Spain's foreign minister says the display of flags promoting independence for Catalonia and separatist chants during the Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer match are damaging to the country's image.

Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Monday the pro-independence acts in the Camp Nou stadium "give the impression of internal division" at a moment when Spain's needs unity to get through the economic crisis.

The Barcelona soccer club has always linked itself to Catalan nationalism. The incidents Sunday coincide with a surge of separatist sentiment in the northeastern region.

Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, is Spain's most economically powerful region but also the one most in need of central government financial aid to manage its debt.

The region's parliament recently voted in favor of staging a self-determination referendum, which Spain says it will block.