Catalonia will move as soon as this weekend to declare independence from Spain, the region’s leader said, moving the European Union country closer to a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy.
The constitutional crisis has hit the euro and Spanish stocks and bonds and Volkswagen’s Spanish unit SEAT warned of disrupted activity on Tuesday due to protests. Catalonia’s Caixabank and Spain’s economy minister have meanwhile sought to assure bank customers that their deposits are secure.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told the BBC in an remarks published on Wednesday that his government would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence after tallying votes from last weekend’s referendum, which Madrid deems illegal.
His comment appeared after Spain’s King Felipe VI accused secessionist leaders on Tuesday of shattering democratic principles and dividing Catalan society, as tens of thousands protested against a violent police crackdown on Sunday’s vote.
“We are to declare independence 48 hours after all the official results are counted,” Puigdemont said in remarks posted on the BBC’s website.
“This will probably finish once we get all the votes in from abroad at the end of the week and therefore we shall probably act over the weekend or early next week.”
Puigdemont is due to make a statement at 9 pm on Wednesday.
Spain has been rocked by the Catalan vote and the Spanish police response to it, which saw batons and rubber bullets used to prevent people voting. Hundreds were injured, in scenes that brought international condemnation.
Catalans came out onto the streets on Tuesday to condemn the police action, shutting down road traffic, public transport and businesses, and ratcheting up fears of intensifying unrest in a region that makes up one-fifth of the Spanish economy.
Spain’s worst crisis in decades has shaken the euro and sharply increased Madrid’s borrowing costs, while banks led a fall in Spanish stocks on Wednesday.
Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos sought to ease the anxieties of investor and customers. “Catalan banks are Spanish banks and European banks are solid and their clients have nothing to fear,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Madrid.
Caixabank, Catalonia’s largest lender, said in an internal memo to employees late on Tuesday that its only objective was to “protect clients’, shareholders’ and employees’ interests”.