MADRID (Sputnik) – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday criticized the idea of dismissed Catalan government head Carles Puigdemont of holding a vote in the autonomous region on its status within the European Union.
"It is absurd to claim that Catalonia will leave the European Union. The European Union is a region with the highest level of democracy, freedom, human rights, as well as the best region in terms of attention to population and its prosperity," Rajoy told journalists.
Puigdemont was dismissed by Rajoy after the Catalonia declared independence following its October 1 referendum, during which the majority of Catalans backed the community's secession from Spain. The declaration led to Madrid invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which introduced direct governance by Spanish authorities in Catalonia, and to the dissolution of the regional parliament.
The move has not been recognized by Puigdemont, who subsequently left the country for Belgium in late October. In early November, the Spanish authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Catalan politician and several of his supporters.
After being detained in Brussels, Puigdemont was released on bail and is currently awaiting the decision of the Belgium court on whether to extradite him to Spain, where he faces charges of rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement. While the court ruling is due by December 4, the ousted Catalan president has started an election campaign for the snap Catalan parliamentary vote, slated for December 21.