Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Opinion

Black day for democracy in Spain

  • Guardia Civil face down pro-independence protesters ahead of the referendum. (Photo: Jordi Boixareu/ZUMA Wire/dpa)

It has become evident that the attachment to democracy by mainstream European parties has become increasingly precarious.

What to make of the political treatment of the 2005 referendums on the European constitutional treaty? The voters said no; the political elites acted as if nothing had happened.

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

What to make of the troika, which, during the eurocrisis, simply swept aside national parliaments in Ireland, Greece and Portugal and dictated economic policy-making from above?

Or what to make of the enhanced Growth and Stability Pact, which has eroded the say of parliaments on state budgets?

Or what to think of the fact that last week, mainstream parties in the Netherlands killed the idea of future binding referendums - despite being suggested by these very same parties in the first place?

What is happening in Catalonia at the moment is simply the next episode of the attempt to kill democracy in Europe by a thousand cuts.

At the same time that I was witnessing lively debates here in Madrid at an animal rights conference, some 600 kilometres to the east in Barcelona, citizens were being wounded by rubber bullets and forcefully manhandled by police. And only because they want to enact their democratic rights.

I am ashamed in the face of colleagues from Oman, Ecuador, Georgia and Ukraine, present at the conference in Madrid, who have been forced to watch with horror and amazement how we in Europe – the self-professed guardian of democracy – suppress the right to participation of innocent citizens with a display of unnecessary violence.

I am fully aware that the bone of contention between Catalonia and Madrid is a longstanding, highly-complex and highly-emotional one.

As a Dutch member of parliament I do not want to pretend to be able to weigh in on that conflict. But I don't need to. The horrible images from Barcelona and other places in Catalonia speak for themselves.

A state that uses violence on its own citizens who are in the process of enacting their democratic rights raises the urgent and difficult question of whether it still may call itself democratic.

As member of parliament and leader of the Dutch Party for Animals I want to forcefully express my dismay over the exorbitant violence used by the Rajoy government in order to intimidate Catalonian citizens and suppress their chance to enact their democratic rights.

I want to make an urgent appeal to all European democratic parties and governments to follow the example of our Spanish sister party, Pacma, to condemn the Spanish government in the most explicit of terms for the behaviour of their police on Sunday in Catalonia.

We, Europeans, don't hesitate to raise our voices if in Myanmar, Beijing or Washington democratic rights are being breached. Can we then let this black day in the history of democracy in Europe pass without a loud and collective condemnation? Just because Spain is a member of the European Union and as such beyond reproof? Just because Rajoy is a friendly head of state?

In my view, we can't.

Marianne Thieme is leader of the Party for the Animals group in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament.

Catalonia's separatists claim victory after violent day

"The citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state," the region's leader, Carles Puigdemont, said at the end of a day marked by Spanish police violence inside and outside polling stations.

EU stays mute on Catalonia

EU leaders and institutions largely remain silent, despite calls to condemn the brutal police crackdown at polling stations in Catalonia during its disputed independence vote.

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us