The Latest: EU urges Catalan leader not to divide Spain

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Emilio Morenatti
Spanish police officers stand guard at the entrance to the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017. Crowds were expected to gather ahead of Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont’s planned address to the Catalan parliament on Tuesday evening in a session that some have portrayed as the staging of an independence declaration for the northeastern region of 7.5 million, although others have said the move would only be symbolic. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalan authorities’ bid for independence (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

A senior European Union official has pleaded with the Catalan leadership to step away from the brink of a divisive call for independence and resort to dialogue with Spain’s government instead.

European Council President Donald Tusk addressed Catalonia’s president directly, hours before Carles Puigdemont is expected to make an announcement on the region’s bid for secession.

Tusk said in Brussels that “I ask you to respect in your intentions the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue impossible.”

Tusk added that “diversity should not and need not lead to conflict whose consequences would obviously be bad for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe.”

Before a meeting of the EU’s Committee of the Regions, Tusk said that “let us always look for what unites us and not for what divides us. This is what will decide the future of our continent.”

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3:35 p.m.

Around two dozen tractors flying secessionist flags have paraded near Catalonia’s regional parliament before a highly anticipated session that could include a declaration of independence from Spain.

The tractors rode in a circle around Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf outside a park surrounding the Catalan parliament that has been closed to the public by a large police deployment.

A small and growing group of separatists were gathering in the promenade next to the Arc de Triomf, where the movement’s main grassroots group has called for a rally when Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is scheduled to address the parliament at 6 p.m. (1400 GMT).

Xavier Turo, a 45-year-old electrician, traveled from the village of Sentmenat with his wife to Barcelona for what they hope will be a historic day for the prosperous northeastern region.

Turo says “we are nervous, but happy. We have been waiting a long time for this. Our government is risking their necks for us. I am sure they will declare independence.”

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2:20 p.m.

Catalonia’s government spokesman Jordi Turull has declined to give away any details of what regional president Carles Puigdemont will say ahead of a highly anticipated address to parliament Tuesday.

Some expect Puigdemont to declare independence from Spain in his speech to lawmakers but he has not revealed what the message would be.

“These are very intense and passionate moments,” Turull said during a weekly briefing to reporters.

Spanish authorities have legally challenged every step of the Catalan government’s move to secede and sent in police to try to stop a highly disputed independence referendum last week. Catalan authorities say the majority of those who voted favored independence from Spain.

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2 p.m.

The spokesman for the Catalan government says the regional economy is sound despite the exodus of companies moving their corporate addresses to other Spanish territories.

Dozens of companies have made the move in order to remain under Spanish and European laws if Catalonia manages to secede. The moves so far do not affect jobs or investments but don’t send a message of confidence in the secessionist-minded officials governing Catalonia.

“Those who want to create a sense of alarm are wrong,” said Jordi Turull, underscoring that foreign investment and trade figures support the regional government’s confidence in the economy.

Turull added that the regional economy is “‘much more than a few landmark companies.”

He also said: “The same way they have left, they will come back soon.”

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11:40 a.m.

An official at the Catalan parliament says its governing board has “taken notice” of the results in last week’s disputed independence referendum — but that it won’t put the results through normal parliamentary procedures, at least for now.

The pro-secession Catalan government has said the results of the Oct. 1 referendum — showing a 90 percent victory for those favoring independence with a turnout of 43 percent of eligible voters — are valid.

The Spanish government says the vote was illegal.

The parliamentary official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said parliament’s governing board will not take any action beyond acknowledging the vote results submitted last Friday by the regional government.

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11:10 a.m.

Catalans are awaiting a Tuesday evening appearance by their regional leader in parliament with expectations divided between those who want to see the birth of a new republic and others opposed to such a move or fearing a backlash from the Spanish central authorities.

“I am thrilled,” said Maria Redon, a 51-year-old office worker during Tuesday’s busy commute in central Barcelona. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life. We have fought a lot to see an independence Catalonia.”

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont hasn’t revealed the precise message he will deliver in a 6 p.m. (1600GMT) session in the region’s parliament, but separatist politicians have said they expect a declaration based on the results of the disputed Oct. 1 independence referendum.

“Impossible. He won’t do it. By doing so he would be diving into an empty pool,” said Carlos Gabriel, a 36-year-old waiter. “These people know it’s just a dream. Something very complicated. Something that will carry many negative consequences for all of us.”

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10:55 a.m.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos says that he hopes “common sense” prevails and that Catalan separatist leaders refrain from making a declaration of independence later on Tuesday.

Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont is to address the regional Catalan parliament at 6 p.m. (1600GMT) in a session during which a declaration of independence could be made based on the results of a disputed Oct. 1 independence referendum opposed by Spanish central authorities.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of European economy and finance ministers in Luxembourg, de Guindos blamed Puigemont’s “radical” and “irresponsible” government for the current standoff and said that his European counterparts have expressed support for the Spanish government position.

“This is not about independence yes or no. This is about a rebellion against the rule of law. And the rule of law is the foundation of coexistence, not only in Spain but in Europe,” de Guindos told reporters.

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9:15 a.m.

Police are guarding public buildings and closing off a park surrounding the regional Catalan parliament in Barcelona where a declaration of independence on Tuesday evening is likely to be met with a harsh response from Spanish central authorities.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont hasn’t revealed the precise message he will deliver in a 6 p.m. (1600GMT) plenary session, but separatist politicians have said they expect a declaration based on the results of the disputed Oct. 1 independence referendum.

The separatists have declared valid the pro-independence victory in the vote, which was followed by mass protests of Catalans angered by heavy-handed police tactics.

There have also been large-scale rallies by people committed to national unity.

How the declaration will be enforced and what the Spanish government’s response will be are the key questions.

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