BRUSSELS – Across Europe, people are watching Catalonia's independence referendum closely and nervously — but quietly.
A strong turnout that results in a majority vote for the "yes" side on Sunday could embolden other breakaway-minded regions. A secession trend on the continent would put new strains on the European Union.
Scotland, Belgium's Flanders region and the Faroe Islands under Denmark's control are some of the places with independence movements.
Despite tensions behind the scenes, most European leaders are shying away from taking a public stand on Catalonia.
They're reluctant to back either the Catalan separatists who are bucking Spanish law to hold the referendum or Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's heavy-handed efforts to block it.
The EU's silence has been especially conspicuous since Catalan officials appealed to the bloc directly to mediate the dispute.