Voters in Spain’s prosperous Catalonia region will be asked to choose in less than a month if they want to secede from Spain, the region’s pro-independence ruling government announced Wednesday in a move that puts it in open defiance of central authorities in Madrid. Regional President Carles Puigdemont signed a decree that officially calls for a “self-determination referendum of Catalonia” to be held on Oct. 1. His entire cabinet, which includes politicians from various pro-independence parties, also approved the document to dilute responsibility in case of prosecution. The referendum clashes with the Spanish Constitution, which only gives national authorities the right to call such a vote. But Catalonia’s pro-independence lawmakers approved a bill earlier Wednesday that is meant to provide a legal justification for the independence vote.
“The concept of a state and patriotic unities that go beyond the rights of citizens don’t have a place in today’s Europe,” Puigdemont said. “Catalonia belongs to this world that looks forward, and that’s why it will decide its own future on the 1st of October.”
A central government official told The Associated Press that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged the country’s top legal consultative body to review the bill. The official said Madrid is expected to challenge the law in the country’s Constitutional Court on Thursday. The source asked not to be named in line with internal protocols.
Catalonia’s renewed push for secession has opened one of Spain’s deepest political and institutional crises of recent years. Although much of the blame has been put on the pro-independence bloc in the regional parliament, Rajoy’s conservative government has been criticized for letting the situation get this far.