Speaking in Brussels at a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP), which both his Forza Italia and Rajoy's PP are members of, former Italy PM Berlusconi told journalists:
“Compared to Rajoy, I would not have sent in the Guardia Civil to stop the Catalans voting”.
Spain's Guardia Civil have been criticised by some for being heavy-handed in attempting to block Catalans from taking part in the October 1st plebiscite deemed unconstitutional by courts, with NGO Human Rights Watch concluding they used excessive force in several instances.
The 81-year-old Italian politician also said the solution to the conflict in Spain is “dialogue” and a legally binding referendum.
“Right now it looks like we're in a time of escalating conflict – there's a deadline that ended today. I believe in dialogue followed by a legally controlled referendum, with the participation in the vote of all of the Catalans who want to remain in Spain,” he noted.
Such a referendum would have to have “constitutional legitimacy”, he added.
On Thursday the Spanish government said it will push ahead to invoke article 155 of the country's constitution and suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, following a letter from the region’s president Carles Puigdemont in which he threatened to formally vote through a suspended independence declaration if Madrid “persists in impeding dialogue”.