BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — 8:30 p.m.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says Spain is firing the Catalan government as part of emergency measures the Senate approved following the region's declaration of independence.
Rajoy says he's dissolving the Catalan parliament and calling for a new regional election on Dec. 21.
Rajoy was speaking after a special Cabinet meeting to discuss what measures to take in the wake of the Catalan parliament's announcement of secession earlier Friday.
The firing of the regional leaders is likely to meet with fierce opposition in Catalonia, where thousands have been celebrating the independence declaration.
The government has been authorized to dismiss the regional government and curtail the Catalan parliament's powers.
French President Emmanuel Macron has thrown his full support behind fellow European Union leader Mariano Rajoy of Spain over the independence crisis taking place in Catalonia.
During a visit to French Guiana on Friday Macron told journalists he has always had "one interlocutor in Spain, it is Prime Minister Rajoy."
Lawmakers in the Catalan regional parliament voted to unilaterally declare independence on Friday, prompting the government to immediately adopt special constitutional powers to stop the region's attempt to secede.
Macron added "there is a rule of law in Spain with constitutional rules. Mariano Rajoy wants these rules to be respected and he has my full support."
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to make a statement following a Cabinet meeting on the emergency measures with which Spain plans to take control of Catalonia following the region's declaration of independence.
The government said Rajoy will make a statement at 8:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) Friday.
Rajoy said earlier that he plans to start by firing the Catalan government that declared independence.
Tens of thousands of people have streamed into a central Barcelona square and the narrow streets around the Catalan regional government palace, chanting for the Spanish flag to be taken down, singing and dancing. The crowd showed no signs of diminishing as night fell.
A stage was set up with live music bands performing for the tightly packed crowd, who waved massive Catalan separatist flags. The atmosphere was jubilant and relaxed despite some jostling.
"I came because I think it's a big day for us," said Ines Claros, a 21-year-old student taking shelter in a building doorway from the crush of the crowd.
"I don't know what's going to happen next," she said. "Personally, I'm not worried, but maybe independence will be only for two or three days, and then ... it will go back to how it was."
Spain's Senate on Friday approved extraordinary measures allowing the central government to impose direct rule on Catalonia following the regional parliament's vote for independence.
The head of the European Union's legislature has condemned the Catalan parliament's vote to declare independence and said it would not be recognized in the EU.
EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Friday that the Catalonian parliament's move was "a breach of the rule of law." He added that "no one in the European Union will recognize this declaration."
Germany, Britain and Cyprus are among European countries that have already made clear they back Spanish unity and do not recognize Catalonia's unilateral declaration to secede. The U.S. State Department also issued a similar statement.
Spain's Ibex 35 stock index has closed down 1.5 percent following the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence from Spain.
Catalonia's two main banks took major knocks, with Sabadell losing nearly 5 percent and Caixabank, Spain's third largest, dropping some 3 percent.
The market movement was modest, considering the momentous nature of the conflict. Catalonia accounts for a fifth of the Spanish economy, which is the fourth-largest in the 19-country eurozone.
Investors seem to believe the crisis will be resolved, though analysts say the risks are growing. Spain's Senate has approved measures for the central government to take direct control of Catalonia.
Spain's Constitutional Court says judges will rule in the next few days on the legality of the Catalan parliament's vote to declare independence.
A statement from the country's top court says it has accepted an appeal by Catalan lawmakers opposing separatists' move to vote on seceding from Spain. The vote, which was boycotted by opposition lawmakers, won 70-10 in the 135-seat Catalan parliament Friday.
The statement says that the government of Catalonia, regional parliamentary officials and the country's prosecutors will have three days to submit comments to the court.
Spain's 1978 constitution says the country is "indissoluble." The top court has consistently ruled against any attempt to move toward Catalan secession.
Germany and Britain have said they back Spanish unity and will not recognize the declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement posted on Twitter that Spain's sovereignty and territorial integrity "are and remain inviolable" and that a unilateral declaration of independence violates that principle. He called on all involved to use "all existing opportunities for dialogue and de-escalation."
Seibert added that the German government supports Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's position on restoring constitutional order.
Prime Minister Theresa May's office said Britain "does not and will not" recognize the Catalan regional parliament's declaration of independence, which "is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts."
But the Scottish government, led by the pro-independence Scottish National Party, criticized Spain for refusing dialogue and said imposition of direct rule by Madrid "cannot be the solution."
