Catalonia vote makes EU shiver
Brussels chose to stay away from the crisis in Spain
6 October, 2017
The Catalan referendum was not legal under the Spanish law, the European Commission said in a long-awaited statement last Tuesday. The response comes after the social networks were flooded with questions about the conspicuous silence of Brussels and its failure to publicly condemn the force used by the Spanish police on the day of the vote. “For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain,” the Commission statement added. “We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of PM Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”
When announcing the Commission’s official stance, its spokesman Margaritis Schinas also said that an independent Catalonia would not become automatically part of the EU if it did vote for independence in a legal referendum and would have to apply if it wanted to join. Schinas warned that the Commission would not become involved in mediating the problem, despite a call for international mediation by the Catalan leader.
The reluctance of Brussels to get involved in the Spanish crisis was also evident in the reactions of European leaders. They all echoed the position that this is an internal matter that Spain should address on its own. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that Merkel was not seeking to mediate the dispute between Madrid and Catalonia's regional government.
At the same time Hendrik Vos, a professor of European politics at Belgium's Ghent University, told AFP that given the EU's experience in managing international crises, such as the Iran nuclear programme, it would appear "strange" if it did not take a role in mediating between Madrid and Catalonia.
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, at the end of the debate on Catalonia last Wednesday in Strasbourg, underlined that unilateral decisions, including declarations of independence from a sovereign state, are contrary to the European legal order and bound to provoke dangerous divisions.
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