Catalan Foreign Minister Raul Romeva called for political support from the European Commission and the European Parliament on Thursday in light of the violation of fundamental democratic principles in Spain.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Romeva pointed out the “brutal crackdown” on Catalan advocating institutions, the rights of media outlets, the prosecution of “more than eight hundred mayors,” the harassment of civil rights organizations, journalists and individuals.
“This is first and foremost about democratic standards and fundamental rights, that what we are having today in Spain is a serious damaging of the democratic tools, of the democratic structures. This is why we… are making a call. We call to the EU institutions… the European Commission and the Parliament in particular, to stand for values and principles which are in the pillars of the [EU] treaty,” Romeva said.
The Catalan politician has also stressed that the quality of democracy in Spain “is eroding day after day.”
“The European Commission can no longer argue that this is a domestic issue. They must defend the treaty of the European Union and stand for the general interests of Catalan citizens as the EU citizens they are, and I mean it,” Romeva underlined.
Romeva stressed that the referendum on October 1 was a “legitimate act” and denied the claim that Catalonia was hasty in its decision to hold the vote.
“Well, you say it’s a rush… When you see your fundamental rights violated day after day with no reactions what you would do is try to solve that situation the sooner as possible,” the Catalan foreign minister said.
Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau also callled for EU support by writing a letter to 27 European mayors. The European Commission should become a mediator in the resolution of the conflict between Spanish and Catalan authorities over the latter’s plans to hold an independence referendum, he stated in the document.
“The Catalan question can no longer be considered merely an internal Spanish matter, it now needs to be approached from its proper European perspective… I wish to inform you then that I shall be calling on the European Commission to open a mediation space for the Spanish government and the Catalan regional government to take part in and I would like you to convey this call for dialogue, as far as possible, to every authority you consider appropriate,” Colau said in the letter released on her Twitter account on Thursday.
Colau indicated that there was a threat to fundamental rights and freedoms in Catalonia, where Spanish authorities were shutting down Catalan government’s websites, organizations of civil society and arresting regional government officials.
Colau reiterated in her letter that the Catalan issue was no longer a problem relating only to Spain’s internal affairs, as the developments in Barcelona had “direct effects on Madrid, Paris, London and Brussels.”
In early September, Catalonia’s Parliament passed a bill enabling an independence referendum to be held on October 1. Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the law on the referendum approved by the Catalan government and parliament, which made all further preparations to the vote, scheduled for this Sunday, illegal.
The Spanish Constitution refers in Article 2 to “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.”
Authorities in Catalonia aim to ensure that a disputed referendum on independence from Spain will take place peacefully despite a crackdown on the vote by the national government, the region’s interior minister said.
The central government is deploying 10,000 police officers in Catalonia for the ballot, Forn told reporters. He insisted, however, that the Catalan police force called the Mossos d’Esquadra must take their orders from local authorities. The force’s loyalty has been torn between the central and regional governments.
Thousands of striking Catalan university students, many carrying pro-independence flags, marched in Barcelona to protest the central government crackdown on the ballot.
An international media watchdog, meanwhile, rebuked the Catalan pro-independence movement for placing undue pressure on journalists to present its side of the dispute. Reporters Without Borders said the regional government’s push to impose its side of the story in local, Spanish and international media has “crossed red lines.”
The watchdog added that Spanish authorities’ legal measures against Catalan media to stop the spread of information about the referendum have contributed to an atmosphere of extreme tension.