Sunday

26th May 2019

Police raids escalate Catalonia tension

  • Guardia Civil answer to Spain's interior and defence ministries (Photo: copsadmirer@yahoo.es)

Spanish gendarmes have raided at least four Catalan ministries amid escalating tension ahead of the independence referendum.

The armed units, from the Guardia Civil, a force under the command of the Spanish interior and defence ministries, arrived at about 8AM on Wednesday (20 September) at the semi-autonomous region's economy, foreign affairs, labour, and social affairs ministry buildings in Barcelona, Spanish media said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont preparing to challenge Madrid's authority (Photo: president.cat)

Oriol Junqueras, the Catalan vice president, said on Catalunya Radio that they were hunting for electoral posters, funds, and other materials designated for the vote on 1 October.

The gendarmes also detained Junqueras' right hand man, Josep Maria Jove, as well as two officials from the Catalan economy and budget departments, the media reports said.

Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, called for "peaceful resistance" against the operation on Twitter.

The raids followed a Guardia Civil swoop on a postal firm, Unipost, in the Catalan town of Terrassa on Tuesday in which they seized tens of thousands of census cards to be used in the vote.

The Unipost operation saw about 200 protesters rush to the scene, with isolated scuffles and with flowers laid on anti-riot vans.

Tensions are likely to rise again on Wednesday when the first of 740 Catalan mayors, Marc Solsona from the town of Mollerussa, accused of abuse of office by Spanish prosecutors, goes on trial.

For his part, the Spanish foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, accused the pro-independence side of "Nazi" tactics in a TV interview in the US the night before.

He said Franco, Spain's former fascist leader, had organised two referendums in his time.

"Referendums are a weapon of choice of dictators," Dastis, who was in New York for the UN general assembly, said according to the Bloomberg news agency.

He said the pro-independence side was trying to intimidate anti-independence figures.

"These people actually are taking some Nazi attitudes because they are putting up posters with the faces of mayors who are resisting their call to participate in this charade [the referendum]," he said.

"That's something you don't see in a democracy," Dastis said.

The Spanish authorities, on Monday, also seized control of Catalonia's finances in what Junqueras called "total irresponsibility" that would lead the region "to an administrative collapse".

"This means that from now on [Catalan leaders] no longer have their money," a Spanish budget ministry spokeswoman said.

Francisco de la Torre, an MP from Spain's centrist Ciudadanos party, said: "Does this mean they [Catalans] have less autonomy? Of course. But the seriousness of the measure goes hand in hand with the seriousness of events".

The Spanish constitutional court has said the referendum would be illegal.

The European Commission has endorsed this view, but some individual EU states have taken a more nuanced position.

"The will of the people is always what matters, that is the position [of Hungary]," Hungary's government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

He said the question of legality was "an internal issue for the Spanish and Catalan people," but added that democracy meant "to respect the will of the people".

Russian media and pro-Russian agitators have also backed the secessionist movement, amid concern in Madrid that it was losing international sympathy.

"A Spanish Tiananmen Square within three weeks?", Julian Assange, a pro-Russian media agitator, tweeted on Monday, referring to China's massacre of pro-democracy activists in 1989.

Spain arrests Catalan officials

Armed Spanish police have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum, prompting appeals for EU help.

EU 'embarrassed' by Catalan 'taboo'

Faced with the growing tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments, the member states and EU institutions would prefer not to get involved.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Flemish far-right in Belgian election boost
  2. Exit poll: Greek conservatives beat Syriza
  3. Kurz on top in Austria, despite Strache scandal
  4. Greens come in second in Germany, exit polls say
  5. Voter turnout rises in Europe at EU elections
  6. Former EU climate chief cheered by 40,000 activists in Denmark
  7. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  8. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Thunberg: We can still fix climate, but must start today
  2. Turnout up in Slovakia, with pro-EU liberals scoring high
  3. Belgium votes in hybrid EU-national election
  4. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  5. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  6. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  7. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  8. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us