Spain: The Catalonia region plans to open more offices representing its interests abroad in the hope of facilitating secession from Spain if Catalan separatists win a regional election, a source said.
Nationalist leaders in the rich region in northeastern Spain have called the snap regional vote for September 27 after Spanish authorities blocked their bid for a referendum on independence.
Catalonia already has missions in Britain, the United States, France and Germany, and now hopes to open two or three more this year, probably in Asia, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, a source in the regional government told AFP.
The nationalist Catalan government recently opened its newest delegations in Italy and Austria.
The source gave no further details, but the Catalan government`s spokesman Francesc Homs said Monday that it would raise its budget for foreign affairs this year by two million euros to 17.2 million euros (nearly $20 million), partly to finance setting up new delegations abroad.
Catalonia is home to 7.5 million of Spain`s 47 million inhabitants and accounts for a fifth of the country`s economy.
After a surge in pro-independence protests in recent years, Catalonia`s president Artur Mas has led efforts to hold an official vote on breaking away from Spain.
He has stressed the importance of gaining recognition from the international community, but leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls have opposed the idea of independence for Catalonia.
EU officials have warned that secession would cause Catalonia to leave the European Union.
Spain`s conservative government has fiercely opposed Mas`s drive for a vote on independence.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Tuesday that a victory for separatists in September`s vote would "not be viable because it would not be accepted by the international community and Catalonia would end up out of the European Union".