Luis de Guindos, vice president of the European Central Bank (ECB), pauses during a rates decision news conference in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

ECB’s Guindos Slams Idea of Catalan Independence From Spain

(Bloomberg) -- European Central Bank Vice President Luis de Guindos has jumped into the fray of the upcoming general election in his home country with a controversial comment criticizing the idea of Catalan independence.

The remarks are unusual, given that central bankers don’t normally like to interfere in political issues. In Spain, the Catalan crisis has dominated the campaign since Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the snap election in February. He has attempted to heal rifts with separatists in Catalonia, a move that’s incurred criticism from opponents.

“I think that independence of Catalonia is total nonsense,” said Guindos, previously the Spanish Economy Minister under former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “It has been part of Spain since the integration of Spain five centuries ago. It’s a very rich region. It has a lot of autonomy. And, you know, more than 50 percent of the Catalan people is against independence, and I think that that’s important.”

Tensions remain two years after the region made a failed bid for independence, a move that led to violence and the arrest of separatist leaders. Spanish authorities temporarily took over Catalonia’s administration in 2017.

Guindos added that Spain should keep an open line to Catalan officials.

“It’s also quite relevant to maintain the dialog with the Catalan authorities,” he said.

Guindos was an unorthodox appointment to the ECB, being the first euro-zone finance minister to jump directly from that job to the institution’s Executive Board. His comments chime with the views of the conservative Popular Party, in whose government he served.

ECB President Mario Draghi has also weighed in to national politics from his own home country of Italy, criticizing the policies of the populist coalition in Italy, though he has tended to keep his comments more measured.

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