EU Parliament

‘It’s lit a bonfire under your EU’ Brussels told it faces legitimacy crisis over Catalonia

FURIOUS euro MPs this afternoon tore into Brussels over its failure to condemn brutality by Spanish police in Catalonia, branding the project a “Union of double standards”.

There were scenes of violence in Catalonia on Sunday

Visibly angry MEPs accused eurocrats of giving Spain an easy ride because of its status as a core eurozone member and urged Jean-Claude Juncker to “get off the fence” and condemn its actions.They warned PM Mariano Rajoy had “lit a bonfire under Europe’ with his heavy-handed crackdown and provided separatist movements across the continent with a “template” for future disruption, but also called on Catalan politicians to back down and avoid a unilateral declaration of independence.

MEPs called a debate on human rights and the rule of law in Catalonia following shocking scenes during Sunday’s secession referendum, when police beat voters and fired on them with rubber bullets.

Critics have pointed out that the poll was illegal under Spanish law, with some accusing the regional government of “deception”, but the scenes of violence have threatened to turn into a full-blown image crisis for the EU.

Frans Timmermans said that whilst the images of violence were “saddening” it was “a duty of any Government to uphold the rule of law and this does sometimes require the proportionate use of force”.That stance has provoked significant anger amongst many, including those from those countries who feel they have been more harshly treated by Brussels in the past for lesser demeanours.

Polish MEP Ryszard Legutko, from the centre-right European Conservatives and Reformists grouping, accused the EU of “double standards” during today’s crisis debate on Catalan issue.

Socialist leader Gianni Pittella is handed a red rose by a pro-Catalonia officialEbS

Socialist leader Gianni Pittella is handed a red rose by a pro-Catalonia official

Ukip MEP Ray FinchEbS

Ukip MEP Ray Finch blasted the EU’s silence over the crisis

He said: “The EU Commission repeatedly resorts to a moralistic language talking about the Union of values. But when we view the action of the Commission in the handling of this particular situation in Catalonia, it looks more like a union of selective values.“The double standards of the Commission is something that leaps to the eye. All are equal but some are more equal than others and everything depends on who is involved.

“Let us be honest ladies and gentlemen, if it was another member state not Spain the consequences and the rhetoric from the Commission would’ve been far harsher.”

Describing Madrid’s response to the referendum as “really appalling”, he concluded: “The actions of the riot police the conspicuous silence or the Aesopian language of the EU Commission will not make the problem disappear.”

French MEP Patrick Le Hyaric, from the left-wing GUE/NGL grouping, called on Dutchman Mr Timmermans to specifically condemn police violence and accused the bloc of turning a blind eye.

He said: “If this Sunday we’d have seen we’d have seen forces of order stopping people vote, seen police charges, seen them attacked and injured anywhere else in the world, all the European leaders would’ve protested against that to the relevant head of Government and demanded them to react, and they might even have suggested some sort of economic embargo.

“This did all happen on Sunday, but in Spain. It was a Government which is cold and weak but which sits at the European high table and the European leaders are pretending to look elsewhere and leave a European nation to tear itself apart.

“Mr Timmermans, we call on you to condemn immediately the violence and repressive actions we’ve seen in Catalonia. We can’t accept a situation where force is abused by a Government in the EU.”

Violence so disproportionate cannot be justified – no buts and no excuses

Greens leader Ska Keller

Meanwhile German MEP Ska Keller, leader of the Greens contingent, describes the actions of Spanish policy as “brutality” and said Brussels must condemn them “no buts, no excuses”.She told the chamber: “Last Sunday will be remembered as a sad day not just in Spain but all over Europe. We saw peaceful citizens confronted with a huge police force prepared to use all the force they had.

“Families, pensioners, people of all backgrounds who were confronted with a state that was willing to use almost all means to stop the referendum taking place.

“The world was watching while this was happening, while the riot police met people with brutality, charging with batons and even firing rubber bullets. Polling stations and hotels and schools and city streets were turned to frontline between national police and its citizens.

“What happened in Spain is unacceptable. This was massive police violence against peaceful people and that was beyond any proportionality and violence so disproportionate cannot be justified – no buts and no excuses.”

Saying that Mr Rajoy’s strategy had clearly “failed” she added: “President Juncker cannot simply sit on the fence and just watch from Berlaymont what’s happening and how the conflict escalates. The Catalan crisis is a European affair.”

Speaking after her, Ukip MEP Ray Finch said that the failure of EU leaders to condemn the actions of Spanish authorities meant the bloc had “no popular legitimacy”.He warned: “We now have a template which every independence movement on our continent can use to provoke unrest. Mark my words by their actions Mr Rajoy and his advisors have lit a bonfire under your Europe.

“The fact that the institutions and its leaders have failed to recognise the human rights abuses that have taken place and have instead focussed on legalistic verbiage shows how shallow the foundations of this projects really are.

“Any ruling order that can condone acts of state violence has no popular legitimacy. Those Catalans who have looked to the EU for succour will be sorely disappointed.”

However, the bigger groupings in the EU Parliament including the centre-right EPP, the left-wing Socialists and Democrats and the centre-ground Liberals were all more sympathetic towards Madrid, and criticised the Catalan authorities.

EPP chief Manfred Weber said that “demonstrations cannot replace the democratic decision making processes in a society” and determinedly said: We are sorry for all people hurt, [but] we stand behind Spain’s integrity.”

Socialists leader Gianni Pittella, meanwhile, warned a unilateral declaration of independence as threatened by the Catalan authorities would be “simply be adding fuel to the flames of a referendum that was pointless and unhelpful”.

And Guy Verhofstadt, the ALDE boss who doubles up as Brexit negotiator, said the referendum had not been legitimate because fewer that half of Catalans took part in it, with many staying away as a means of voicing their opposition to independence.

In a direct appeal to the region’s politicians, he said: “To declare independence based on the outcome of a defective referendum is irresponsible. It will cause a fatal fracture in your society that may be impossible to heal.

“And you know who is going to profit from this gamble? The anti-Europeans who as we know want to destroy out union and who started already today to abuse your cause.”

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Help put the World to rights and leave a Comment

Notify of
Powered by: Wordpress
%d bloggers like this: