EU leader urges dialogue to solve Catalonia crisis


A top European Union official Wednesday urged immediate dialogue to solve the Catalonia crisis, less than 24 hours after the region's leader vowed it will declare independence within days.

Addressing an emergency debate in the European Parliament on the Constitution, the rule of law, and fundamental rights in Spain following Sunday's Catalonia independence referendum, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said, "It's time to talk, finding a way out of the impasse, working within the constitutional order of Spain."

The meeting comes days after Catalonia's fractious independence referendum -- declared illegal by Spanish authorities -- where the region's passive civil disobedience was met with brutal police force.

Timmermans said there is "general consensus" that Catalan authorities "chose to ignore the law" and called images from Sunday "saddening", yet defended the use of force.

"None of us want to see violence in our societies," he said. "However it is a duty for any government to uphold the law … this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force."

Timmermans insisted on the Commission's position that the vote was "not legal," reiterating that "the only way forward is dialogue," which he said should start "immediately".

Just hours after a strong speech by Spanish King Felipe VI in favor of Spanish "unity and permanence," Catalonia's pro-independence leader said Tuesday that the Spanish northeastern region is likely to declare independence within a week.

"We'll probably do this when we have the votes in from abroad, at the end of this week or thereabouts, so we'll act at the end of this week or the beginning of next week," Carles Puigdemont told the BBC in his first interview since Sunday's referendum.

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