Anna van Densky, Strasbourg. The hearing on #Catalonia, October 4, could not be qualified as ‘debate’ in a proper sense of this word: the leaders of the European Parliament political groups, and 1st vice-president of the European Commission, articulated their positions vis-à-vis dramatic events, without an opportunity to debate it with fellow MEPs. However even this abridged version was a victory of smaller political groups, pressing EPP – the centre right and a biggest force in Europarliament – to accept a public hearing, according to Europe Diplomatic sources.
The 1st vice-president of European Commission Frans Timmermans defended position already coined by his boss, Jean-Claude Juncker, qualifying #Catalanreferendum as an ‘internal matter’ of Spain, and under Kingdom’s Constitution ‘illegal’. The difference came in formatting, adding substantial number of the EU clichées, calling for dialog, and plea to restrain from ‘violence’ without mentioning upon whose orders it was committed. There was no condemnation of police brutality against Catalans, neither demands to bring responsible to justice. In some passages Timmerman’s speech sounded as echo of King’s Felipe address to nation, pointing at illegality of the vote, as a refrain: “street does not decide the future of a country,” without any hint on right for self-determination. The views Timmermans changed drastically as he used to be an active proponent of Maidan revolution in Kiev, insisting ‘vox populi vox Dei’.
Timmermans called Catalonia to “leave the path of confrontation and lead to dialogue”, exactly what Carles Puigdemont is looking for, but denied by Spanish government, responding with accusations, police brutality, arrests and court orders.
Traditionally the speech of Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP group, replicated the one of the Commission: “we are sorry for those who was hurt”, “violence is never an answer”… EU has “no will, no right” to intervene in internal matters of such a liberal democracy as Spain…”Don’t take irreversible steps! (to Catalans)”. However Weber’s message has been reaching further, delivering a warning to Catalans: you will be leaving EU, Schengen, eurozone… Weber’s views went through continuing transformation from enthusiasm over ‘peaceful revolutions’ in Eastern Europe to an ardent defender of laws, carved in stone in Catalan case:
The Socialists & Democrats led by Gianni Pittella: “Please don’t declare independence unilaterally!” However no condemnation of police violence. And ‘crescendo’: “Nationalism means war”. According to Pittella Socialists if at power could change Constitution of Spain. He called police action “disproportionate,” but in general the Socialists supported the EPP line on ‘illegality’ of referendum, and warned against consequences of unilateral declaration of independence.
The wave of criticism of Mariano Rajoy government came from smaller political groups: EU is a Union of “selective values” said MEP prof. Ryszard Legutko, a co-chair of European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) directly pointing that if the event would have happened in a different member state, the reactions would be hasher. However triggering articles of treaties to summon Catalans would only polarise the debate. Legutko called the actions of government “appalling,” but it was a European Commission who got the most negative evaluation for “Esopian language”, “double-standards,” and “moralistic” inclinations, – the trends will not make the problem disappear. Legutko proposed Commission to mediate, but underlined it is up to Catalans to decide their future.
Ska Keller, MEP, co-chair of Greens, admitted Mariano Rajoy strategy of violence, and police brutality failed, and insisted on search of a political solution by Spanish government. Keller also proposed to European Commission to act, assessing Spanish crisis as European. However in spite of her repeated calls for dialogue, she admitted a right of self-determination of Catalans as stipulated by international law.
Marcel De Graaf, the co-chair of the ENF group, was not short of words, castigating the hypocrisy and double-standards of the EU, interfering in member-states home affairs, dependent on the correlation with the European agenda. Among other examples of EU double standards, he reminded how President Juncker raised his concerns about EU worker’s rights in UK, but kept silence about police brutality in Catalonia.
Steven Woolfe, MEP, expressed his indignation over police brutality, he also blamed the EU double standards in dealing with human rights issues. He reminded his fellow-MEPs and European Commission, that Kosovo did not have an agreed secession from Serbia.
MEP Ray Finch, EFDD, proposed the only viable and democratic way out of the crisis in organising a referendum for Catalans.