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Independence bid: Catalan valley sticks with Spain

Region faces expulsion from EU, warns France

One community in the Catalan mountainous north might declare independence from Catalonia if it declares independence from Spain today, Reuters reported.

Most people in the picturesque Aran Valley, a semi-autonomous community nestled among the Pyrenees want to stay with Spain, and the area has the right to self-determination under a law passed in 2015 by the Catalan parliament.

“We’re a little spot on the map and often we’re not taken into account,” said Maria Verges Perez, the deputy mayor of Aran’s capital, Vielha, a cluster of stone-and-slate houses on the valley floor ringed by autumnal forests.

“But we will exercise our right to decide our future.” Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is expected to declare independence today in Spain’s worst constitutional crisis since the return of democracy in the 1970s. The roughly 10,000 people of Aran, on the border with France, have a language and culture distinct from the rest of Catalonia, which itself differs from the rest of Spain. The valley’s economy is heavily dependent on winter sports tourists from Spain and the European Union (EU).

Their politicians said the 2015 law gives them the right to vote on whether they want to break away with Catalonia, something which Catalan officials do not dispute. The Spanish government has vowed to prevent Catalonia seceding. Losing the region would deprive the country of 16 percent of its people and a fifth of its economic output.

Meanwhile, the French government has said it will not recognise Catalonia if it declares independence from Spain and such a move will mean expulsion from the EU. European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said the crisis following the banned 1 October referendum had to be resolved through dialogue within Spain.

There has been no sign of a compromise being struck with Madrid. Economic pressure on the pro-independence camp is rising. Three more companies were expected to discuss moving their offices out of Catalonia at press time..

These are infrastructure firm Abertis, telecoms company Cellnex and property group Inmobiliaria Colonial.

Major lenders Caixabank and Sabadell announced earlier that they were moving their offices out of the region. The region of Catalonia, home to 7.5 million people in the north-east, is crucial to Spain, which is the EU’s fifth-biggest economy and a member of Nato.

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