External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop said "the European Union has a political and moral responsibility to support dialogue to identify how the situation can be resolved peacefully and democratically."
Enthusiastic Catalans have packed a central square in Barcelona, ready to celebrate the arrival of a new republic after the region's lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Catalan government palace, applauding officials and lawmakers as they arrived and entered the building. They called for the Spanish flag to be removed from the top of the 16th-century building.
Many draped themselves with the "Estelada" flag that has become a symbol for many separatists in Catalonia.
But shortly after the regional parliament's vote to secede, Spain's Senate approved extraordinary measures allowing the central government to impose direct rule over Catalonia.
In the Catalan town of Girona, supporters of the region's independence bid have apparently removed the Spanish national flag from the town hall building and replaced it with the Catalan regional flag.
Cellphone video footage filmed Friday in Girona, northeast of the regional capital of Barcelona, and posted on Twitter showed a crowd cheering "out, out, out with the Spanish flag!" shortly after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare an independent republic.
Catalan lawmakers voted Friday to secede from Spain, with 70 ballots in favor of independence, 10 against and two blank ballots in the 135-member regional parliament. Shortly afterward, Spain's Senate approved a request by the central government to take direct control of Catalonia's affairs.
The U.S. State Department says it stands in support of Spain's government in its efforts to stop Catalonia's independence bid.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government's constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united."
President Donald Trump last month also said Spain should stay united, branding as "foolish" a secession vote by the Catalan regional governments.
The Spanish Senate granted the government special constitutional powers Friday to prevent Catalan independence.
Spanish financial markets have fallen slightly after the regional parliament of Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain, escalating a showdown with Madrid.
The Ibex 35 stock index was down 1.3 percent on a day when most European markets rose. Spanish bonds were also down, but just slightly.
The market movements are modest, considering the momentous nature of the conflict. Catalonia accounts for a fifth of the Spanish economy, which is the fourth-largest in the 19-country eurozone.
Investors seem to believe the crisis will be resolved, though analysts say the risks are growing daily. Spain's Senate in Madrid has approved measures for the central government to take direct control of Catalonia.
Stephen Brown, economist at Capital Economics, said: "We still think that the economic effects of this political crisis will be manageable." He said the Spanish government is likely to be able to force a regional election in Catalonia and later consider revisions to the constitution that might placate some of the independence supporters.
European Council President Donald Tusk says that "nothing changes" for the European Union after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence, adding that Spain "remains our only interlocutor."
Tusk wrote on Twitter: "I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force."
Catalonia's regional parliament passed a motion on Friday to create a Catalan republic independent from Spain. Shortly afterward, Spain's Senate in Madrid authorized the central government to take control of the prosperous northeastern region.
The Catalan regional administration's independence bid has failed to attract support from governments in Europe.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has called on fellow separatists to remain peaceful ahead of an expected crackdown by Spanish authorities after the region's lawmakers voted in favor of declaring an independent Catalan republic.
Facing a crowd of hundreds of supporters packing Catalonia's parliament building, he said: "In the days ahead we must keep to our values of pacificism and dignity. It's in our, in your hands to build the republic."
Puigdemont said "Today the Parliament fulfilled the long-desired and fought-for step and culminated the mandate of the ballot boxes," in reference to a banned referendum separatists held on Oct. 1.
Those gathered then erupted into the Catalan anthem "Els Segadors" (The Reapers) and chants of "Liberty!"
Earlier Friday, Spain's Senate authorized the government to apply extraordinary measures to take control of the Catalan government and depose Puigdemont.
A spokesman with Spain's prosecutor office says that the country's top prosecutor will seek rebellion charges for those responsible for a vote in favor of declaring an independent Catalan republic.
The spokesman said the prosecutor is looking to determine if the charges should be limited to the Catalan cabinet, including President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras, or if they should also include members of the parliament's governing board and lawmakers.
The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity in line with internal rules, said the charges could be brought as early as Monday.
Under Spanish criminal law, rebellion can be punished with up to 25 years in prison, with shorter term penalties if the act of rebellion doesn't lead to violence.
Spain's government says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's cabinet will enact measures approved by the Spanish Senate immediately to take over the regional government in Catalonia during an urgent meeting later Friday.
