The president of the regional government in Catalonia said Thursday that a deal had been reached to hold a referendum on becoming an independent country next year, but his comments were immediately rejected by Spain.
Artur Mas said said a deal reached among pro-independence groups would allow for a referendum in November asking voters if they want Catalonia a country independent from Spain. But it was quickly shot down. “The poll will not be held, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told reporters soon after Mas publicized the agreement, BBC reports.
The Spanish constitution mandates that only the central government in Madrid can call for a referendum. Even as the economic crisis has fueled nationalism across Catalonia, polls show its 7.5 million people are evenly split on the issue.
Mas has been pushing for a referendum since last year, after he failed to secure a better financial deal between Madrid and Catalonia, one of Spain’s most powerful regions that represents about one-fifth of its $1.5 trillion gross domestic product. NATO and the European Union have both warned Catalonia it would be excluded from those blocs if it secedes.
Each of the 17 regions in Spain enjoy a significant degree of autonomy, but have no control over ports and airports, foreign affairs, defense and any economic or financial decisions on a national scale.