People shout holding Spanish and Catalan flags in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS
People shout holding Spanish and Catalan flags in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS

Madrid — The Spanish government has criticised Catalonia’s separatist president for urging the region to follow the example of Slovenia, which sparked a brief armed conflict when it declared independence unilaterally from Yugoslavia in 1991.

“It’s unfortunate, regrettable. I don’t know if he forgot that dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured in Slovenia,” government spokesperson Isabel Celaa told Spanish radio on Monday when asked about Catalan leader Quim Torra’s comments.

The Catalan government “knows very well that if there is any violation of the law, the Spanish government will act”, she said.

 

Catalans are not afraid. They do not frighten us. There is no turning back in the path to freedom. 
Quim Torra’

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borell also weighed in, telling reporters in Brussels that Torra “appeared to appeal for an insurrection” with his language.

During a speech in Brussels on Saturday, Torra urged Catalans to follow the “Slovenian route” to achieve independence.

“Catalans are not afraid. They do not frighten us. There is no turning back in the path to freedom,” said Torra, who recently visited Slovenia, according to the Catalan government’s Twitter account.

“Slovenians decided to go ahead with all the consequences. Let’s do like them and be ready for anything to live freely,” he said.

After holding an independence referendum considered illegal by Yugoslavia and won by the separatist camp, Slovenian officials tried unsuccessfully to negotiate their independence with Belgrade.

Slovenia’s parliament then unilaterally declared independence on June 25 1991, sparking a 10-day armed conflict with the Yugoslav army that killed 62 people.

Torra’s predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, visited Slovenia during the summer of 1991 to observe its independence push.

Catalonia’s parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October 2017 to no avail following a banned independence referendum.

Spain’s supreme court in October ordered 18 former Catalan separatist leaders to stand trial over the independence declaration.

Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to 25 years on charges of rebellion or misuse of public funds over the failed secession bid. The sensitive trial is expected to start in early 2019.

AFP