.

After the vote, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told the BBC on Wednesday the autonomous region would declare independence from Spain “at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.

The Spanish government responded by accusing Catalonian separatists of “blackmail”.

The European Commission sided with Spain in a statement, which deemed the independence vote “not legal” under the Spanish constitution and called for all parties involved to seek “unity and stability”.

“If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union,” the statement read.

Catalan businesses are considering moving out of the region due to the threat of an impending independence declaration and the region’s political stability, with Barcalona-based Sabadell bank already announcing plans to move its head office to the city of Alicante.

Spain’s third-largest lender Caixabank has said its board will meet on Friday to consider transferring its legal base out of Catalonia to the Balearic Islands.

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