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Referendum raids and arrests cause ‘concern’ in Brussels

MEPs from different EU parties condemn action of Spanish police against Catalan executive, though European Commission declines to comment

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20 September 2017 05:58 PM

by

ACN | Brussels

Wednesday’s raids and arrests of Catalan government officials by Spanish police caused unease in Brussels. The head of the socialist and democrat group in the European Parliament, Italian MEP Gianni Pittella, tweeted that he was “concerned” by the police action and called for “dialogue and a political solution." The socialist alliance Pittella heads includes Catalan PSC and Spanish PSOE MEPs.

At the same time, the left-wing greens, GUE/NGL, called the “arrests and raids unacceptable”. The group that includes MEPs from the Podemos and IU parties in the European chamber expressed "solidarity" with the protesters who spontaneously gathered outside the Catalan economy ministry and in Sant Jaume square, where the main Catalan government building is located.

Greek MEP from the European United Left-Nordic Green Left Dimitrios Papadimoulis tweeted his support for Catalonia in Catalan, describing the drift towards detentions as “very worrisome.” He continued by stating “It’s dialogue that’s needed, not offensive actions.” Meanwhile, Ska Keller, German MEP and co-chair of the Greens parliamentary group, voiced her support on Twitter as well, saying: “Repression is no solution for a political problem. Dialogue and politics should prevail.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said on Twitter that “the people of Catalonia should be allowed to have their say (…) unhindered by Spanish police repression,” while Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes warned the Spanish government in a tweet that their action would only help pro-independence support. Meanwhile, Belgian MEP and leader of the European conservatives, Mark Demesmaeker, also condemned the police action and asked “where is the European Commission?”

  • "The people of Catalonia should be allowed to have their say (...) unhindered by Spanish police repression”
    Martina Anderson · Sinn Féin MEP

A “violation” of EU rights

It was a question other European members were asking. The Catalan MEPs for ERC, Jordi Solé and Josep-Maria Terricabras, and PDeCAT’s Ramon Tremosa sent a letter on Wednesday to the European Commission, informing the body of the 22 raids and 13 arrests by Guardia Civil police. The letter condemned the police action as “unacceptable in any democratic country” and accused the Spanish government of “a clear violation” of fundamental human rights protected by EU law. The letter ends by calling on the EU to defend the rights of Catalans as “European citizens”.

Yet the outrage over the police raids and arrests was not confined to the corridors of power in Brussels. Some 60 Catalans gathered in Schuman square, close to the European Commission, to protest the arrests and raids. The protesters, many of whom carried estelada independence flags and banners, chanted "votaran" (they will vote) and "democràcia" (democracy).

No comment from European Commission

Yet, the European Commission responded with silence. Saying that the institution’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, had already commented on the situation in Catalonia, and that the EC had “nothing more to add.” On Friday, European Commission vice president, Frans Timmermans, stressed “the constitutional order in Spain and respect for the Spanish Constitution” when clarifying comments made by Juncker the previous day, when he said he would accept a Yes result in the referendum.

Another major EU institution, the European Central Bank (ECB), was also alerted to the recent action taken by the Spanish government against the referendum. The Catalan economy ministry informed ECB officials that the Spanish authorities had seized control of finances in Catalonia, which it described as a “threat” to basic public services and “even the stability of the financial system in the Eurozone.” The ministry’s letter also urges the ECB to play a “constructive role and to encourage political dialogue.”

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  • Italian MEP Gianni Pittella speaking in Strasbourg in January (by the European Parliament)

  • Italian MEP Gianni Pittella speaking in Strasbourg in January (by the European Parliament)

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