'EU likely to stay out of Catalan conflict,' says Politico's Ryan Heath

Journalist spoke to Catalan News about chances of Brussels getting involved in political confrontation between Catalonia and Spain

Ryan Heath, senior political editor at POLITICO (by Alan Ruiz Terol)
Ryan Heath, senior political editor at POLITICO (by Alan Ruiz Terol) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 17, 2019 11:39 AM

While there may well be people within the European Union system that are sympathetic to Catalan demands for self-determination, the EU is unlikely to become involved in the ongoing conflict between Spain and Catalonia, or the trial of jailed Catalan leaders.

That is according to writer and senior EU correspondent at the Politico publication, Ryan Heath, who spoke to Catalan News while in Barcelona recently about the confrontation that has come to dominate Spanish and Catalan politics.

"The EU will find it very difficult to weigh in on a judicial process that's happening at the national level," said Heath, who added: "In general they will likely attempt to leave this at the national level and just stay out of it."

While Heath says he suspects there are elements in the EU that agree with a "need for a debate and for the right of Catalans to have an opportunity to express their views at a ballot box," he adds that "there really isn't an official outlet for the EU to express those thoughts."

The pro-independence camp insists that the Spain-Catalonia conflict is a European-wide affair, and has repeatedly called on the EU to protect what it sees as the Catalans' right to self-determination and to condemn "repression" by the Spanish authorities.

Best chance of EU involvement through the courts

Yet, Heath says that the EU's job is "to interact primarily with the Spanish government," and he predicts that the conflict "is something that might have to work its way through the European Court of Justice, for example, for EU level involvement to occur."

While the European Court of Justice is to soon hold a hearing on whether or not jailed leader Oriol Junqueras has parliamentary immunity as an MEP after winning a seat in the European Parliament in May, the EU has been careful to remain on the sidelines.

Heath also points out that the EU does not want "to make life difficult for the Spanish government," and says "they recognize that all governments are having a difficult time right now to hold either their countries together or to hold a kind of civil debate."

Meanwhile, the correspondent says that the best pro-independence supporters can hope for in the short term is a change of tone from the EU "when the new European Commission is installed on November 1." However, he adds: "I think you can expect more of the same."