FRANCE: The European Commission said Wednesday it was "time to talk" to resolve the escalating political crisis in Catalonia, while defending Madrid's right to use "proportionate" force to maintain law and order.
"It's time to talk, finding a way out of the impasse, working within the constitutional order of Spain," commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told an emergency debate in the European Parliament.
Catalonia's leader has vowed to declare independence within days, claiming a mandate from Sunday's referendum which was declared illegal by Madrid and the Spanish courts.
A tough crackdown on the vote by Spanish riot police has drawn criticism from some quarters and prompted hundreds of thousands of Catalans to rally in protest.
The commission, the bloc's executive arm, has steadfastly stuck to its position that the crisis is an internal matter for Spain, and while he called images from Sunday "saddening", Timmermans defended Madrid's right to use force to keep the peace.
"None of us want to see violence in our societies. However it is of course a duty for any government to uphold the rule of law and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force," he said.
Sunday's clashes have drawn criticism from some MEPs, with Belgium's Philippe Lamberts, the head of the Green grouping in parliament, warning the crisis "threatened the spirit of European integration, even more than Brexit".