Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy calls on Catalans to support him in a regional election as Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell and five other legislators appear before Spain's Supreme Court.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (R) talks to Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria before the weekly cabinet control session in Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 8, 2017.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (R) talks to Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria before the weekly cabinet control session in Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 8, 2017. (Reuters)

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he hopes voters "meet their obligations as Spaniards and Europeans" when a regional election is held in Catalonia next month.

Rajoy says "a lot will be decided" by the ballot and urges a big turnout in the early vote, which was called after Spain's central authorities removed the secession-minded Catalan government and dissolved the region's parliament.

The Catalan government held an independence referendum last month, which Spain's Constitutional Court deemed illegal. Weeks later, the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence. Spain's constitution says the country is "indivisible."

Rajoy said during a visit to the Spanish city of Salamanca that his government's policy on Catalonia has the "100 percent backing" of other EU countries.

Earlier in the day, Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell and five other legislators arrived to testify before a Supreme Court judge in an inquiry about steps taken to declare independence from Spain.

The six members of the regional parliament's governing body could face decades in prison if charged and found guilty of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.

Around 100 supporters, some of whom had traveled overnight from the northeastern Catalonia region, gathered outside of the Supreme Court building in central Madrid Thursday to show support for the lawmakers.

They braved the November cold and chanted, "You are not alone," as the lawmakers and lawyers entered the court.

A handful of anti-independence protesters were kept at bay meters away by police. They were carrying Spanish flags and shouted, "You don't fool us, Catalonia is Spain."

Carme Forcadell, Speaker of the Catalan parliament, arrives at Spain's Supreme Court  in Madrid, Spain, November 9, 2017.
Carme Forcadell, Speaker of the Catalan parliament, arrives at Spain's Supreme Court in Madrid, Spain, November 9, 2017. (Reuters)

Economy risks

The European Union has conceded that developments in Catalonia could have a negative impact on Spain's economy.

In its half-yearly forecasts, the European Commission said "future developments could have an impact on economic growth" but that the size of any impact "cannot be anticipated at this stage."

It also noted that market reactions to the push for independence in Catalonia have been "contained."

In Brussels, Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission's top economy official, said, "We cannot speculate on any political development anywhere."

The commission is predicting that the Spanish economy will grow by 3.1 percent this year, falling back to 2.5 percent and 2.1 percent over the coming two years, even without any influence from Catalonia.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies