Thursday, 5 October 2017
Remainers – Have Events in Catalonia Changed Your View of the EU?
The shocking images that flashed around social media on Sunday of the Catalan referendum on independence, have been met with an almost silent response from the European Union (EU). Other than backing the Spanish government’s legitimacy to uphold Spanish law, the EU has tried to distance itself from the brutality inflicted on peaceable people, at the hands of the Spanish Civil Guard police.
The EU has been keen to stress that the issue is national one, and not one for the EU to become involved in. But the EU has threatened sanctions against Hungary and Poland for not playing by EU rules, and supported military action to establish Kosova’s independence from Serbia. So it is not as though the EU will not intervene in national matters per se, but they are clearly on the side of Spanish government in Catalonia’s case.
It has reminded me of my doubts about the EU, someone who did vote to remain in the end, brought about by the way that Greece was treated by the EU over debt repayments. I don’t seem to be the only one struggling with my conscience over my support for the EU either.
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador and now human rights activist writes on his blog that he:
…is obliged to reconsider my lifelong support for the European Union, due to the unqualified backing of the EU Commission for the Spanish Government’s dreadful repression in Catalonia.
Murray’s post is well worth a read, where he questions the argument about the actions of the Spanish government being lawful, and opines that the EU is contravening several Articles of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights by supporting the Spanish government’s action on Sunday. These are:
Article 1: The Right to Human Dignity
Article 6: The Right to Liberty or Security of Person
Article 11: Freedom of Expression and Information
Article 12: Freedom of Assembly and Association
Article 54: Prohibition of Abuse of Rights
Murray also says that the Charter of the United Nations is being breached by Spain and is supported by the EU in this. Article 1 (2) he says, of the Charter supports the ‘self-determination of peoples.’ This is the very thing that is being denied in Catalonia. The Catalans want to exercise this right in a democratic vote, the Spanish government will not allow it, and then sends its police thugs to beat up the Catalans to repress this legitimate desire.
It is not as though the EU is not intimately involved in this issue either, as the reward for Spain of being allowed into the EU in 1986, was of democratic legitimacy after the fascism of the Franco dictatorship.
But more than this, support for independence among Catalans was only around 10% to 15%, before the 2008 financial crash, but rose to over 40% afterwards, and this before the violence from the Spanish state this week at the referendum. There were always cultural differences and financial disagreements between Catalonia and the Spanish state, but these came to a head after the financial crash. The austerity measures forced on southern European countries in the Eurozone, like Spain, has been the catalyst for this crisis to escalate.
The EU has also made it clear that an independent Catalonia will cease to be a member of the organisation and will need to reapply for membership. Catalans, normally very pro EU, might reflect on the value of this membership given the legitimisation of their human rights abuses by this club. Not even a reminder to Spain about its obligations on human rights has been issued.
What will happen next is very worrying. If the Catalan’s declare themselves to be independent, as they say they will, the Spanish state will probably abolish the regional Catalan government, and rule directly from Madrid. This could well involve military force by the Spanish government, and what we saw last Sunday could look like a picnic by comparison to what may happen next.
News comes today that the Spanish government has suspended the Catalan parliamentary session planned for Monday in which a declaration of independence from Spain was expected to be made. Spanish troops are heading to Catalonia as well.
The EU should be taking a conciliatory role and bringing both sides together in a constructive dialogue. If things escalate, as it appears they will, the EU must act, if it is not to sustain lasting damage to its reputation for respecting human rights.