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.  


  1. The EU is fundamentally an undemocratic organisation. Whilst I do not subscribe to a Tory Brexit of a low tax haven for the corporate interests, privatisation, deregulation and the destruction of public services I do believe there is an alternative. Coming out of the EU will allow the UK to bring public services under public control, rebalance the economy away from the financial sector and to manufacturing, develop an economic policy independent of the neoliberal ideology of the EU and allow us to revitalise our democratic traditions. How do we want to play it?

    1. Except the economy will fail miserably as UK cuts itself from EU trade and outside Europe no one wants to trade as EU gives a stark choice of 'them with 60 million or us with 500 million). brace yourself for one mother of shocks brexit boy.

  2. Poland came close to breaching treaty obligations. Spain hasn't done that. The EU has no legal authority to interfere in Spain, whereas it would have had to act if Poland had gone ahead with the planned change.

  3. well that is not what Craig Murray thinks.

  4. Even though I believe that the EU should condemn the violent tactics of the Spanish government, a reluctance to get involved is a sign that the EU respects the sovereignty of Spain. Brexiters would be furious if the EU took sides in a Scottish referendum on membership of the UK. You would be very hard pressed to find a Spaniard (or Catalan) who didn't want to remain in the EU.

  5. Even though I think that the EU should condemn the violent tactics of the Spanish government, the reluctance to get involved demonstrates a respect for the sovereignty of Spain. Brexiters would be furious if the UK were to interfere in a Scottish referendum on membership of the UK. You would be hard pressed to find a Spaniard or Catalan who didn't want to remain in the EU.

  6. Scotland had an official referendum, it is not remotely the same as Catalonia.

  7. You haven't understood my point. I didn't say that the two referendums were the same. I said the EU, in respecting the sovereignty of its member states, would be reluctant to get involved. If it did get involved Brexiters would be furious. Personally I wish that the EU would speak out against the Spanish government, but I understand their reluctance.

  8. But you have to sign the human rights charters quoted, to be allowed to join the EU.

  9. We seem to be talking at cross-purposes here. I'm saying that the EU doesn't want to get involved in matters of national sovereignty. Which is understandable. Even though I think they should condemn violence.

  10. I'm just saying, hypocritical to not uphold their own rules, and is definitely pro-Spain.

  11. Of course! EU should have supported the Catalan's separatists and thereby, it should have opened a whole can of warms in:
    France, where Corsica has been pushing for Independence
    Italy, where Lega Nord considers the rest of the country a bit too black and Arab for its taste
    Belgium where Flanders have turned the country into one fine mess as even trains have to change their destination signs from Flanders to French and back!

    Let us not forget the Master of Europe German, where to this day, a Danish minority still lives under German-rule, thanks to the 19th century Iron Chancellor Otto Von Bismark.

    Even the International law does not recognise the break up of a sovereign state as result of popular vote!

  12. The EU showed to the world that it just cares about stability in order to take care of the economy. They do not care about human rights anymore.

  13. Nope not in the slightest, I'm still a remainer and I always will be because I will trust the EU over Westmonster any day!

  14. So, in one breath we demand sovreignty and in the next we complain that the EU are not interveining in a Spanish problem.
    Hmmm... Cake and eat it spring to mind.

    Don't misunderstand - I have close relatives in Catalonia who have been moved to vote for independence due to the heavy-handed tactics of the Spanish government - but this is a sovreign problem - not the EU.
    If the EU interviened then brexiteers would be shouting from the rooftops that the EU wanted influence over a member states domestic problem.

  15. I don't give a toss what the Brexiteers think, this is a matter of human rights abuse, which is meant to ne outlawed by the EU. Only when it suits them, it seems.

  16. Changed not a bit... Again, democracy does NOT include the acceptance of secession. And the EU values do not include support of seccession. The EU (who exactly? the Commission? It doesn't have the slightest mandate for that. The Council? It's political non-neutral body. Donald Tusk personally?) would be out of their minds to intervene on any side, and for mediation... It could only be asked for that by the Spanish government, a regional authority is no interlocutor for the EU. Democracy may inlcude a political process through which a referendum a region is agreed upon, like it happedned in Scotland. In Catalonia teh process is as far as possible from democratic. First, of the position of the unionists has been essentially ignored. The turnout in the last referendum was well under 50%. There is no agreement on the referendum outisde of Catalnia - not even in the other Catalan Regions like Valencia - let alone on the secession. It is just a push of a few mad nationalist minds again.

  17. why will Spain not allow Catalonia a referendum, like the UK allowed Scotland? And there is support for independence, those parties won a majority in the Catalan parliament. Those shocking and brutal scenes last Sunday are unacceptable and the EU should tell Spain that.