Catalonia has declared victory in its independence referendum, with 90% of voters opting for forming an independent Catalan republic. In Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that the referendum did not occur, in a statement that can only be described as arrogant, out of touch and defiant in all the wrong ways.
Now, the only sensible thing to call for is for a cessation of all violence and for dialogue. While the intricacies of the referendum are still being examined, Catalonia’s leadership, Catalonia’s streets and millions of Catalan voters who braved a brutal police presence in order to cast a vote, have in fact spoken and spoken clearly.
As I wrote prior to the referendum,
“Spain could have easily managed to create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation, but Madrid under the closet Francoist government of Mariano Rajoy, has treated Catalonia like a colony, rather than a region.
Because of this, Catalans have responded by acting as an oppressed nation and it is not difficult to understand why.
Madrid has used cyber-warfare against Catalan websites, including those of the official regional government. Spain has vowed to use police from outside of Catalonia to physically dispute the peaceful vote. Spain has threatened effective martial law on Catalonia before the vote has even taken place and Spain has arrested prominent Catalan political leaders in the style of a banana republic.
For a country that is in the EU, whose principles of freedom of trade and people ought to make regional independence movements less rather than more confrontational, Spain has taken a position which has debased and degraded Catalan people and it is therefore no wonder that they have responded as they have.
The EU which could have made assurances to both sides, that Brussels would maintain a position wherein EU mechanisms for peace, dialogue, freedom of movement and economic exchange would be open to helping foster an atmosphere of trust and democratic engagement. Instead, the EU turned a blind eye for all intents and purposes. For an organisation that has prided itself on peace and unity, the EU has failed to maintain either for Catalonia’s nationalists and for Spain.
Furthermore, the internal and pan European debates about fascism, communism, liberalism, Christianity, monarchy and liberalism were supposed to be moderated, made less caustic and less violent through the EU’s presence in modern pan-Europe politics. The EU has failed in this respect also, as old ideological wounds came to the surface in both Barcelona and in Madrid.
At the same time, Spain a longtime EU member, has spat on democracy, on civil rights and on any sense of civil order, yet the mainstream media remains stunningly silent about this gross violation of modern political norms.
The failure of the EU is only matched by Spain’s failure to live up to so-called European values, values which as many suspect uphold double-standards rather than fair standards”.
This analysis has sadly become more poignant in the aftermath of the referendum. The EU continues to bury its multiple heads in the sand with no official statement coming from the EU Commission or its President Jean-Claude Junker, nor the European Council and its President Donald Tusk.
In fact, the only major EU figure to release a statement has been Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal bloc in the EU Parliament. While personally, I tend to agree with few of Guy Verhofstadt’s ultra-liberal views, objectively, he must be commended for being the lone major EU figure to release a statement calling for dialogue and condemning clear wrongdoings by Madrid.
Verhofstadt’s statement reads,
“I don’t want to interfere in the domestic issues of Spain but I absolutely condemn what happened today in Catalonia.
On one hand, the separatist parties went forward with a so-called referendum that was forbidden by the Constitutional Court, knowing all too well that only a minority would participate as 60 % of the Catalans are against separation.
And on the other hand – even when based on court decisions – the use of disproportionate violence to stop this.
In the European Union we try to find solutions through political dialogue and with respect for the constitutional order as enshrined in the Treaties, especially in art. 4.
It’s high time for de-escalation. Only a negotiated solution in which all political parties, including the opposition in the Catalan Parliament, are involved and with respect for the Constitutional and legal order of the country, is the way forward”.
While Verhofstadt does not speak for the EU as a whole, only a similarly balanced statement from Brussels can hope to bring calm to the situation. In many ways however, it may be too late for both Brussels and for Madrid.
In respect of Brussels, it may be a matter of far too little, far too late and inversely for Madrid, it may be a matter of crossing a red line for Catalonia by using such heavy handed policing and political techniques to try and suppress Catalans from conducting an exercise in regional democracy and peaceful free speech.
It is however, not too late to try and create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation between Madrid and Barcelona. What is clear however, is that Mariano Rajoy, the current Spanish Prime Minister cannot be the man to conduct such talks, nor do many of his front line government ministers seem up to the task. Rajoy’s arrogant remarks and his apparent praise of clear police brutality against unarmed people including young women and the elderly, means that he has no leg to stand on in would-be respectful discussions with the leaders in Catalonia.
This too exposes the hypocrisy of western mainstream media. In countries that the western mainstream media tends not to understand and have likely never even visited, pundits are quick to say that certain non-western leaders ‘must go’.
In Spain, a country in the heart of western Europe, about which western MSM journalists ostensibly have a great deal of knowledge about, little is being said about the figure of Mariano Rajoy and has terrible handling of the referendum in Catalonia.
If Rajoy resigns and is replaced by a more moderate figure, there is a chance that a special conference organised by the EU, an institution to which Spain belongs and which an independent Catalonia seeks to join, could be held in order to reach some sort of agreement. Even if independence is inevitable, surely it is in the interest of the EU, Madrid and Barcelona to foster an atmosphere where Spain and a Catalan Republic could be good neighbours rather than perpetual foes.
There is no other reasonable solution. The question therefore is: who has the moral and political courage to unapologetically call for such a solution and make sure that it becomes a new reality?