MADRID -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker calls Catalonia's secessionist push a "disaster" and has reaffirmed Europe's support of a unified Spain.

Juncker tells the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Sunday that "Catalonia is an enormous concern. I don't like the situation it has provoked, it is a disaster."

He sent a message to Carles Puigdemont, the ex-Catalan leader who fled to Belgium, that Catalan secessionists "must not underestimate the wide support that (Spanish Prime Minister) Mariano Rajoy has throughout Europe."

Spain is facing its worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades after Catalonia's regional parliament violated the Constitution by voting to declare independence Oct. 27.

Rajoy responded by firing its government, dissolving its parliament and calling a regional election for Dec. 21.

Juncker says the election "could, should improve" the situation.