Thursday

15th Nov 2018

EU 'embarrassed' by Catalan 'taboo'

  • "We vote to be free," said supporters of the Catalan government in Barcelona. EU member states would prefer not to get involved. (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

A day after Spanish forces raided regional ministries and a party HQ in Catalonia on Wednesday (20 September), in order to prevent an independence referendum on 1 October, the EU is still adopting a cautious stance.

"We are attached to the respect of the Spanish constitution, as of all member states' constitutions," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists on Thursday.

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

For the EU executive, he said, "all questions can be addressed within the constitutional order".

The spokesman, however, declined to answer a question on whether the commission "calls for a solution to be found within this framework."

He also refused to say whether the commission was ready to offer mediation.

In Brussels, the showdown between the Spanish and Catalan governments is being followed "with great, great concern," a top EU diplomat said on Thursday.

But the official said the situation was considered "a domestic issue of Spain", and that the EU "trusts in the democracy."

"If that is not a taboo, it looks like it very much," a source admitted to EUobserver.

"All member states are embarrassed - we don't want to get involved," he said, noting that no one wanted to appear as if to be acting against a fellow member state.

Calls to take a stand

On Wednesday, three Catalan MEPs in favour of independence - Greens Jordi Solé and Josep-Maria Terricabras, and liberal Ramon Tremosa - sent a letter to all EU commissioners. They called on "all the authorities of the institutions of the European Union to stand for the rights of Catalan people."

On Thursday, the leftist GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament, also called on the EU to "take a stand against Spanish government repression".

A second EU source told EUobserver that the commission doesn't want to be the first institution to take a position, while member states are still silent, and that it does not consider itself to have a role in initiating mediation or internal dialogue.

The commission's position "is not acceptable," Catalonia's representative to the EU, Amadeu Altafaj, said on Thursday.

"I sadly miss more constructive, responsible engagement by the European institutions, in particular from the European Commission," he said at a meeting with members of the Committee of the Regions, insisting on the commission's role as guardian of the EU treaties.

He said that he wrote on Wednesday to the commission's president and first vice president, Jean-Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans, but that he was still waiting for a reply.

"I miss a minimum level of respect from the Catalan authorities from the European Commission," he said.

But ten days ahead of the planned referendum, some in Brussels expect that the atmosphere could change.

"What has to happen will happen," one of sources said, referring to a political initiative, in Spain or in the EU, to defuse tensions.

International mediation

"I've always said that the move will come from member states up to the institutions," a third source, who closely follows the situation, told EUobserver.

The official noted that member states may be less shy to put the situation in Spain on the agenda after Germany's elections have taken place on Sunday.

The Catalan government "would consider" international mediation "as an alternative solution to the lack of direct talks" with the Spanish government, said Altafaj at the Committee of Regions.

"The most obvious one is Europe. I would not like a non-European mediation," he said.

On Thursday, the Spanish government, the ruling centre-right Popular Party and the opposition Socialist Party said that they were ready for a dialogue with the Catalan government, but under the condition that it cancels the referendum.

But the day before, after the police raids, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said that "the Spanish government has crossed the red line that separated it from repressive authoritarian regimes and has become a democratic shame," and that he "will not turn back".

Spain arrests Catalan officials

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

Feature

Catalonia ponders independence 'leap of faith'

Ahead of a referendum on 1 October, Catalans are almost united on the need to go to the ballot box. But they are divided on the question, and uncertain about the result and the consequences.

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's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

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. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  2. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  3. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  4. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  5. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  6. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  7. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  8. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us