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Europe

Press review: Regional elections in Catalonia

Separatist parties in Spain's Catalan region have done well in elections, but the regional president's party, who wants a referendum on independence, has lost ground. DW looks at views from around Europe.

"The first referendum on independence by Catalan President and reelection candidate, Artur Mas, has ended as a serious personal failure," concluded the Madrid-based newspaper El Pais. "The sovereignist's political bloc clearly sustains its position in Catalonia, but does not progress. The message from the polls is that there are many reasons why Catalans should use their energies on tasks less uncertain than breaking ties with the rest of Spain; also there is every reason in the rest of Spain to review and negotiate what may have been an unfair treatment of Catalonia."

"The Catalans' vote focused more on the crisis and its effects than the prospect of independence on the horizon. All parties should take note of it in the future," wrote Spanish daily La Vanguardia, based in Catalonia's capital Barcelona. "In the analysis of yesterday's election results one cannot ignore corruption allegations by El Mundo against Artur Mas (…).One issue that undoubtedly influenced the candidate and forced him to defend himself by filing a complaint."

According to German newspaper Die Welt, Madrid - and Brussels as well - should breathe a sigh of relief "because the secession of Catalonia would have caused Spain to loose its most important industrial region and would have put Spain on the same level as Greece and Portugal in terms of per capita income. (…) But the majority of Catalonians were not willing to get involved in an adventure with uncertain outcome after two years of severe economic crisis and austerity measures. An independent Catalonia as a new state would not automatically be part of the EU and the eurozone and would have to apply for membership."

French daily Le Monde noted: "During an aggressive campaign, the PP [People's Party] has not ceased to warn the Catalans about the risk of separating itself from the rest of Spain that would split the country, divide the Catalan society and impoverish the region. But Madrid was especially afraid that unabashed nationalists in Catalonia - in addition to those of the Basque Country - could threaten the country's territorial cohesion and deprive it of two of its economic engines."

The Wall Street Journal concluded that this "mixed message - coolness towards Mr. Mas but support for independence - ought to be positive for the conservative government in Madrid and for Spanish financial markets. Although Mr. Mas appeared certain of re-election by the new regional parliament, his diminished support made it seem less likely that he could emerge as a rallying point for secessionist forces and a figure to challenge conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy."

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