LUXEMBOURG – Spain’s Finance Minister Luis de Guindos said on Monday the exodus of Spanish bank headquarters from Catalonia was not triggered by the threat of a possible unilateral declaration of independence but rather by the radical and irrational policies of the regional government.
De Guindos spoke with the press before taking part in a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Luxembourg following a tumultuous few days in Spanish politics that saw the country’s third and fifth largest lenders, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, relocate their corporate nerve centers out of Catalonia amid concerns regional officials were preparing to unilaterally secede.
“Many companies have acted in a very important way,” De Guindos said. “It has exposed not only the pro-independence scenario, which is not going to happen, but fundamentally the irrational and radical policies implemented by the Catalan regional government.”
De Guindos said he would assure his EU counterparts that Catalonia would not become independent, although the topic was not expected to be officially tabled at the Eurogroup meeting.
He offered his assurances to those who held bank accounts at the Catalonia-based lenders, insisting they had nothing to fear about the recent developments.
“They can remain perfectly calm. There was a change of location. They are banks that will always come under the protection of the ECB (European Central Bank) and obviously that is very important in the current circumstances,” he said.
Caixabank uprooted its corporate headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia, eastern Spain, while Sabadell temporarily moved out of the Catalan town it is named after to Alicante, also in eastern Spain.
Both new locations are in Catalan-speaking areas of the country.
Several large and medium-sized companies followed suit.
De Guindos insisted that the Spanish government, currently in the hands of the conservative Popular Party, had not pressured businesses to move.
He acknowledged that the current independence bid in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain was not good for the Spanish economy, adding that it incited financial uncertainty.
Spain’s economy had nonetheless grown in the third trimester of this year, he said.
He reiterated Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s stance that any unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia would have “no effect whatsoever.”
Catalan officials staged an independence referendum on Oct. 1 in defiance of a Spanish Constitutional Court ruling that it was illegal.