French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had his “full support” in enforcing the law in Catalonia as Madrid readies to take direct control of the rebellious province.
Catalan lawmakers voted on Friday to declare independence from Spain but Madrid moved swiftly to quash the breakaway bid in a sharp escalation of a crisis causing jitters in secession-wary Europe.
As thousands of pro-independence activists cheered outside, the regional parliament in Barcelona passed a resolution declaring Catalonia “a republic in the form of an independent and sovereign state”.
“I have one partner in Spain, that's Prime Minister Rajoy... the rule of law prevails in Spain, with constitutional rules. He wants to ensure they are respected and he has my full support,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the overseas territory of French Guiana.
His Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made it clear that France “does not recognise the declaration of independence”.
Spain's constitution “must be respected,” he added. “France wants a strong and unified Spain.”
Earlier this week French backers of Catalonian independence offered “hospitality” to Catalan President Carles Puidgemont to lead a government-in-exile in Perpignan, a southern French city with deep Catalan roots.
France's Pyrenees-Orientales area was for centuries a part of Catalonia, only becoming French in the latter half of the 17th century.
Canada too rejected the Catalan regional government's unilateral declaration of independence and urged dialogue between Madrid and the breakaway region of Spain.
“In accordance with international legal principles, these decisions must be made within the constitutional framework,” Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary to Canada's foreign affairs minister, told the Commons.
“Given this, Canada recognises a united Spain,” he said. “A dialogue between Spain and Catalonia within the constitutional framework remains the best way forward.”
Catalan lawmakers sharply escalated the political crisis in Spain by voting to declare independence, with Madrid immediately vowing to “restore legality” and quash the region's secessionist bid.
Canada's reaction mirrored those of European allies who voiced support for Rajoy.
Many of the Spanish Republicans that fled to the region during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco were Catalan.
Call for restraint
European Union President Donald Tusk insisted Madrid “remains our only interlocutor” in Spain after the independence vote that could test the stability of a key member of the bloc.
Wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain's dramatic decision last year to leave the EU, the bloc has stood firmly behind Madrid in the escalating standoff.
Tusk nevertheless urged Madrid to exercise restraint.
“I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not an argument of force,” he tweeted.
Puigdemont also urged calm.
“We will have to maintain the momentum of this country (Catalonia) in the coming hours,” he told lawmakers and onlookers in Barcelona while urging them to do so in the spirit of “peace, civic responsibility and dignity”.
The United States, one of Spain's NATO allies, declared its backing for Madrid using “constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united”.
Germany and Britain too rejected the notion of Catalan independence.