Friday

20th Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Focus

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving up to 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  5. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  9. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  10. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  11. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  12. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People