A spokesman with the central government who requested anonymity because he wasn't allowed to be named in media reports said Rajoy's cabinet would also seek to appeal to the Constitutional Court the declaration of independence that was passed Friday in the regional Catalan parliament.
Spain is facing its greatest threat to unity yet after Catalan lawmakers voted Friday to make their region independent.
Spain's Senate has authorized the government to apply constitutional measures to take control of the government of Catalonia.
A majority of senators gave Spanish Prime Minister the go-ahead Friday to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet. It also authorized him to curtail Catalan parliamentary powers.
The vote came shortly after the Catalan parliament itself voted in Barcelona to declare the region's independence and to begin forming a new state in a ballot boycotted by opposition deputies.
The Spanish government must now decide how and when to apply the measures. It says they are temporary and aimed at restoring legality in the northeastern region that is an economic powerhouse in Spain.
Spain's prime minister has urged all citizens to remain calm after Catalonia's parliament approved a motion declaring the wealthy region a republic independent from Spain.
Mariano Rajoy made the appeal in a tweet Friday, minutes after the regional parliament, which has 135 seats, voted in a secret ballot that opposition Catalan lawmakers boycotted. The motion was passed in a 70-10 vote with two blank ballots.
Rajoy said: "I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia."
Rajoy's tweet came as the Spanish Senate in Madrid prepared to approve government proposals to take direct control of region Catalonia. A majority of senators were expected to give Rajoy the go-ahead to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet.
Thousands of people who have gathered outside Catalonia's parliament building in support of the region's independence bid cheered and danced after the parliament passed a motion saying it wanted to establish an independent Catalan Republic.
The crowds had watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens.
Regional President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras exchanged congratulatory embraces and handshakes after the vote, which saw 70 out of 135 votes in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots. Most opposition lawmakers had left the chamber in protest moments before the vote.
The two leaders were among the members of the regional government who cast votes in the parliamentary chamber Friday.
Catalonia's regional parliament has passed a motion saying they are establishing an independent Catalan Republic.
Separatist lawmakers erupted in applause as the vote was approved with 70 votes in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots. Most opposition lawmakers had left the chamber in protest moments before the vote.
Spain opposes the independence bid and the national government in Madrid is readying measures to take over control of the northeastern region. No country has expressed support for the secession bid.
The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia's new top laws and opening negotiations "on equal footing" with Spanish authorities to establish cooperation.
Catalonia's lawmakers have finished casting their votes in the regional parliament on whether to declare independence from Spain.
The vote in parliament is a secret ballot and lawmakers were being called up one by one to place their paper vote in a transparent ballot box.
Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday's vote in protest. Secessionists hold a slim majority in the parliament.
It wasn't immediately clear how long the vote would take to count.
Dozens of opposition lawmakers have walked out of the Catalan parliament chamber ahead of a key vote on independence from Spain.
Legislators from the opposition Socialists and Citizens parties had announced earlier that they would boycott the vote on the establishment of a new Catalan Republic in a motion proposed by the majority separatists.
Lawmakers from Partido Popular — the ruling party at the national level, but a minority in Catalonia — also walked out after placing Spanish and Catalonia official flags in their empty seats.
The voting of the motion would be conducted by secret ballot after the ruling separatist coalition made a last minute-request that the parliament's speaker accepted.
The spokesman for the radical-left secessionist CUP party says that Catalonia is poised to exercise what separatists call the Spanish region's right to self-determination.
Carles Riera of CUP says "Today we are ready to make a historic step . Today we become a political entity with right to self-determination and we are exercising it."
The Catalan parliament is set to vote on declaring independence from Spain in Friday's session of the regional parliament, where separatists hold an advantage in seats.
A socialist lawmaker in the Catalan parliament has lambasted separatists for bending national and regional laws to move toward declaring independence and vowed to work "for the return of legality to public institutions."
Spokeswoman Eva Granados says that the legislators of the Socialists of Catalonia Party, or PSC, will be absent from the vote on a proposal to establish a new republic. Conservative unionist parties in the opposition have also promised to leave the chamber.
Granados said the separatists are "thoughtless" and asked them why to build a new country based on a concept of democracy that is "intolerant and sectarian," and that excludes those who oppose independence.
The ruling separatist coalition and far-left anti-establishment lawmakers hold a slim majority in the Catalan parliament that would in theory allow them to pass a motion to move toward independence.
Spain has vowed to stop any attempt at secession.
