26th Oct 2016

Catalan MEPs ask for EU help against Spanish army

  • Barcelona - the MEPs' letter met with ridicule (Photo: vgm8383)

Four Catalan MEPs have asked the European Commission to tell Spain it cannot use military force to stop Catalonia from splitting away.

The deputies - centre-left MEP Maria Badia, Greens Ana Miranda and Raul Romeva i Rueda and Liberal Ramon Tremosa - wrote to EU justice commissioner Vivianne Reding on 22 October.

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The letter says: "We are writing to you to convey our deep concern over a series of threats of the use of military force against the Catalan population ... In these circumstances, the European Union should intervene preventatively to guarantee that the resolution of the Catalan conflict be resolved in a peaceful, democratic manner."

It notes that politicians from the centre-right People's Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have spoken of article 8 of Spain's constitution, which says the army can be used to protect Spanish sovereignty.

It adds the commission should: "Make a public statement insisting on the withdrawal from the public debate of any military threat or use of force as a way of resolving this political conflict."

The letter met with ridicule in Madrid.

Rosa Diez from the centrist Union, Progress and Democracy Party called it an "insult" to Spanish democracy.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said it "does not bear any relation to reality."

But for his part, Spanish centre-right MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras told Spanish TV just two weeks ago: "They [the government] should be briefing a general of the Civil Guard ... the government should think of intervening in the rebellious region if they persist."

The Civil Guard, a gendarmerie, still has a bad name after it staged a failed coup in 1981.

The MEPs' appeal to Reding comes ahead of snap elections in Catalonia in November.

Local leader Artur Mas has said he will hold a referendum on secession in 2014 if he wins. In a sign of how it might go, 1 million Catalans last month called for independence in a rally in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, the Spanish debate is spilling over to the UK.

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo y Marfil told parliament in Madrid on Tuesday that if Scotland - which is to hold a referendum on secession also in 2014 - gains independence it might get left out of the EU.

"In the hypothetical case of independence, Scotland would have to join the queue and ask to be admitted, needing the unanimous approval of all member states to obtain the status of a candidate country ... and to sign the final treaty," he said.

Scottish nationalist leader Alexander Salmond earlier this year told the BBC that Scottish law lords had confirmed it would get automatic EU entry.

But on Tuesday, his own deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said he had merely filed an application for legal advice.

"It appears the first minister [Salmond] is a liar," Scottish centre-left opposition MP Paul Martin said.

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