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Chairman of the European Social-Democrats: Catalonia “cannot create new conflicts” and “expect everybody to accept them within the EU”

Hannes Swoboda, Chairman of the Social-Democrat Group at the European Parliament, highlighted “the necessity to stick together, to solve the problems together in Spain”. The Austrian politician rejected what he sees as the Catalan attitude: “we are richer and we are leaving Spain”. “That is not a solution for the Spanish and European problems” he warned. In addition, he stated that Catalans “have to know” that “if they go independent without the agreement of the national government they are no longer in the European Union”. The veteran MEP asked Catalans to be “realistic” and “to fight for the improvement of living conditions and not for the destruction of what we have achieved over the last decades”.

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30 October 2013 03:53 PM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).- Hannes Swoboda, Chairman of the Social-Democrat Group at the European Parliament, emphasised “the necessity to stick together, to solve the problems together in Spain” in an exclusive interview with the Catalan News Agency. The Austrian politician rejected what he sees as the Catalan attitude: “we are richer and we are leaving Spain”. “That is not a solution for the Spanish and European problems” he warned. In addition, Swoboda stated that Catalans “have to know” that “if they go independent without the agreement of the national government they are no longer in the European Union”. “They cannot have it both ways”, he added. The Social-Democrat leader completed his warning message by saying that it is not possible for Catalans to “create new conflicts but expect everybody to accept them and receive them in the European Union”. The veteran MEP asked Catalans to be “realistic” and “to fight for the improvement of living conditions and not for the destruction of what we have achieved over the last decades”. He pointed out that “Catalonia and Spain are so closely connected”, in order to emphasise that they need to stay together. However, Swoboda immediately added that “if one starts [becoming independent], we have the same problem in the Basque Country and in other regions”. Recently Swoboda vetoed a proposal that the European Parliament draft a report on “the consequences of the secession of a territory from a Member State regarding its EU membership”, following pressure from the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE).


“They have to know [that] if they go independent without the agreement of the national government they are no longer in the European Union. They cannot have it both ways”, insisted the Chairman of the second largest group at the European Parliament. However, such an agreement would depend on the will of the Spanish Government.

“The issue” is “not the independence of Catalonia”

When asked if the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should follow the example of his British counterpart David Cameron and allow a self-determination referendum in Catalonia as the UK did for Scotland, Swoboda stated that “it is up to the countries to think about it, [to decide] what’s the best way” to resolve the situation. The member of the Austrian SPÖ party added that “it is up to the Spanish citizens to decide if they want to have a referendum or not. But for me it is very important to underline the necessity to stick together, to solve the problems together in Spain after so many years that Catalans, Basques, Asturians and everybody have been working together for a better Spain”. According to him, “that’s the issue: working for jobs in Spain, working against poverty in Spain; that’s the issue and not the independence of Catalonia”.

Catalans “cannot create new conflicts” and “expect everybody to receive them in the EU”

Swoboda, who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1996, warned Catalans that they “cannot create new conflicts” and later “expect everybody to accept them and receive them in the European Union”. Instead, he suggested that those supporting Catalonia’s independence from Spain should “be realistic” and “fight for the improvement of living conditions and not for the destruction of what we have achieved over the last decades”.

The Austrian politician rejected the attitude that, according to him, Catalan independence supporters share: “we are richer, we are leaving Spain”. “Let’s not destroy what we have achieved. Let’s build on it and give everybody a chance, not say ‘we are richer and we are leaving Spain’”, he argued. “That is not a solution for the Spanish problem or for European problems”, he emphasised. Swoboda fears that “if one [Autonomous Community] starts [becoming independent], we have the same problem in the Basque Country and in other regions”. The Social-Democrat politician pointed out that “we should also see that Catalonia and Spain are so closely connected”.

Swoboda banned a report analysing the EU membership consequences for an independent Scotland or Catalonia

The Social-Democrat Chairman associated the independence of Scotland and Catalonia with “turning against Europe”, when he was asked if 7.5 million Catalans, who are European citizens, net contributors to the EU budget and totally compliant with European legislation, would lose their rights from one day to the next. Swoboda recently vetoed a proposal that the European Parliament fully study what the legal consequences regarding EU-membership would be for a territory that secedes from a Member State. The Social-Democrat Group, mostly due to pressure from the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), stopped the Scottish MEP David Martin, from the UK Labour Party, studying the matter and drafting a report about it.

“You have to stick together with your friends and colleagues in Europe”

According to him “in the end the Scots and the Catalans will say ‘let’s have perhaps a better situation in our country; let’s not turn against Europe but fight for a common Europe”. Swoboda highlighted that “coming from a country, Austria, which is a federation of different regions, I am very much for federations and federative culture”. However, “at the same time my message can only be: you cannot do it alone”, he stated. “You have to stick together with your friends and your colleagues in Europe to overcome the splits and the differences. And the future is in Europe. And that is the main message”, he added.

“There is a danger that anti-European extremist parties win” the next European elections

Swoboda, who comes from a country that in its last elections cast more than 25% of the votes for extreme-right parties, insisted that “there is a danger that anti-European extremist parties win” the next European elections. “Not everybody who is critical about Europe is anti-European”, he warned, “but some of these parties are really against Europe, against its institutions, against European policies and against Europe bringing some new innovative energy into the European Union. And that is the danger: they will destroy what we have built up, what our fathers and mothers built up after the Second World War”. According to Swoboda, “we have to defend it but also to look and show up the weaknesses and failures of Europe today, not in order to destroy it, but to build a better Europe, a Europe that works, that works for its citizens”.

Finally, the Austrian politician welcomed the fact that the European Social-Democrats have named the German Martin Schultz – who currently chairs the European Parliament – as their leader for the next elections and candidate to become the next President of the European Commission. “At least Socialists and Democrats have a candidate.Others still have to look for a candidate”, said Swoboda, referring to the People’s Party, which is still waiting to designate a person for the post. According to him, having a candidate that “can be presented immediately […] is an asset” for the next European Elections, which will take place next May.

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  • Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA (by A. Segura)

  • Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA (by A. Segura)
Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA
Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA
Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA
Hannes Swoboda, interviewed by the CNA