The spokesman for the leading opposition party in Catalonia's parliament has torn into pieces a copy of the proposal by separatists to declare independence for the region from the rest of Spain.
Carlos Carrizosa, spokesman for the pro-union Citizens party, has ripped up the copy of the proposed law to declare independence during Friday's debate prior to an expected vote in Catalonia's parliament.
Carrizosa says "with this paper you leave those Catalans who don't follow you orphaned without a government, and that's why Citizens won't let you ruin Catalonia."
He added that "today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. Today is the day that you (secessionists) carry out your coup against the democracy in Spain."
Secessionists hold a slim majority in the parliament based on less than half the vote due to Spanish elections law which gives more representation to sparsely popular areas.
Several hundred Catalan town mayors have joined in a chant for "Independence!" inside Catalonia's regional parliament building.
The show of support for secession comes hours before the Catalan parliament is expected to vote on a proposal to break with the rest of Spain and form an independent republic.
The mayors shouted and raised their ceremonial wooden staves that represent their position as heads of municipalities in the northeastern region of Spain.
Ramon Moliner, the mayor of Alp, in the northern Pyrenees region, said Friday was a historic day. "We are beginning a new chapter as a country, a very uncertain stage in many ways but very exciting," he said.
Spain has vowed to stop any attempt of secession.
Catalan separatist lawmakers have filed a motion to hold a vote in the upcoming regional parliament session on whether to establish a republic independent of Spain.
The proposal of the ruling Catalan coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) and their allies of the far-left CUP party says that "We establish a Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social law."
Lawmakers from both parliamentary groups have a slim majority that would in theory allow them to pass the motion during a vote later Friday, if the parliament's advisory board allows it.
The move is opposed by all the opposition in the prosperous region —with some opposition lawmakers saying they will boycott the vote— and in Spain, where authorities are seeking to sack the Catalan ruling coalition to halt their secession bid.
Several thousand protesters have gathered near Catalonia's regional parliament before a debate in the legislature where independence from Spain might formally be declared.
Waving Catalan flags and chanting "independence" and "freedom," the demonstrators rallied outside the park in which parliament is located, hoping to see the proclamation of a new independent state by the end of the day.
A 68-year-old protester, Jordi Soler, says that "I am here today because we will start the Catalan Republic."
Soler said that "today is the last chance," noting that Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had offered to negotiate with the central government in Madrid, "but Madrid is starting with total repression and there is no longer any (other) option."
Puigdemont on Thursday ruled out calling a regional election, which might have somewhat defused Spain's worst political crisis in decades, setting the stage for a showdown with Madrid.
Spain's prime minister says that the special powers that the central government wants to impose in Catalonia aren't meant to take away liberties of Catalans but to protect them.
Mariano Rajoy was addressing the Senate ahead of a vote on whether to activate constitutional powers to seize control of Catalonia's autonomous powers in a bid to halt the region's independence bid.
Rajoy says that Spain is facing a challenge not seen in its recent history. Catalonia's regional parliament is also expected to hold a special session later Friday in which a formal declaration of independence may be made.
Spain's prime minister says the government's first move will be to dismiss Catalonia's president if special powers are granted by the country's Senate.
Mariano Rajoy was addressing the chamber ahead of a vote on whether to activate constitutional powers to seize control of Catalonia's autonomous powers in a bid to halt the region's independence bid.
Rajoy says if the measures are approved, Spain's government will fire Catalonia regional President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers.
The Spanish leader said "what is happening in Catalonia is "a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all, and that has consequences."
Rajoy said that the measures were the only way out of the crisis. Catalonia's regional parliament is also expected to hold a special session later Friday in which a formal declaration of independence may be made.
Spain's Senate has begun a crucial meeting to approve the Spanish government's plans to strip away Catalonia's regional powers and halt it pushing toward independence.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was greeted with applause as he entered the chamber Friday.
The government's proposals include removing the Catalan government's regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region's parliament.
Meanwhile, up in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, the regional parliament was to resume debating its response to the Spanish government's plans.
The Catalan government rejects the move and there is speculation the parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday, setting the stage for a deepening clash between both sides.
Two crucial meetings will take place in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.
Catalonia's parliament on Friday will resume debating its response to the Spanish government's plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain's Senate meets to approve the government's plans and set the intervention in motion.
The government's proposals include removing the Catalan government's regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region's parliament.
The Catalan government rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.