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Catalan FM calls on EU to stop Spain's crackdown

Catalonia's foreign affairs minister, Raul Romeva, is seen during an interview on September 26, 2017 in Barcelona. (Photo by AFP)

Catalonia's foreign affairs minister has appealed to the European Union to support the region's independence bid which Spain’s government is trying to stop.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Raul Romeva said EU institutions need to "understand that (the referendum) is a big issue."

Spain has stepped up its crackdown, declaring the planned vote which authorities in Barcelona are determined to hold on Sunday unconstitutional and ordered regional police to take control of voting booths.

Romeva said civil rights were being violated and the quality of democracy in Spain was being eroded, calling on EU institutions to stand for the values and principles of civil rights and democracy.

He said Catalan officials, mayors and journalists were being subjected to harassment by the central government in Madrid. The European Commission, he said, would be endorsing Spain’s “repressive action” if it did not intervene.

Romeva spoke hours before thousands of striking Catalan university students, many carrying pro-independence flags, marched in Barcelona to protest the ongoing crackdown.

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