The EU has broken its silence on the violent suppression of Catalonia’s independence referendum, with the Commission backing Madrid and the Vice-president of the European Parliament branding the vote a “nationalistic coup against Europe”.
“Today we have witnessed a nationalistic propaganda act, undemocratic; a coup attempt against Spanish democracy, and so a coup against Europe,” tweeted Ramón Luis Valcárcel, a member of the European People’s Party — which also include Angela Merkel’s CDU party.
Valcárcel’s comments are in line with those of the Spanish government, which held that the referendum “runs counter to the goals and ideals of the European Union”.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker had warned the Catalans against “separatist adventures” prior to the vote, asserting that “regional traditions” should not “set themselves as elements of separatism and fragmentation of Europe”.
I have posted multiple concerning videos of police violence from the #CatalanReferendum today.
This one is the most shocking yet.pic.twitter.com/AjX8jKZj43
— Gissur Simonarson (@GissiSim) October 1, 2017
The European Commission was much criticised for its silence during the referendum, which saw the Spanish national police and the military Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) trying to shut down voting by smashing into polling stations, dragging would-be voters out by their hair, and confiscating ballot boxes.
Catalans staging peaceful sit-down protests were beaten with batons and shot with rubber bullets, with the Catalan Government reporting over 800 injured and at least one person in surgery after a baton round hit them in the eye.
Clashes between the Spaniards and local Catalan police were recorded, and Catalan firemen who attempted to form a protective ring between Spanish law enforcement and the crowds were beaten.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) October 1, 2017
The European Commission has since issued a statement, however, giving Madrid its full support.
“Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal,” it states bluntly.
“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 statement added that, should Catalonia ever leave Spain in a legal referendum, it would immediately be turfed out of the EU.
“Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation,” it adds.
Dear @JunckerEU :
Article 7 of the European Union Treaty
"Suspension of any Member State that uses military force on its own population."
Please share.#SpainOutOfEU#ShameOnSpain#CatalanReferendum pic.twitter.com/WUfBoAf75N
— Liz Castro (@lizcastro) October 1, 2017
Critics have taken the European Union to task for its indifference to the apparent brutality, noting its relative readiness to interfere in Poland after its government attempted to reform the judiciary and state media, and its frequent attacks on Hungary for attempting to improve the financial transparency of so-called civil society groups funded by foreign actors such as George Soros.
It has been suggested that the EU harasses these member-states because they have resisted its plans for the compulsory redistribution of migrants, while Spain toes the Commission’s line on mass immigration and political integration.
Similar double standards have been applied to Germany — which has repeatedly flouted EU rules on the size of its current account surplus without sanction — and France, which was recently allowed to break the bloc’s budget deficit rules “because it is France”, according to President Juncker.
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) October 2, 2017
In the United Kingdom, eurosceptic Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith, who ran against Sadiq Khan for the London mayoralty in 2016, described the European Parliament Vice-president’s characterisation of the Catalan referendum as a coup against Europe as “insane”.
Prominent Conservative backbencher John Redwood, who led the parliamentary resistance to the Treaty on European Union during John Major’s premiership, said: “The lack of reaction by the EU to the dreadful scenes in Catalonia shows their lack of understanding of democracy.”
He accepted Spain was “right to say democrats need to accept the rule of law,” but said they were “wrong to deny Catalans a vote and voice when they think the constitutional settlement behind that rule of law is wrong,” urging a free and fair referendum of the type which secured Scotland’s place in the British family of nations in 2014.