The team captain of Spain’s storied football club Barcelona, which has become a focal point of secessionist Catalan sentiment, is urging politicians in Madrid and the Catalan capital to start negotiating about the future of Spain’s restive northeast province.
Andres Iniesta wrote on his Facebook page, apologizing at the same time for weighing in on “Before we do ourselves more damage, those in charge must open dialogue with each other. Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace, “situations that are complex.”
His appeal came as a top EU official Thursday warned that the separatist dispute, exacerbated by Catalan secessionists holding an illegal independence referendum Sunday, risks escalating into armed conflict.
Gunther Oettinger, the Germany EU commissioner said at an event in Munich said; “The position is very, very alarming. Civil war is conceivable there, in the middle of Europe.”
The German commissioner’s startling remarks prompted disquiet among EU diplomats. One told VOA he thought the comments “nonesense.”
Oettinger and the EU Commission, the European bloc’s governing body, which fears Catalan independence might stir up separatism elsewhere in Europe, have also urged the authorities in Madrid and Barcelona to start negotiations and to avoid further provocations.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has threatened to suspend Catalonia’s semi-autonomy and to introduce direct rule from Madrid. He has said there can be no talks while Catalonia’s separatist leaders are threatening to issue a declaration of independence on the back of last Sunday’s unauthorized plebiscite.
In that poll, deemed illegal by Madrid, 90 percent voted to break with Spain but the turnout was well under half of the electorate. Opinion polls have consistently suggested that more Catalans favor remaining in Spain.
Overnight Friday, Catalan activists posted online video of more Spanish military trucks moving into the northeast region some of the trucks appeared to be tank transporters but with no tanks loaded on them.
Nationalist sentiment is deepening fast in Madrid observers have noted more buildings are sporting the Spanish national flag. Spaniards have long harbored an historical fear of dismemberment Catalan nationalist sentiment was a key factor behind the Spanish civil war of the 1930s.
In Catalonia secessionist anger has only intensified over the cracking of heads last Sunday when Spain’s national police and Civil Guard fired rubber bullets, roughed up Catalans and raided polling stations as part of an effort to disrupt the plebiscite. Catalan authorities say almost 900 people were hurt in the crackdown.
Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has ordered the national police and Civil Guard involved in clashes with pro-independence protesters in Catalonia during the referendum to remain in the semi-autonomous region to ensure Spanish law is observed.