MADRID (AP) — Spain's prime minister vowed Tuesday to defend the country's unity and dismissed a new proposal by two secessionist parties to have Catalonia's regional parliament announce the beginning of a process to form a new state.
In a special address carried live on national television, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the proposal "an act of provocation" that was "contrary to the Constitution, the law, the feelings of the majority of Catalans and the democratic will of Spaniards."
"Those who want to separate and divide Catalonia from Spain should know that they will not achieve this," said Rajoy.
Catalonia, a northeast region of 7.5 million people, is responsible for nearly a fifth of Spain's economic output and residents have long prided themselves on their separate language and culture.
Polls show Catalans overwhelmingly support the right to hold a secession referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence. In an election in September, the pro-independence camp won 72 seats but got only 48 percent of the popular vote.
The proposition Tuesday was filed by the "Together for Yes" pro-independence alliance that won 62 seats in Catalonia's 135-member parliament in the election, along with the radical leftist CUP party, which won 10 seats. It calls for the Barcelona-based parliament to vote on the motion quickly, although it is unlikely to have more than symbolic importance as the region has yet to form a new government.
No date was set for the vote.
The motion calls on parliament to pass laws within 30 days that would allow the region push ahead toward creating a separate constitution, social security system and treasury. It also says the process would not be subject to decisions made by the Spanish institutions, including the Constitutional Court.
The "Together for Yes" alliance is headed by acting regional Catalan President Artur Mas, who after failing to get a majority is now in negotiations with the CUP party to try to form a new government. The CUP, however, has said it will not support Mas as president.
This story has been corrected to show name of region is Catalonia, not Catalan.