MADRID (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his ruling Popular Party will try to fend off a secession drive by Catalonia region separatists by arguing that breaking away "means abandoning Europe."
Catalonia holds regional elections Sept. 27 in which separatists are trying to win a majority of lawmakers in parliament to push their independence drive forward.
Rajoy told reporters Monday that his party will counter the effort by arguing Catalans would "lose the rights they have as Europeans and Spaniards."
Spanish and European Union officials have said Catalonia would be out of the EU if it secedes and would be forced to reapply.
Separatists say an electoral win would trigger a "path to independence" lasting up to 18 months. Rajoy has insisted independence for Catalonia is unconstitutional and won't be permitted.