Schulz emphasises that independence should not be the issue of next European elections in Catalonia
The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, visited Barcelona on Thursday and met with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, and the Secretary General of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro. Schulz, who is the Social-Democrat candidate in the next European Elections for the President of the European Commission, acknowledged that he talked about Catalonia’s self-determination process with Mas and Navarro. However, the German politician refused to take sides, saying he has “no solution” to offer and that “the problem” has to be solved between Catalonia and Spain, not at European level. Furthermore, he insisted that Catalonia’s independence should not be the issue in the next European elections. “I want to talk about youth unemployment”, he stressed.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, visited Barcelona on Thursday and met with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, and the Secretary General of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro. Schulz, who is the Social-Democrat candidate in the next European Elections for the European Commission Presidency, ackowledged that he talked about Catalonia’s self-determination process with Mas and Navarro. However, the German politician refused to take sides, saying he has “no solution” to offer and that “the problem” has to be solved between Catalonia and Spain, not at European level. Schulz denied having been pressured by Spain or Catalonia on this issue; “the only person who is able to pressure me is my wife” he said with a smile. Furthermore, he insisted that Catalonia’s independence should not be the issue in the next European elections. “I want to talk about youth unemployment”, he stressed. “We must talk about what kind of Europe we want: a social, a market or a liberal Europe; not about Mas, Rajoy and Navarro”, he said. “I am sure that many citizens will understand this”, he added. Furthermore, Schulz asked Catalan citizens “to participate” in the next European elections “to strengthen the EU” and because it is the first time that political parties are presenting their candidates for President of the European Commission. Schulz, who is the Social-Democratic candidate, emphasised that his recipe for recovery from the economic crisis is to foster incentives and public investment and “reduce the rigid austerity”. Furthermore, the German politician would speed up banking union and strengthen European control on financial entities. All these policies would have as their main goal to fight unemployment, particularly among the younger generation.
The President of the European Parliament started his day in Barcelona with a round table organised by the Fórum Europa Tribuna Catalunya. At this event journalists and attendees put questions to Schulz on a number of issues, mostly about current debates in Spain and within Catalan society.
The leader of the European Social-Democrats in the next European Elections – which will take place next May – preferred not to directly answer the questions about the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. Schulz stated that “the solution” to this “problem” is not “in the hands of the European Union” or “the President of the European Parliament”. The German politician, who is the Social-Democratic candidate for President of the European Commission for the next 5 years insisted that the solution to the current situation has to come “within the country”. In addition, he admitted that this was “a delicate question”, since “whatever I answer, half of the people will say I am against them and their interests”. Therefore, he refused to take sides.
Schulz insisted on his neutrality regarding Catalonia’s self-determination process
“I cannot give an answer to these questions. The European Union cannot solve the problem. The solution has to be found within the country”, he said. “It always sounds like a frustration, I know, but when I go to Madrid they ask me to deliver the message they want. When I tell them that it is a question that you have to solve here, they tell me I am on the Catalans’ side. Here you ask me to speak out, and if I do not do it you tell me that I am against you. What should I do? I do not have a solution for such a delicate question”. Schulz said he tried “to understand the culture, the history and the individual and collective feeling of Catalans”, “and I think I understand them”, he added. However, he asked Catalan citizens to understand his “neutrality” on the issue. “There are moments that politicians have to admit they do not have a solution. I, for this problem, cannot make a single proposal to find a solution. I know it is disappointing, but it’s the reality”, he concluded.
Schulz refused to comment on a judgement from the European Court of Human Rights
The Social-Democrat candidate was also asked about another controversial issue, the recent judgement from the European Court of Human Rights about the so-called ‘Parot Doctrine’. Strasbourg’s Court judged that the Spanish Government’s decision to change the calculation criteria for early release for condemned terrorists, murderers and rapists was against human rights, since it was retroactive. The Court explained that according to the European Charter of Human Rights people already condemned for a felony included in the Penal Code cannot see the criteria calculating their years in prison totally change in the middle of their prison-stay against their interests. The Spanish Government modified these criteria for ETA terrorists who were about to leave prison on parole, and made them applicable to other brutal crimes. When asked about it, Schulz said “you will understand that as President of a European institution I do not comment on a sentence of a European Court. It is impossible”. However, he added that he “understood the legal interpretation but also the feelings of the victims”.
United States spying on European leaders “scandal” is “intolerable”
Martin Schulz was particularly angry about “the scandal” of the United States spying on political and social leaders from Europe and the rest of the world. “It is intolerable” he emphasised. However he considered that “it is more important” that “the CIA has been spying on hundreds of thousands of anonymous citizens”. “There is no justification”, he added. These practices “have to stop”. However, he did not consider that Transatlantic relations are in danger. The European leader stated that the negotiations on the free-trade agreement should also carry on, but “after both sides have taken a break to think”.
Mas explains to Schulz that the Catalan Government was founded in the 14th century
After the press conference, Schulz met with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. The President of the European Parliament was received by Mas at the Generalitat Palace, the Gothic and Baroque building that hosts the offices of the President of Catalonia. Mas took the opportunity to explain to Schulz the history of the institution, founded in 1359, and tell him about the first President of the Catalan Government, Berenguer de Cruïlles. The German politician, who loves history, was particularly interested in this topic. Later the two met in private, joined by the Catalan Government’s Secretary for External Action and European Affairs, Roger Albinyana.
“I want to talk about youth unemployment”
After the meeting with the Catalan President, as the main candidate of the European Social-Democrats, Schulz met with the Secretary General of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro. Schulz and Navarro held a press conference together after their meeting. Schulz was again asked about the Catalan self-determination process and whether he had discussed it with Mas and Navarro. “What do you think? That Mas and Navarro meet with me and do not speak about it? Of course they talked about it”, he said laughing. However, he repeated that he cannot take sides on this issue nor offer solutions. Nonetheless, he emphasised that he was very much interested in talking about economic matters. “I want to talk about youth unemployment”, he said, explaining that this particular subject had been part of the conversation with both Mas and Navarro.