Monday

12th Nov 2018

Spain arrests Catalan officials

  • The referendum, deemed to be illegal, will take place on 1 October. (Photo: Nuria)

Spanish gendarmes have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum on 1 October, prompting appeals for EU help.

The Guardia Civil raided 22 buildings and arrested 14 people in Barcelona and in a satellite town, Bigues i Riells, in an anti-referendum operation on Wednesday (20 September).

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

  • Commissioner Dombrovskis had nothing to say. (Photo: European Parliament)

Most of the arrests were senior Catalan officials, including the top economy ministry official, Josep Maria Jove, and his counterpart in the treasury, Josep Maria Salvado.

The gendarmes also arrested Mercedes Martinez Martos, the head of an advertising firm, whose warehouse was found to contain 9 million ballot papers, which were seized.

Speaking in parliament in Madrid the same day, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said he had to act because Catalonia had defied a constitutional court order not to hold the independence referendum on 1 October.

"Logically, the state has to react. There is no democratic state in the world that would accept what these people are trying to do. They've been warned and they know the referendum can't take place," he said.

"The rule of law works," he added.

The Guardia Civil raids prompted fiery denunciations by Catalan leaders.

Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan government, said Spain had "de facto suspended self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency".

He also said it was a "repressive and intimidatory regime … a democratic disgrace".

Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, said it was "a scandal" that "elected officials" had been "detained for political reasons".

Gabriel Rufian, a pro-Catalan MP in Madrid, told Rajoy to take his "dirty hands off Catalan institutions".

The Guardia Civil raids also prompted a few thousand people to demonstrate on the streets of Barcelona.

They chanted slogans such as "We will vote!" and "Occupation forces out!", but remained peaceful.

They also chanted "Where is Europe?" in an appeal for international help.

In Brussels, three pro-independence Spanish MEPs urged the European Commission to intervene and a handful of pro-Catalan protesters met outside the EU Council HQ.

Jordi Sole and Josep-Maria Terricabras from the Green group and Ramon Tremosa from the Liberals called on EU commissioners "to not remain indifferent" to what they called Spain's "siege" of Catalonia.

The far-left GUE group and some individual MEPs, such as Slovenian liberal Ivo Vajgl, also complained.

But speaking later the same day, EU commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis declined to comment on Wednesday's events.

"We don't have anything new to add at this stage," he said.

The commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said last week that Catalonia should respect the constitutional court ruling.

Rajoy's centre-right Popular Party and the centre-left Socialist Party have also spoken of invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution that could suspend Catalonia's self-rule if things got worse.

Recent polls indicated that 70 percent of Catalans wanted the referendum, but only 41 percent wanted independence.

The Catalan independence movement began in the 1920s.

It was almost always peaceful, but the pro-independence Terra Lliure group, which was active between 1978 and 1995, killed one person.

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.

Opinion

Time to de-escalate in Catalonia

Spain's apparent refusal even to allow for a dialogue on the referendum is giving the Catalan government less and less of an incentive to aim for a compromise.

Quiet showdown in Barcelona

Thousands of Catalans have taken to the streets, in protest against the Spanish government's efforts to prevent the independence referendum. Both sides know that violence would go against their cause.

News in Brief

  1. UK seeks swift use of new EU chemical weapons blacklist
  2. Barnier briefs EU ministers: intense negotiations continue
  3. Romanian minister preparing EU presidency steps down
  4. Finland says Russia possibly behind GPS jamming
  5. German AfD leader under fire for Swiss campaign funding
  6. Seehofer announces he will step down as CSU party leader
  7. EU condemns elections in Russia-occupied eastern Ukraine
  8. German Greens pick two top candidates for EU election

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  2. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  3. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  4. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials
  5. Liberals ally with Macron for election, but no candidate yet
  6. Revealed: Link between MEPs CO2 votes and domestic car jobs
  7. All Quiet on the Eastern Front?
  8. Merkel and Brexit in spotlight This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us