Catalan leader vows independence in 2 years should secessionists win snap vote

© Albert Gea
Catalonia won't need a referendum to secure independence if Sunday's regional election proves a success for secessionist candidates, the region's leader Artur Mas says. And if Spain does not agree, Barcelona will not pay its debts.

The situation in the country has been heating up for some time now. Just recently, some 1.4 million Catalans showed their support for independence from Spain by taking to the streets, waving the region’s flag.

READ MORE: Gateway to Catalan Republic: 1.4 million rally for independence in Barcelona

Earlier Artur Mas, Catalonia's President of the Generalitat, promised to push for secession from Madrid if pro-independence parties take victory in the snap elections this month. In an interview to AFP he reaffirmed that commitment, promising independence within 18 months or two years.

"Clearly, if we get a majority of the votes on September 27, then that's the referendum done," he said.

Mas further warned that if Spain does not agree, Catalonia would not help Madrid repay its financial debts. This, he said, was a defense move against any independence opponents waging a “campaign of intimidation.”

Madrid is understandably attached to the northeastern region, which is an economic powerhouse accounting to almost a fifth of the whole country's GDP. High-ranking officials and banks alike have warned of economic and financial disaster should Catalonia quit.

Mas says he wants Catalonia to have an independence referendum the way Scotland did last year - despite the secession move failing back then. But Madrid has blocked the initiative to hold the popular vote, so Mas moved to hold the snap elections in late September as an added, indirect demonstration of the region’s desires.

"If we won a majority of seats but not a majority of votes and the Spanish government offered us a binding referendum on independence – though I am very skeptical about whether it would do so – then we would listen," he further clarified, adding that he hopes for a friendly break between the two entities.

He also hopes for the region to stay within the EU but said that this agreement must be reached before a decision on independence is made. If successful, the leader promised Catalonia would take its share of Spain’s financial debt. In the event that no decision is made, “we will have no obligation to pay Spanish debt.”

"If it does not make an agreement with Catalonia, how will Spain be able to pay back its debts, which will rise to 120 percent of its output, while it loses the most productive part of its economy?" he pondered.

"If things get as complicated as that - and there is no reason why they should – it is the whole of Spain that will have a problem."

The latest polls show parties favoring independence winning nearly half of the vote, as well as an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament.

Mas hopes that in the event of victory, Catalans would be voting on a new Catalan constitution within the 18-month to two-year period he proposed.