As Catalonia rushes towards a de facto vote on independence, tensions are growing with Madrid. Spain’s King Felipe VI lashed out at Catalonia independence advocates Thursday, amid allegations Madrid is trying to block a vote on separation. In some of his sharpest comments on Catalonia yet, Felipe warned, “Public authorities are subject to the rule of law.” “Respect for the law is the source of legitimacy and an unavoidable requirement for living together democratically in peace and freedom,” he said during a speech in Barcelona. Although the address did not specifically mention Catalonian independence, the monarch’s remarks appeared to be directly aimed at separatist leaders.
The jab came after a controversial new law passed in Spain’s congress. The legislation effectively allows Madrid to take direct control of Catalonia’s police force in the event of a national emergency. While supporters of the law argue it will streamline national responses to emergencies such as natural disasters, critics argue it could be used to undermine the regional government’s autonomy.
Under Spain’s constitution, regions were granted varying levels of autonomy, though many Catalonians have long eyed full independence. The region already says it plans to open 50 of its own embassies worldwide within the coming years.