October 10, 2017 / 2:14 PM / a year ago

EU's Tusk urges Catalan leader not to make break from Spain

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk urged Catalonia’s regional leader on Tuesday not to declare independence, calling on Carles Puigdemont personally not to take a decision that would thwart dialogue.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who chairs EU summits and seeks to reflect of the European Union’s governments, said during a speech to an EU regional forum in Brussels :

“I ask you to respect, in your intentions, the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue impossible. Diversity should not, and need not, lead to conflict, whose consequences would obviously be bad for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe.”

Tusk, who noted his own ethnic minority background and personal experience of being hit by police batons as an anti-Communist activist in the 1980s, said he had also urged Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to “look for a solution to the problem without the use of force”.

The intervention, just hours before a speech in Barcelona in which Puigdemont could make a unilateral declaration of independence, was a dramatic shift for the EU, where the executive Commission has called for dialogue in the crisis but has stopped short of a clear rejection of Catalan independence, describing it as an “internal matter” for Spain.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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